Aquaculture for all

Bislig's prawn industry no longer small fry

THE PHILIPPINES - Nene Velasquez, a small fishpond operator and buyer of prawns at the public market, used to deal with loan sharks whenever she ran out of cash to finance her business.

But since becoming a member of the United Hilibis Fishpond Operators Multi-Purpose Cooperative (Unihfomco), Velasquez stopped relying on "5-6," a term used for loan sharks, because she can easily get cash from her group if she needs it.

Like her, the other co-operative members involved in the prawn business are thrivin, thanks to Canadian expert Brian Ives, who spent a month or two in 2005 teaching them the right methods to increase their yield.

Changing lives
Ives is part of the Canadian Executive Service Organization-Business Advisory Project (CESO-BAP) under the Canadian International Development Assistance, which helps small and medium enterprises develop through proper management and new technologies.

Aside from changing their lives, Unihfomco is also helping non-members in some other ways, according to Velasquez. The loan sharks were forced to lower the interest they charge the other small vendors because of the cooperative.

Dramatic increase
Velasquez said the technology Ives taught to cooperative members has dramatically increased prawn production. A member who used to get only 200 kilograms of prawns per hectare of fishpond now regularly harvests 800 kilos.

The Canadian expert introduced technologies such as water and soil analysis of ponds during the preparation stage, and the use of indigenous materials like sea shells instead of commercial inputs in feeding the prawns.

CESO-BAP technical advisers have earlier found that the absence of a laboratory had driven most prawn growers to resort to trial and error to identify a good fry.

Most of the time, their production failed as fries survived only for a month or two.

The presence of Ives also opened the eyes of the city government to address the other needs of the industry, and led to the establishment of soil and water analysis and testing laboratory.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) also donated laboratory equipment so the tests could be made here, unlike before when pond owners had to endure a five-hour travel to Butuan City.


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