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Ponds are being constructed for prosperity in PNG

EMMA ZALCMAN | Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research

Constructing a fish pond in the highlands (F Gako)THERE’S MORE TO CONSTRUCTING a pond than just digging a hole and filling it with water. Just ask Francis Gako, who has been helping out with an Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) project in Papua New Guinea aiming to improve smallholders’ fish production for food security and income generation.

There are more than 10,000 small-scale fish farms in PNG, and interest in aquaculture is growing fast. The PNG government has recognised the important role of fish in food security, particularly in inland areas. However, despite the peoples’ interest in aquaculture, current production levels are low when compared with other South-East Asian systems.

Some of the main factors restricting production in PNG include limited capacity of management agencies to select good pond sites, inadequate supply of fingerlings (juvenile fish) for farming, limited availability of inexpensive fish feed, and a general lack of knowledge in aquaculture husbandry.

The ACIAR project that Francis is involved in aims to address some of these limitations, to improve fish production for smallholder farmers.

Originally from Goroka in the Eastern Highlands province of PNG, Francis is an avid fisherman: “The only time I don't go fishing is when I’m asleep”, he jokes. He is currently a technical officer with the project, involved in growth performance trials with genetically improved tilapia fish. One of his key roles is to provide hands-on and technical advice to local fish farmers.

At the request of one keen fish farmer, Mark Jim, Francis visited his land near Yalu village to conduct a pond site inspection. After confirming the land was suitable for farming fish, Francis instructed Mark Jim and other farmers on the practicalities of building a pond, such as the appropriate angle to slope the pond walls.

He also offered advice on the different soil profiles, and explained the suitability of different soils for ponds, which varies according to their water-retention capacity.

The farmers built a fish pond under Francis's guidance. It will be used as a grow-out pond for Tilapia species. These fish are not only tasty, but fast and easy to grow, so make a perfect species for farming in PNG.

The pond was built and filled in less than a day and has been stocked with over 150 tilapia fingerlings. Mark Jim is now looking forward to receiving the ‘net gain’ from their efforts.


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