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Partners : Partners: Papua New Guinea
12 DIVERSIFICATION SPRING 2012 PARTNERS four more prisons across PNG. According to some jail commanders, the program not only trains inmates and officers, but also provides food and income for the prison through sales of fish. With encouragement from the prison system, the NFA and ACIAR will expand the program to prisons around PNG that have suitable sites for fish farming. "The participatory approach of the research program enables prisoners and officers to learn by working closely with the researchers," says NFA scientist and ACIAR project manager Wally Solato. "This builds trust and confidence, and the project team continues to mentor ex-inmates to ensure that they have the technical and moral support to start their own fish farms." The project's community activities have also had a positive social and economic impact in the isolated areas of the highlands. The Nebliyer Valley, for example, experienced many years of tribal warfare and problems with serious crimes. Villagers in the valley lived in fear and isolation because of the ongoing tribal war. But arms and weapons are now being traded for spades to dig fish ponds. Fish farming was introduced to the Nebliyer Valley by community-based government extension officers, non-government and faith- based organisations. The ACIAR project team has played an important role in training farmers in fish husbandry and pond construction. Formal and informal training have enabled the team and lead farmers to create successful learning partnerships that improve income and food security and have also resulted in improved safety and security for villagers. SHARING THE BENEFITS ACIAR team members have focused their training in the villages of Tilga, Tonamb and Kombka, but the knowledge on fish farming is spreading from these project nodes. Two of the project's lead farmers, Jacob Towa and Markus Tumba, have become advocates for fish farming in the Nebliyer Valley. Both are local leaders who, armed with knowledge of the benefits of farming fish, have been promoting farming throughout the valley and the surrounding highland provinces. "We have a strong relationship with these lead farmers and have taught them about all aspects of fish farming," Wally Solato says. "They are an important voice for our project. People trust them and our relationship with them ensures that the research results can be disseminated widely. "Jacob and Markus started with nothing but can now boast what fish farming has done for them individually. They have laid down weapons, like many young men in the area. Teaching people to farm fish in Papua New Guinea has more than just added protein to their diet; it has had life-changing outcomes. Prisoners from Bihute Prison harvesting fish. PHOTO: JES SAMMUT They were initially ridiculed and discouraged by warring villagers. But the success of their fish farming has turned people around. Others now want to have the same success and Jacob and Markus are willing to share their knowledge and experience." Annual income of farmers has increased threefold and this may rise further with improved farming practices rolled out by the research project. "Before our program, many fish farmers were preoccupied by tribal war; now they work with their former adversaries," Wally Solato says. Many of the villagers who have participated in the ACIAR training programs have seen tangible benefits. Their diets have improved and they are now selling fingerlings and table fish to meet other basic needs. The community has changed its perception of fish farming and now recognises its value as an alternative livelihood. Before fish farming, antisocial conduct such as smoking marijuana and producing homebrew had a negative impact on youth. There was also urban drift that left villages with a smaller workforce for local food production. Youths working with the ACIAR project team have turned to digging fish ponds to help their community to produce fish as an alternative crop. "The youths have been turning unused land and unproductive coffee plots to fish farms," Wally Solato says. "There are now 30-plus fish farms that are stocked with GIFT and carp. We taught the lead farmers how to produce and distribute fingerlings, and we will continue to empower them with knowledge and technical support." The lead farmers are now the primary suppliers of fingerlings. The ACIAR project provided the broodstock and necessary training in fingerling production. The GIFT fingerlings are now being distributed as far as the Hela and Enga provinces. "We are happy and fish farming has helped us in terms of food security and improved our daily earnings to meet other personal needs like school fees and household goods," Markus Tumba says. The benefits of the project go beyond the prison scheme and areas affected by tribal war. Retiring military officers, new recruits, schoolchildren, university graduates and communities affected by mining are all participating in the project's research and extension activities. Farming fish can bring communities together and help individuals to build their self-esteem and reach their full potential. n * Jacob Wani and Wally Solato, from the National Fisheries Authority of PNG, are the local ACIAR project leader and ACIAR project manager respectively. Jesmond Sammut is based at the University of New South Wales and serves as the Australian project leader.
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