A program/project of FAO ignited a first practice of freshwater carp aquaculture in highlands near the capital of Madagascar in the late 1980’s. Since then, carp culture has been practiced in the area but the number of farms at present are only few. In terms of tilapia culture, the Rural Development Support Project in Madagascar (PSDR: abbreviation in French) financed by the World Bank promoted the tilapia culture for small-scale farmers in the district of Marovoay, northwest of Madagascar, from 2002 to 2004. Because the assistance of PSDR is only limited to supplies of fingerlings and some pumps, almost all the fish farmers gave up the fish farming in the end.
The Marovoay district is one of target districts of PATIMA. There were few farmers operating fishponds in the district when PATIMA started its activities in April 2011. It is, therefore, no exaggeration to say that PATIMA is the first project of tilapia farming with practical techniques for the sustainable rural development.
Practical techniques suitable for small-scale fish farming
The region had had almost no background on freshwater aquaculture, aside from the practice of primitive fish farming, when the project started two and a half years ago. The project, therefore, started with site surveys and feasibility studies, which were followed by pond construction. Generally, the soil texture of the target area is basically sandy that a water-holding capacity is low and leads to a heavy seepage. The process of constructing a deep pond with good water-holding capacity was therefore explained to the fish farmers.
Both domestic and exotic tilapia species, which were from Japan, are being reared in farmers’ ponds. Mono-sex and mixed-sex culture are being practiced, with manual sexing method used for mono-sex culture. The reproductive behaviours of both domestic and exotic tilapias have been studied in farmers’ ponds. Core fish farmers produce fry/fingerlings of both tilapias. Integrated farming with common domestic livestock (duck, cow, goat) is being practiced where cultured tilapia relies mostly on natural foods produced from dung-fertilized ponds. Polyculture of tilapia and carp is also practiced. Home-made compound feed is currently being tested for higher productivity.
Extension work and farm-to-farmer network
The project has selected 25 core fish farmers, 19 of whom are producers and suppliers of fry/fingerling of tilapia. The candidate core fish farmers, first of all, received an aquaculture training of trainers (TOT) and training on seed production. Besides these two trainings, the extension team of our project gave on-the-job training to the farmers in their own production site/pond for around one year to make them polish up more practical skills in seed production and grow-out pond operation.
Trained core farmers also started giving a farmer-to-farmer (F-to-F) training to ordinary fish farmers including newcomers whom the core fish farmer intended to sell fry/fingerling. The F-to-F training covers techniques for grow-out pond operation. There are many farmers in the target region who grow rice and vegetable with primitive livestock raising such as wide-range duck, chicken and goat. They had no history/experience on aquaculture when the project started in April 2011. The total number of F-to-F training participant is 955 as of October 2013. Through this F-to-F trainings and extension service, the number of fish farmers now increased to 286.
Agriculture alone cannot be a stable source of income so that many farmers seek for other reliable cash-making source. Most of those who participate in F-to-F training expect the fish farming to become the stable cash crop. But most cannot afford to invest anything due to poverty. It is, therefore, necessary to develop techniques of the tilapia culture with low input, which is extensive or semi-intensive method, with integration of livestock raising (integrated fish farming system).
We are still at the early stage of aquaculture development in the country. There are only few core fish farmers who sell fry/fingerling to ordinary farmers and sell fish reared in grow-out pond. There are still a lot of problems, to which we have to find solutions. In socio-economic aspect, these problems are distribution channel including means of transportation, sales and marketing of produced fish. In technical aspect, technique for low-cost or zero-cost fish farming should be developed to produce fish at affordable price for consumers whose income is low. We are going to establish Farmer-to-Farmer Network for the fish farmers to exchange information and idea to overcome the socio-economic and technical difficulty. It seems that it will take more years to see a lot of pond-raised tilapia being sold in the local markets.
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