Prime Minister of Timor-Leste celebrates tilapia farming success

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Food making training in Timor-Leste

Average fish productivity in this cycle has tripled compared to previous cycles

Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak met with fish farmers in Leohitu, Bobonaro, and witnessed the harvest of over six tons of farmed tilapia. The visit marks the start of the harvest season for nearly 200 project farmers across Timor-Leste, who are expected to produce more than 60 tonnes of fish from a nearly 5-hectare pond. Average fish productivity during this cycle is estimated at over 12 tons per hectare, a threefold increase in fish productivity compared to previous cycles.

“The government is committed to supporting the growth of aquaculture as a means of enhancing household food security and nutrition and increasing farmers’ incomes,” the prime minister said. “As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, fish farmers are producing locally grown food and supporting a sustainable and robust food system that puts more tilapia on the plates of rural households.”

The event was organized by the Partnership Project for Aquaculture Development in Timor-Leste Phase 2 (PADTL2) (April 2020-March 2023) funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade ($3.2 million) and the United States Agency for International Development ($1.2 million complementary funds ). The project is implemented by WorldFish in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries of Timor-Leste.

Incubation of tilapia eggs
Incubation of GIFT tilapia eggs at Leohitu hatchery, Timor-Leste

By improving farmers’ access to tilapia GIFT, the fish will be more widely available among rural households

The PADTL2 project, based on the solid foundations laid during PADTL Phase 1strives to increase the production of genetically improved farmed tilapia (GIFT) in Timor-Leste by improving farmers’ access to seeds, feed and technology. This, in turn, will increase the availability and accessibility of fish and encourage greater fish consumption among rural households. The improved strain of tilapia that grows faster is obtained through selective breeding, a process used for millennia on crops and livestock.

The significant productivity gains obtained through the project are also due to the halving of the cultivation time from 12 to 6 months thanks to a sustainable intensification of the production system, the use of high quality fish feed and the in situ production of natural food (by greening the water) . Farmers could now achieve more than 24 tonnes/ha of fish productivity per year by completing two production cycles, a productivity comparable to that of major tilapia producing countries in Southeast Asia.

“Disseminating these promising technologies across the country is crucial to increasing the availability and accessibility of fish as part of the Timorese diet,” said HE Philip Hewitt, New Zealand Ambassador to Timor-Leste. “Tilapia is packed with micronutrients and essential fatty acids essential for good health and development, especially in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. Improving affordable supply will encourage more households to eat farmed tilapia to fight malnutrition in Timor-Leste.

Over 400 participants representing governmental and non-governmental organizations, diplomatic missions, private sectors, fish farmers, fish market developers and local service providers (LSPs) attended the ceremony. The event included a visit to the MoreDoc Unipessoal Lda tilapia hatchery in public-private partnership (PPP) in Leohitu, the first PPP GIFT model hatchery in East Timor. Since its opening on June 7, 2019, the hatchery has produced more than 2 million fingerlings and sold them to farmers in Bobonaro and other municipalities and other non-governmental organizations.

“Strengthening fish farming will increase incomes for local producers and strengthen food security and nutrition in Timor-Leste,” said US Chargé Tom Daley. “The United States is committed to partnering with Timor-Leste and New Zealand to accelerate the development of local aquaculture to increase prosperity and improve the health of the Timorese people.”

hapa nets in water
A tilapia hatchery with hapa nets

The four hatcheries will produce more than 10 million fingerlings each year by 2023

The PADTL2 project inaugurated the second PPP hatchery in Parlamento, Lautem on October 5, 2021 and two other PPP hatcheries – in Hera, Dili and Colocao, Manufahi – are under construction and are expected to be completed by the end of October 2022. The four PPP hatcheries are expected to produce more than 10 million fingerlings per year by 2023.

“The PADTL2 project accompanies progress towards the National Aquaculture Development Strategy (2012-2030), creating employment and income opportunities for the citizens of Timor-Leste. The strategy aims to increase farmed production by 12,000 tonnes per year by 2030, leading to an increase in annual fish consumption to 15 kg per person,” said WorldFish Acting Chief Executive Essam Yassin. Mohammed. “Linking fish farmers to nutrition activities such as the school feeding program and hospitals will support increased fish consumption to improve public health outcomes.

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