USAID and New Zealand Embassy Join to Promote Aquaculture Development in Timor-Leste

US Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director Zema Semunegus and New Zealand Deputy Head of Mission of the New Zealand Embassy, Olivia Philpott, met some days ago with fish farmers in Bobonaro city, at Timor-Leste, and visited the MoreDoc Unipessoal Lda public-private-partnership (PPP) tilapia hatchery in Leohitu to study its success and advance plans to scale aquaculture across the country.

The visit was part of joint and ongoing support by USAID and the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) to grow the aquaculture sector to fully realize the Timor-Leste National Aquaculture Development Strategy (2012–2030). By 2030, the country aims to increase farmed fish production to 12,000 tons per year and increase fish consumption from 6.1 kg to 15 kg per person each year.

In February 2021, USAID began a USD 1.2 million partnership with WorldFish to launch the USAID Accelerating Aquaculture Development in Timor-Leste activity (February 2021–August 2022).

The activity complements the efforts of the ongoing Partnership for Development in Timor-Leste Phase 2 (PADTL2) project funded by MFAT and implemented by WorldFish with the Timor-Leste Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF).

“Developing aquaculture is a key government priority among others,” said Pedro dos Reis, Timor-Leste’s Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. “By scaling up fish production, farmers can enhance their livelihoods and earn some extra income, while the sector can help to meet the national need for greater amounts of nutritious fish. Our partnership with MFAT, USAID and WorldFish will greatly help Timor-Leste achieve inclusive and sustainable development in the long term.”

“This collaboration between MFAT, USAID, WorldFish and MAF is key to advance sustainable aquaculture and improved nutrition in Timor-Leste,” said for his part Director Semunegus. “We’re excited to be joining hands together to help increase the country’s food security through fish farming to benefit rural families and boost their incomes.”

The goal is to enable greater quantities of healthy fish, specifically tilapia

The PADTL2 project, running from April 2020 until March 2023, works with the government and private sector actors to support the diversification of rural livelihoods through nutrition-sensitive aquaculture.

This is by scaling aquaculture to improve the availability, accessibility and consumption of diverse aquatic foods. The goal is to enable greater quantities of safe, affordable and healthy fish, specifically tilapia, to reach the plates of a large number of Timorese households.

“Tilapia is a rich source of micronutrients and essential fatty acids that are needed for good health and development,” said Philpott. “Improving supply and encouraging more households to eat farmed tilapia will help to combat malnutrition in Timor-Leste, where one in two children under five years old are stunted. The partnership between MFAT, USAID, WorldFish and MAF to develop aquaculture will be critical to realizing the nutritional benefits of fish.”

Access to high-quality seed of Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia

A key focus of the PADTL2 project is to establish at least two more hatcheries through the public-private partnership model, whereby construction costs are shared between the owner and the project, to ensure farmer access to high-quality seed of Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia (GIFT). Recently, on last October, the project inaugurated the Black Bird PPP GIFT hatchery in Lautem municipality—the first PPP hatchery established in the east of the country.

The project is conducting research to improve GIFT production and productivity by refining sustainable aquaculture technologies. Such technologies will be tested and validated under local conditions, enabling Timorese farmers to complete two production cycles in a year instead of one cycle as is the current practice.

In the next 12 months, the project will continue expanding farmer clusters to provide training and support for growing GIFT through sustainable intensification.”

The PADTL2 project builds on the successes of the PADTL1 project (2014–2019), supported by MFAT, which helped to lay the foundations for the aquaculture sector’s growth by developing seed, feed and grow-out technologies. “Currently, local production of farmed tilapia is low and imported farmed fish is much cheaper to buy,” pointed out Gareth Johnstone, Director General of WorldFish.

“We want to turn this situation on its head by ensuring safe, healthy and sustainable farmed fish is produced locally and is available at affordable cost within the reach of rural households. By building on the achievements of phase one of the project, we are confident that our partnership with the Timor-Leste government and private sector actors will support Timor-Leste’s effort to ensure better livelihoods, increased incomes and improved food and nutrition security in the face of climate change

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