Fish farms help post-tsunami Acehnese communities

[quote]By Samuel Stacey[/quote]

The 2004 tsunami that devastated Aceh in Indonesia left in its wake thousands of communities without homes and livelihoods.

After a lengthy rebuilding process, the WorldFish Center, in partnership with the Aceh Society Development (ASD) Cooperative, has helped to put these communities back on their feet through providing vital assistance in the development of local small-scale aquaculture enterprises.

The Cooperative connects Acehnese farmers to technical and financial services, as well as commercial markets, enabling them to generate an income while also providing a support network of ASD Cooperative staff and fellow farmers.

The photofilm Rusli’s Story shows the journey of Acehnese farmer Rusli, and the regenerated hope and income he found through the development of his shrimp and fish farm, following the tsunami that tore through his village.

“Before I had shrimp ponds, my life was difficult and it was hard to find money to support my family. Now, I’m happy because my life is no longer a mess, and I’m proud of my accomplishments,” Rusli said.

Rusli’s Story echoes thousands of small-scale fish and shrimp farmers that now operate in the area.

Senior scientist Dr Michael Phillips from the WorldFish Center has been at the forefront of a program to help improve the productivity of the pond systems in Aceh, and connect the ASD Cooperative with vital investment partners who can ensure that the local farmers get the most out of their fish and shrimp farms.

“Aquaculture, if practiced in the right way, can improve the lives of many people like Rusli in Aceh. With investment and the right partnerships there is the opportunity for replicating such experiences to create significant social and economic good for the people there,” Dr Phillips said.

The Cooperative operates based on a sustainable organization structure that can continue to support farmers beyond project funding.

“The Cooperative provides financial services for those more commercially orientated small enterprises that need a little more money. They provide technical and organizational support to famers, so they are not just putting in money, but they are providing a package of assistance to ensure that the money invested produces a better return,” Dr Phillips explained.

Research in Aceh communities has shown that investment in small-scale aquaculture leads to positive social and economic outcomes. ASD Cooperative Executive Director, Muhammad Hanafiah, said that facilitating the local farmers to rebuild their fish farms not only generates income, but also gives them hope and encourages trauma healing.

The program has also found there are numerous positive environmental outcomes from the scheme including a reduction in the risk of shrimp disease problems, protection of the mangrove ecosystem, and more efficient use of land and water resources.

“Small changes in efficiencies and environmental improvement in individual farms have important implications. When multiplied across the large numbers of small-scale farmers in many countries, such improvements provide opportunities for better environmental performance across the sector as a whole. Not only can environment performance be improved, but investments in small and medium aquaculture enterprises can generate substantial social and economic outcomes,” Dr Phillips said.

Global aquaculture production is largely centered in developing countries, where the majority of the industry comes from small and medium scale enterprises.

“By giving special attention to small holders you can make a big difference to the lives of people. With the right approach, appropriate technologies and strong partnerships there is the possibility for creating significant good for small holders through aquaculture,” Dr Phillips said.

The WorldFish Center is committed to using sustainable aquaculture to reduce poverty and hunger, and improve the lives of fish and shrimp farmers like Rusli in Aceh.[]

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