Timor-Leste: Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak meets fish farmers to celebrate successes in scaling up aquaculture production


Dili, August 12, 2021—Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak today met with fish farmers in Leohitu, Bobonaro, and witnessed the harvest of over six tonnes 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,” said the Prime Minister. “As the COVID 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.

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 achieved by 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.

“Scaling up these promising technologies across the country is crucial to increasing the availability and accessibility of fish as part of the Timorese diet,” said HE Philippe 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 model PPP GIFT 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 the US Chargé d’Affaires. 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.”

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 tons per year by 2030, leading to an increase in annual fish consumption to 15 kg per person,” said the acting chief executive of WorldFish. Essam Yassine 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.

About the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is the government department responsible for rural sector development in Timor-Leste. About 75% of the population lives in rural areas; the majority of whom derive their livelihood from agriculture. Despite the importance of the sector and the significant investments made by successive governments, the sector’s performance has been mixed and productivity levels remain low. The ministry therefore works to develop a sustainable, competitive and prosperous agricultural sector capable of reducing poverty, ensuring food and nutrition security and promoting employment and economic growth in the agricultural sector.

About the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

The PADTL2 project is funded by the MFAT under the New Zealand Aid Programme, which aims to promote prosperity and stability in the Pacific and beyond. The aid program provides financial and technical assistance to reduce poverty and contribute to the achievement of sustainable development in developing countries. With the aim of creating a more prosperous, secure and equitable world, New Zealand Aid works with a wide range of partners and provides humanitarian aid to people affected by natural disasters and conflict.


USAID is the world’s premier international development agency and a catalyst for development results. USAID works to help improve lives, build communities, and advance democracy. The United States government, through USAID, works in partnership with the government of Timor-Leste to support effective, large-scale development. Since 2001, USAID has provided more than $250 million in development assistance to Timor-Leste. USAID supports Timor-Leste in its efforts to build a more prosperous, self-reliant, healthy, and democratic country through programs that promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, particularly in the agriculture and tourism sectors; improve the health of the Timorese people, especially women and children; and strengthening the foundations of good governance – as outlined in the Timor-Leste Strategic Development Plan 2013-2030.

About WorldFish

WorldFish is an international, not-for-profit research and innovation institution that creates, advances and translates the science of aquatic food systems into scalable solutions. We aim for an inclusive world of healthy, well-nourished people and a sustainable blue planet, now and in the future. Our mission is to end hunger and advance the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals through science and innovation to transform food, land and aquatic systems with aquatic foods for healthier people and planet .

For more than 45 years, WorldFish data, evidence and insights have shaped practices, policies and investments to end hunger and advance sustainable development in low- and middle-income countries. We have a global presence in 20 countries across Asia, Africa and the Pacific, with 460 employees of 30 nationalities deployed where the most significant sustainability challenges can be addressed through holistic aquatic food systems solutions. Embedded in local, national and international partnerships, our work sets agendas, builds capacity and supports decision-making for climate action, food and nutrition security, sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, blue economy, One Health and AgriTech, integrating gender, youth, and social inclusion.

A central element of the WorldFish 2030 Research and Innovation Strategy: Aquatic Foods for Healthy People and Planet focuses on building the resilience of aquatic food systems to shocks, which is critical to COVID-19 response and recovery.

WorldFish is part of the CGIAR, the world’s largest agricultural research and innovation network.

For more information, please visit https://www.worldfishcenter.org.

About the CGIAR

The CGIAR is the world’s largest agricultural innovation network. We provide evidence to policy makers, innovations to partners and new tools to harness the economic, environmental and nutritional power of agriculture.

The CGIAR has extensive experience and knowledge spanning 50 years that is backed by a track record of world-class innovation and research. Thanks to our funders, CGIAR research has transformed the lives of hundreds of millions of people through tangible research results.

The 15 CGIAR Research Centers are independent, not-for-profit research organizations conducting innovative research. Home to more than 8,000 scientists, researchers, technicians and staff, CGIAR research works to create a better future for the world’s poor. Each center has its own charter, board of directors, executive director and staff. CGIAR Research Centers are responsible for research programs and practical operations guided by policies and research directions set by the System Management Board.

For more information, please visit https://www.cgiar.org.


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