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US Helps Eastern Farmers Increase Incomes

SRI LANKA and US - Thirty fish farmers in Trincomalee can now look forward to Rs. 50,000 in their pockets, thanks to support from local Sri Lankan aquaculture company Aqua N' Green and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

The farmers, part of a new sea bass cage farming initiative, signed agreements with Aqua N' Green at a ceremony yesterday in Kinniya, Trincomalee, receiving fish cages and fingerlings as business start-up materials. Within six months, the farmers can expect to earn about Rs. 50,000 in profit from selling mature fish.

The sea bass cage farming initiative is part of a public-private alliance between Aqua N' Green and USAID called the Integrated Aquaculture project (IAP).

The IAP will help approximately 1,300 small farmers in the Northern and Eastern provinces, over 50 per cent of whom are women, raise and sell sea bass, mussels and oysters on a guaranteed price basis to Aqua N' Green.

To fund the partnership, USAID provided one million dollars, while Aqua N' Green has committed $3.2 million. Once fully underway, 200 jobs are expected to open up in a fish hatchery, fish cage farming, feed mill and a fish processing plant to be built soon.

The initial group of farmers was selected from around the Kinniya lagoon, and then received training on the basics of cage farming at the IAP's training center and model farm in Kinniya. Aqua N' Green will continue to train the farmers on best management practices, facilitate organic farm certification and enter into a buyback agreement with the farmers.

"We are indeed very happy about the opportunities we now have as a result of this partnership," said Mr Anura Paranagama, Chairman of Aqua N' Green.
"Using cage culture technology, we have the chance to grow high quality seafood products in a sustainable manner according to strict food safety standards for both local and overseas markets. This is the first time cage culture technology has been used in Sri Lanka, making this endeavor especially exciting. Also, by implementing the project in the Northern and Eastern coastal areas it will contribute to much needed economic development in the region, and will help to improve the living standard of the local fishing communities there."

By introducing modern technologies and new markets, the project will improve the quantity and quality of seafood produced, and provide farmers with better income opportunities. This type of fish farming is both more flexible and less labor intensive than other methods, making it ideal as an additional source of income.

The partnership plans to set up a nucleus farm in Trincomalee, which will serve as a model cage farm and a research and development base for extension services such as cage culture technology, balanced fish diets for improved harvests, and the study of fish disease. These activities should increase the Eastern province's supply of high value seafood products for both local and export markets.

"It is gratifying for all of us at USAID to be here today," said USAID Sri Lanka Mission Director, James Bednar.

"It's exciting to see a project develop from the ground up, and we've been thrilled to work with Aqua N' Green to capitalise on the potential fish farming has to make an economic impact on small scale farmers. This partnership is a first step toward creating hundreds of employment opportunities while protecting the delicate environment of these coastal habitats. Most importantly, it is encouraging investment in a former conflict zone, and stimulating economic growth."

The three-year IAP project is one of USAID's many alliances with the private sector in Sri Lanka.

Since 2008, USAID has worked collaboratively with the private sector to create new jobs, revive the regional economy and bring stability to the region.

To date, USAID has invested close to $15 million in alliances with local companies in dairy, horticulture, aquaculture, logistics, construction and garment manufacturing, leveraging $41 million from private sector partners and aiming to create approximately 20,000 jobs.

The American people, through the US Agency for International Development, have provided development and humanitarian assistance in developing countries worldwide for nearly 50 years. Since 1956, the US government has invested over two billion dollars to benefit all the people of Sri Lanka.

the Fish Site Editor

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