What started off as a daring venture many years ago to try and earn a decent income for her family has turned into an inspiration for Tilapia farmers across the Fiji Islands. Mrs Katarina Baleisuva, who operates Kaybee’s farm on the outskirts of the Capital Suva, is the first talipa farmer in the country who is now able to produce and supply only male cultured fingerlings to the commercial and semi-commercial tilapia farmers in Fiji.
Just two years ago, Mrs Baleisuva was one of five people selected and sent for specialized talipia culture training in Thailand through support from the Pacific Community. Mrs Baleisuva explains “Male culturing is where you are able to produce only male fingerlings and this is done as the male tilapia grows at a faster rate and grows bigger than the females. It took several months of fine tuning and experimenting with different feeds for the fish and through technical assistance from SPC, I can say now it is working very well.”
“Twenty years ago when I first started my small scale tilapia farm, I never thought that I would eventually achieve this milestone. Being able to put into practise what I learnt, coupled with lots of hard work and personal sacrifices, I am happy to now be able to supply fingerlings on a regular basis and the farmers will not have to be solely dependent on the Fisheries Ministry.”
Mrs Baleisuva’s success has been an eye opener for Tilapia farmers who recently visited her farm as part of ongoing capacity building training being provided through SPC. 26 tilapia farmers and Ministry of Fisheries officials attended the week long Feeds Formulation training held at the Naduruloulou Research Station. This module of the training specifically helps the farmers explore ways to improve fish feeding methods and teaches the participants on best practises to ensure nutritional feed is provided at low costs using various local ingredients.
One of the participants Jone Radike from Savusavu says “It is amazing what Mrs Baleisuva has managed to achieve. I’ve been having to spend a lot of money on fish feed and now I will be able to use local ingredients to formulate my own feed based on what I have learnt and I am sure this will help me and I would be able to purchase more fingerlings from Kaybee’s farm and grow my business.”
Adi Akisi Naiduki, a self-funded farmer from Korovou in Tailevu, says “The workshop has been very beneficial and the highlight was our visit to Mrs Baleisuva’s farm. It’s really encouraging like in most cases as now we have another reliable source for fingerlings. I also hope to set up my incubators and start producing male cultured fingerlings like Mrs Baleisuva.
Mrs Arun Lata from Vuci Road, Nausori is in the process of establishing her own male culturing farm. “We learnt something I never considered before. What we can’t eat, the fish can’t eat, what the fish eat, only the fish decide and this is how Mrs Baleisuva has been doing it. She is great and I really adore her. I want my business to be like hers and one main issue is the cost of feed, so this workshop has really given me more confidence, that if Kata can do it, so can I.”
SPC’s Aquaculture Officer Mr Avinash Singh is working closely with the Ministry of Fisheries and tilapia farmers, providing training opportunities and technical assistance. “The farm visit to Kaybee’s enables the participants to actually see for themselves how Mrs Baleisuva is running and managing her farm and how she continuously explores way to reduce overhead costs, especially fish feed.”
Mr Singh added “There is a realization that aquaculture, in particular tilapia farming can help fill the demand gap as the local demand for coastal and freshwater fish continues to increase. It is also having a positive trickle effect with the creation of employment opportunities at the farms, increase in income and better opportunities for the farmers and their families.”
SPC continues to work with tilapia farmers in Fiji and other member countries to provide Business and financial literacy training, technical capacity development and providing capacity for technology transfer to accelerate and improve the opportunities within the aquaculture sector in the region.