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Partners : Partners September 2012
PARTNERS SPRING 2012 11 FARMING FISH FOR CHANGE BY JACOB WANI, WALLY SOLATO AND JESMOND SAMMUT* A n ACIAR project to improve fish production for food and income security is having a positive social impact in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Reduction in crime, tribal war and antisocial behaviour, and increases in self-esteem in individuals and cooperation between former adversaries are just a few of the effects of the project. A novel prisoner rehabilitation project titled Fish for Prisons, introduced by the National Fisheries Authority (NFA) of PNG in collaboration with ACIAR, is paying dividends. First trialled at Bihute Prison on the outskirts of Goroka in the Eastern Highlands Province, the program teaches both inmates and correctional officers basic fish farming. "Most often prisoners are not rehabilitated and they find it difficult to fit back into society after release from prison," says Jacob Wani, who initiated the program. "Consequently they end up back in prison for the same, or an even more severe, offence. The ACIAR project's interventions are changing this." Introduced in 2008, the program has trained many officers and inmates. Eight ex-inmates have since returned to their villages and established fish farms to supply both fingerlings and table fish to their local communities. Since fish farming is a new activity, the knowledge of these ex-inmates is in high demand: fellow villagers are keen to learn aspects of fish farming, as well as to be supplied with fingerlings. These ex-inmates were once scorned and feared because of their criminal past. Now they are respected and sought after for leadership in fish farming. This has given the ex-inmates status and respect, enabling them to be useful members of the community. CHANGING LIVES Moxy, who served time at Bihute Prison, is back in his Asaro village, where he farms genetically improved farmed tilapia (GIFT) some 15 kilometres north-west of the town Goroka. Moxy has eight ponds with a total production capacity of 2 tonnes. "Had it not been for fish farming, I would have revisited the circumstances under which I was jailed," he says. "When I am angry or depressed, I go to the fish ponds and either feed the fish or just watch to take my mind away." The trial at Bihute Prison has attracted the attention of other prisons and now the program is unofficially being implemented at Former Bihute inmate Moxy holding tilapia broodstock. Moxy was trained to farm fish under the Fish for Prisons program and is now being mentored by the ACIAR team. PHOTO: JES SAMMUT
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