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ISBN 971-561-550-3

Publication Stock No. 091704

Published by the Asian Development Bank, 2005.

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Finding suitable aquaculture development cesses that influence outcomes in terms of incomes,
approaches to open up livelihood opportunities for employment, nutrition, and natural resource
the rural poor remains a challenge. The poor face sustainability.
many constraints to adopting fish farming because This report was prepared by a team supervised
of lack of access to capital and resources, vulner- by Graham Walter of the Operations Evaluation
ability, and aversion to risks. Fish farmers need Department. Njoman Bestari, senior evaluation
appropriate skills, land and water, financial capi- specialist (team leader) was responsible for the
tal, organizational arrangements, physical facili- preparation of this report. Maria Rosa Ortega (evalu-
ties, and infrastructure in order to adopt, operate, ation officer), Maria Victoria de la Cruz, and Caren
and sustain their aquaculture practices. Joy Mongcopa supported the study in Manila. Sev-
However, there are considerable opportunities eral consultants collaborated in the study: Nesar
for the entry of poor people into aquaculture Ahmed (research associate, Bangladesh), Peter
through low-cost technologies and help to secure Edwards (aquaculture development specialist),
access to and control of resources. This is not Brenda Katon (research associate, Philippines), Alvin
merely a question of focused targeting toward the Morales (rural economist, Philippines), and Roger
poor. It demands a comprehensive understanding Pullin (Aquatic Resources Management Specialist).
of contextual circumstances, operating environ- Cherdsak Virapat and Supawat Komolmarl collabo-
ments, and enabling conditions. rated with the team on the preparation of two case
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has sup- studies in Thailand. The book was edited by Jay
ported development of small-scale freshwater Maclean. Ram Cabrera did the design and layout.
aquaculture in a number of countries in the region The evaluation and the individual case stud-
and accumulated considerable experience in inter- ies provide many lessons for development practi-
ventions that have as their objective poverty reduc- tioners that are useful not only for ADB project
tion as well as increasing fish production. This personnel, but for research and development
special evaluation study (SES) was designed to workers in all institutions—public, private, non-
identify and assess the major channels of effects government, and international—working toward
through which selected practices of small-scale poverty reduction in developing countries of Asia.
freshwater rural aquaculture can generate liveli-
hoods and reduce poverty, and to recommend
steps to make ADB operations in aquaculture
development more relevant for poverty reduction.
The SES was based on eight case studies—3 in
Bangladesh, 3 in the Philippines, and 2 in Thai-
land—that form the second part of this book. The
case studies probed various aspects of freshwater
aquaculture in different and diverse settings.
Together, they provide a representative selection of EISUKE SUZUKI
freshwater aquaculture practices in the context of Director General
farmers’ access to livelihood capital assets and pro- Operations Evaluation Department


Introduction 1
Global Context 1
Asian Development Bank’s Role in Aquaculture Development 1
Rationale, Purpose, and Method of Evaluation 3
Rationale for the Special Evaluation Study 3
Purpose and Method of Evaluation 3
Case Studies 5
Report Structure 6
Understanding Poverty and Vulnerability 7
Features of Poverty 7
Dimensions of Vulnerability 8
Analyzing Capital Assets and Transforming Processes 9
Capital Assets 9
Transforming Processes 17
Outcomes 27
Summary of Key Findings from Case Studies 29
Lessons From ADB Operations in Freshwater Aquaculture 32
Operating Risks 32
Appropriateness of Design and Technology 33
Operating Requirements 33
Recommendations 35


Overview of Small-Scale Freshwater Aquaculture in Bangladesh 39
Background 39
Social Dimensions of Rural Poverty 40
Freshwater Aquaculture Systems 42
Freshwater Fish Markets 46
Employment 47
ADB Support to Freshwater Aquaculture Development 47
Safeguarding Freshwater Aquaculture 49
Lessons Learned 51
Ways to Reach the Poor 52
Farming Carps in Leased Ponds by Groups in Chandpur, Bangladesh 55
Background 55
Methods and Sources 57
Biophysical Features of the Case Study Area 57
Fish Farming Technology and Management 58
Livelihood Assets 59
Markets and Marketing Agents 63
Conclusions 65
Livelihood Profiles of Fish Farmers in Kishoreganj, Bangladesh 66
Background 66
Methods and Sources 67
Fish Farm Operation and Management 67
Profile of Small-Scale Fish Farmers 70

Overview of Freshwater Aquaculture of Tilapia in the Philippines 75
Background 75
History 76
Production and Consumption 77
Prices, Margins, Elasticity, and Farm Incomes 78
Accessing Inputs for Tilapia Farming 80
Accessing Support Services 86
Marketing Tilapia 87
Lessons Learned 90
Farming Tilapia in Ponds in Central Luzon, Philippines 92
Background 92
Biophysical Characteristics 93
Socioeconomic and Institutional Perspectives 94
Technology and Management 96
Profile of Tilapia Farmers 100
Transforming Processes 102
Natural Resources Management 105
Environment 106
Fish Quality 107
Crisis and Coping Strategies 108
Outcomes 108
Conclusions 108
Tilapia Cage Farming in Lake Taal, Batangas, Philippines 110
Background 110
Biophysical Characteristics 111
Socioeconomic and Institutional Attributes 112
Technology and Management 113
Profiles of Tilapia Cage and Nursery Farmers 117
Transforming Processes 119
Natural Resources Management 123
Environment 124
Fish Quality 126
Crisis and Coping Strategies 126
Outcomes 126
Conclusions 127
Overview of Small-Scale Freshwater Aquaculture in Thailand 128
Background 128
Historical Development 130
Biophysical Features 131
Technology and Management 131
Accessing Markets 133
The Roles of Government in Aquaculture Extension 134
Community-Based Rural Aquaculture Development 135
Development Policy for Small-Scale Freshwater Aquaculture 136
Safeguards for Freshwater Aquaculture 137
Lessons Learned 138
Ways to Benefit the Poor 139
Development of Technology and Extension for Small-Scale Fish Farms in
Northeastern Thailand 141
Background 141
Development of Appropriate Technology 144
Extension of Appropriate Technology 150
Institutional Issues 152
Lessons Learned 153

1. ADB Assistance in Aquaculture 155
2. Illustrative Financial Farm Budget of Carp Polyculture in Bangladesh 160
3. Illustrative Financial Farm Budgets of Tilapia Farming in the Philippines 161


ADB Asian Development Bank

BFAR Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources
DEGITA Dissemination and Evaluation of Genetically Improved Tilapia
Species in Asia
DFID Department for International Development of the United Kingdom
FAO Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
GIFT genetically improved farmed tilapia
HACCP hazard analysis critical control point
ICLARM International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management
NACA Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific
NGO nongovernment organization
SES special evaluation study
TA technical assistance
WHO World Health Organization


ha hectare
kg kilogram
m meter
t metric ton

In this report, “$” refers to US dollars.


The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has accumu- project preparation and design for aquaculture
lated substantial experience from its operations in development should consider adopting the concep-
the development of aquaculture, including small- tual framework utilized in this study.
scale freshwater aquaculture. The results of vari- Recognize Barriers, Requirements, and
ous projects have underscored the importance of Risks. Assessing characteristics of farm households
(i) realistic assessment of operating risks and the and analyzing their poverty features are parts of
extent to which project designs address these risks, the process of finding ways to make aquaculture
(ii) recognition of actual operating requirements work for the poor. When aimed at poverty reduc-
and the extent to which targeted participants can tion, aquaculture development efforts should be
meet these requirements, and (iii) other enabling designed carefully by clearly defining the benefi-
conditions for achieving success. ciaries and devising appropriate strategies to help
them benefit from the interventions. Project design
Part 1. THE EVALUATION should address (a) specific features of poverty in the
target area; (b) feasible options to overcome key
This special evaluation study (SES) was designed barriers for entry into and to remain in aquaculture;
to identify and assess the major channels of effects and (c) risks that the poor have little capacity to cope
through which selected practices of small-scale with, and ways to mitigate these risks.
freshwater rural aquaculture can generate liveli- Assess Specific Demands on Users’ Capac-
hoods and reduce poverty, and to recommend ity to Operate Aquaculture Systems. An assess-
steps to make ADB operations in aquaculture de- ment is needed of (a) technology options for selected
velopment more relevant for poverty reduction. farming practices and the capital assets required,
Using case studies, the SES examined the channels (b) users’ access to capital assets, and (c) the extent
and enabling conditions that affect small-scale to which intended users of selected aquaculture sys-
freshwater aquaculture farmers in their opera- tems have the required capacity to operate and sus-
tions. The SES recognized the importance of access tain the systems.
to capital assets in five dimensions (human, social, Analyze Available Options for Providing
natural, physical, and financial capitals), and key Access to Land and Water. Without land and
transforming processes, including (i) markets; water the poor are unlikely to engage directly in
(ii) public and private institutions; (iii) facilities, fish farming. Secure access and tenure rights are
infrastructure, and services; (iv) legal framework necessary.
and development policies; (v) aquatic resources Consider Options for Financing Aquacul-
management and the environment; and ture Investments and Operations. Access to af-
(vi) various safeguards, including biosafety and fordable credit is an important feature of farmers’
aquatic health. The SES also recognized seasonal- household finance. Evidence indicates that small-
ity, shocks, and trends that influence outcomes. scale farmers often do not borrow from banks be-
Based on case studies in Bangladesh, Philip- cause of various administrative hurdles and the
pines, and Thailand, and lessons and experience need for collateral. Instead, they rely on credit
drawn from evaluations of ADB-financed opera- from suppliers, traders, or buyers; contract farm-
tions in freshwater aquaculture development, the ing; and partnership arrangements with finan-
following recommendations to improve ADB op- ciers/investors. Microfinance can also make a
erations in this sector were made. difference to the poor.
Analyze Conditions for Livelihood Gen- Analyze Markets and Marketing of Aquac-
eration and Poverty Reduction. Contextual un- ulture Products and Factors of Production.
derstanding of the conditions under which selected Small-scale farmers, including those in aquacul-
practices of small-scale freshwater aquaculture can ture, must generate satisfactory returns by provid-
reduce rural poverty is critical. Those involved in ing goods and services for which there is effective

demand at prices and costs that can justify their ment in relationships between freshwater aquac-
supply. A thorough assessment is required of mar- ulture and other sectors needs to be forged by rec-
kets and marketing of farm outputs and factors of ognizing the limited availability of freshwater and
production. finding ways to benefit as many users of
Analyze the Labor Market. A labor market water as possible.
assessment should be conducted to analyze formal
and informal employment opportunities, wage
rates, and other labor market characteristics, such
as labor migration and seasonal patterns that This compilation of case studies provides up-
influence households’ decisions on employment. to-date portraits of the small-scale freshwater
Farm households rarely have a single source of farming subsector in three countries—Bangladesh,
income. Livelihood choices and sources should be Philippines, and Thailand. In each country, one or
assessed to ensure that aquaculture as an option more features of particular interest from the point
for livelihood is not analyzed in isolation. of view of poverty reduction have been selected
Understand the Roles of Services, Facili- and treated in detail. In Bangladesh, the benefits
ties, and Support Infrastructure. Small-scale to the poor of a project that gave groups of the
farm households have limited resources at their dis- poor, mainly women, access to fish farming are
posal, and innovative approaches are required to outlined; a second study shows how a simple but
reach the poor among them. Government agencies effective fish farming technology was taken up by
may remain important sources of technical advice the poor and how the benefits spread to interme-
for small-scale farmers, but the extent to which diaries and markets. In the Philippines, the focus
private service providers are involved in extending was on tilapia, which dominate freshwater aquac-
advisory and information services should be exam- ulture there, and on socioeconomic aspects of the
ined. Aquaculture development cannot succeed if two main farming systems, ponds and cages. In
pioneered and left to sustain itself in locations where Thailand, the study examined how an appropriate
essential support services and markets are absent. technology was developed and disseminated in a
Roads, transportation, and communications play resource-poor area in the northeastern part of the
important roles in the flow of goods, services, and country.
Assess the Roles of Public and Private Bangladesh
Institutions. Public institutions can catalyze and
facilitate aquaculture development, but govern- Case Study 1, an overview of small-scale fresh-
ments’ role in the sector must not stifle, crowd out, water aquaculture in Bangladesh, was designed to
or replace the role of the private sector. investigate the countrywide significance of fresh-
Assess the Policy Environment and Legal water aquaculture, social dimensions of rural pov-
Framework and Their Conditions. Appropriate erty among farmers, major aquaculture systems,
policies, legal instruments, and enforcement can fish markets, employment in aquaculture, and
remove identified constraints to aquaculture devel- ADB’s support to aquaculture development. The
opment. Licenses, rules, and regulations, including freshwater aquaculture systems have improved
processes for conflict prevention and resolution, greatly over the past two decades. Freshwater
for aquaculture operators, associated agents, and aquaculture, mostly small-scale farms, accounts
labor can influence the extent to which the poor for more than one third of total fisheries produc-
can benefit. tion in the country. However, there is still much
Protect Aquatic Resources, Environment, potential for gain by rationalizing the choice of
and Aquatic Health. The development of aquacul- species used for farming and in comprehensive
ture cannot be sustained without paying adequate programs to conserve genetic diversity and pro-
attention to aquatic resources management, envi- duce quality broodstock. The importance of secure
ronment, and aquatic health. Steps must be taken access to land and water and to microfinance in
to ensure sustainability of the environment by tak- assisting the poor to access small-scale aquacul-
ing measures for biosafety, disease prevention, and ture is highlighted.
environmental protection. Case Study 2, farming carps in leased ponds
Recognize Multiple Uses of Water and by groups in Chandpur District, outlines a
Minimize Conflicts. Freshwater aquaculture co- project—part of a larger project financed by ADB
exists with other water uses. The multiple uses of to improve livelihoods in the District—that
water and their relationships are largely unplanned, brought freshwater aquaculture to the poor in an
with possibilities of serious conflicts ahead. Improve- irrigation area. The aim was to capitalize on a

low-cost technology based on carp polyculture. brackishwater fish in the market. Numerous hatch-
The project organized the poor, primarily women, eries and nursery operations have sprung up to meet
into 175 groups totaling nearly 2,600 persons; the demand for seed, currently estimated at about
trained them in the technology; helped them to 1 billion fingerlings annually. A special feature has
acquire fishponds; and provided them with been the use of monosex fish (sex reversed using
microfinance services. The study found that the hormones), which grow faster than mixed-sex fish.
project helped unemployed, underemployed, mar- Tilapia aquaculture has also contributed to growth
ginal, and landless persons. It describes the socio- of the feed industry, although finding cheaper alter-
economic conditions of the group members, their natives to complete feeds is needed to lower produc-
perceptions of the financial and health benefits of tion costs. At least a quarter of a million people
this form of aquaculture, empowerment of women directly and indirectly benefit from employment in
members, and the constraints to continuing and tilapia farming and ancillary activities in the coun-
increasing their operations. Also described are the try. Small-scale farmers have benefited from the
characteristics of other parts of the subsector—the wide availability of informal credit, often under
fish traders, seed traders, and harvesters—which agreements with traders and suppliers, and in con-
are also benefiting from the growth of small-scale tract farming or caretaker-financier arrangements.
aquaculture in the area. The legal framework also favors small-scale tilapia
Case Study 3, illustrating livelihood profiles farmers, but to date, lack of funding and capacity
of fish farmers in Kishoreganj, was undertaken in hamper implementation of the laws.
the Greater Mymensingh area, representing a major Case Study 5, farming tilapia in small ponds
region in Bangladesh for freshwater fish farms. This in Central Luzon, was undertaken to illustrate bio-
area was targeted from 1988 to 1997 under an physical and socioeconomic characteristics of Cen-
ADB-financed project to promote fish farming tral Luzon as the main producer of tilapia in the
through the establishment of demonstration fish- country, followed by accounts of technology and
ponds and farmer-to-farmer contact. This case management for farming tilapia, profiles of fish
study investigated common livelihood conditions of farmers, markets, institutions, support services,
inland freshwater fish farmers. Described are the policy and legal instruments, natural resources
pond operations and management, which are semi- management, and environmental issues. The sur-
intensive in nature, the village nurseries that supply vey found there were 142 hatcheries in the region,
most of the seed, the amounts of organic and inor- supplying continually improving tilapia strains.
ganic fertilizer used, harvest frequency, yields, and There were usually two fish crops per year and a
markets. Nearly all the operators were primarily rice range of stocking and feeding practices. Generally,
farmers or engaged in microenterprise. Fish farming tilapia farmers made a basal application of inor-
is a secondary occupation and third in terms of in- ganic fertilizers and used commercial feeds. This
come generation. Nevertheless, all the households region is the country’s main rice bowl and depends
surveyed confirmed that as a result of aquaculture heavily on rainwater and irrigation. The great
development, their food and fish consumption had majority of tilapia farmers drew on the plentiful
increased, they had benefited from employment and groundwater using deep wells, and this minimized
cash income, and anticipated that they would con- conflict with rice farmers. The marketing system
tinue to benefit from aquaculture in the future. for tilapia was robust and efficient; the infrastruc-
ture well developed. The profitability of small-scale
Philippines tilapia farming was found to be much greater than
that of rice, but so were the problems—declining
Case Study 4, an overview of freshwater aquacul- tilapia prices, rising feed costs, and increasing
ture of tilapia in the Philippines, was prepared in numbers of tilapia farmers—that prevented even
order to investigate tilapia markets, prices, market- more households entering the industry. However,
ing channels, access to inputs (fish seed, feed, fer- there is considerable scope for growth of the indus-
tilizers, land, and water), support services, and try in the region. Both small-scale tilapia farmers
relevant lessons. The farming of Nile tilapia has and rice farmers had at least one other occupation,
expanded rapidly since the introduction of this mostly another crop or livestock. Both groups felt
species in the early 1970s. Since the mid-1980s, better off than in the recent past and were confi-
growth of freshwater tilapia farming has averaged dent about the future, although concerned about
nearly 9% annually. Real prices have declined dur- deteriorating natural resources.
ing this period, making the fish more affordable to Case Study 6, tilapia cage farming in Lake
the poor and cheaper than milkfish, traditionally the Taal, Batangas, provided accounts of the technology
most popular and cheapest freshwater and and management used for tilapia cage farming and

nursery operations, profiles of fish farmers and of small-scale aquaculture, primarily for domestic
other beneficiaries, and relevant processes per- consumption and local food security. Therefore, re-
tinent to markets, labor, institutions, support search is aimed at innovative, low-cost technologies.
services, policy, legal instruments, natural The main aquaculture tool used by the Government
resources management, and environmental issues to address poverty reduction is the Village Fish Pond
pertinent to the lake. Lake Taal has become a ma- Development Project, which attempts to increase fish
jor site for farming tilapia, with nearly 7,000 cages production through community management of
in the lake producing two crops each year, sup- natural or modified water bodies at the village level.
ported by separate nursery operations in nearby Success has been variable, but the recent decentrali-
converted ricefields, and an efficient marketing zation of government authority has given new im-
system. It has contributed to poverty reduction in petus to decision making at the community level.
the area through direct employment of farmers Case Study 8, development of technology and
and their families and intermediaries along the extension for small-scale fish farms in Northeast-
marketing chain. However, the growout system is ern Thailand, was undertaken to examine (i) the
intensive and its success threatens its future steps, processes, and challenges involved in devel-
because of overcrowded cages and pollution from oping technology options and extension for small-
feeds and wastes. These problems are beginning scale fish farmers; and (ii) the relevance of a
to be addressed through better policies and man- distance extension approach for resource poor,
agement. Nursery farmers were optimistic about mobile, and literate fish farmers. This case study
the future of the industry at the lake. Cage farm- draws heavily from the experience of the Aqua
ers were facing declining cash incomes and were Outreach Program (AOP) of the Asian Institute of
worried about the deteriorating resource base, but Technology and the Department of Fisheries (DOF)
were nevertheless expecting that the industry of Thailand. Northeastern Thailand, which occu-
would continue with improvements in technology. pies one third of the country, is an area of mainly
rainfed agriculture. The yields are so low that most
Thailand farmers work off-farm to augment their income;
semi-permanent urban migration is increasing.
Case Study 7, an overview of small-scale fresh- Small-scale aquaculture in ponds and ricefields is
water aquaculture in Thailand, was tailored to common but yields are again low. Beginning in
investigate and illustrate the historical develop- 1988, AOP investigated the nature and relevance
ment and importance of aquaculture, fish seed of aquaculture in provinces of the region; found
supply and fish farming, markets, extension ser- that there was scope for much improvement in
vices, community-based initiatives, aquaculture pond management at little cost to farmers; and
development policy, pertinent aspects of safe- developed effective, simple technologies for fertil-
guards, key lessons, and ways to reach the poor. izing ponds and nursing seed until large enough
Freshwater fisheries have declined dramatically in to escape from predators. DOF had been encour-
recent decades, providing a major stimulus for the aging hatchery development and seed supply (of
relatively recent development of aquaculture. The carps and tilapia) had greatly improved. A distance
majority of freshwater aquaculture is based on spe- extension approach was needed because of the few
cies of relevance to small-scale farming—herbivo- available government extension officers, and these
rous and omnivorous carps, gouramis, and tilapia. were not trained in aquaculture. Extension mate-
Most farming is in ponds. Seed supply is adequate rials were developed in consultation with farmers
and distributed through networks of local and dis- and DOF. The products (booklets) were in local
tant traders. Nile tilapia is the dominant species, languages and tailored to the farmers’ culture,
about 30% of total freshwater aquaculture pro- experience, and lifestyles. Dissemination was en-
duction. Marketing involves a variety of channels couraged by the DOF. Although farmers often
and is almost all done by the private sector. The modified the recommendations, the main concept
Government has been active in promotion of vari- of “green water” as being desirable for fish growth
ous technologies through extension (see case study clearly spread successfully, both through the
8) and transfer of new technologies to farmers. The materials and word of mouth among farmers.
Government’s fisheries policy assumes continuation




The Evaluation



GLOBAL CONTEXT recycling.6 The Network of Aquaculture Centres in

Asia-Pacific (NACA) and FAO endorsed this recog-
Generally defined as farming of aquatic plants and nition by publishing a declaration and strategy on
animals, both in inland and coastal areas, aquac- the role of aquaculture in improving food security
ulture is an important food production system in and alleviating poverty.7 In recent years, experts
developing countries. Rural aquaculture may be have continued to find ways to increase the rel-
defined as the farming of aquatic species, using evance of aquaculture to poverty reduction.8
technologies adapted to locally available and lim-
ited resources of households.1
During 1984–1998, global aquaculture pro- ASIAN DEVELOPMENT
duction grew at an average annual rate of more BANK’S ROLE IN
than 11.0%, compared with annual growth rates
of 3.1% for terrestrial-farmed animal meat produc- AQUACULTURE
tion and 0.8% for landings from capture fisheries.2 DEVELOPMENT
Asia produced 36 million metric tons (t) or 91%
of total global aquaculture production in 1998, and The Policy on Fisheries of the Asian Development
accounted for all of the world’s top 10 producers: Bank (ADB) is anchored on (i) equity in balancing
People’s Republic of China, India, Japan, Philip- the interests of competing resource users,
pines, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Bangladesh, (ii) sustainability in conservation and use of fish-
Thailand, Viet Nam, and the Democratic People’s eries and aquatic resources, and (iii) efficiency in
Republic of Korea, in that order. Major policy the development and management of aquatic
influences on Asian aquaculture development have resources.9 For aquaculture, ADB’s Policy on Fish-
led to the recent broadening of technical and eco- eries emphasizes increasing production from exist-
nomic objectives toward social objectives that ing aquaculture farms and coastal areas, and
include poverty reduction, livelihood develop-
ment, and food security. 1 Edwards, P., and H. Demaine. 1997. Rural Aquaculture: Overview
and Framework for Country Review. Bangkok: Food and Agriculture
Aquaculture has been one of the fastest grow- Organization (FAO) of the United Nations Regional Office for Asia
ing food production systems in the world, with the and the Pacific.
bulk of output currently produced in developing 2 Tacon,A. G. J. 2001. Increasing the Contribution of Aquaculture for
countries and with expectation for aquaculture to Food Security and Poverty Alleviation. In Aquaculture in the Third
Millennium, edited by R. P. Subasinghe, et al. Bangkok: NACA; and
continue its contribution to food security and pov- Rome: FAO.
erty reduction. The Food and Agriculture Organi- 3 FAO. 1995. Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. Rome.
zation (FAO) of the United Nations recognizes, in 4FAO. 1997. Aquaculture Development. FAO Technical Guidelines for
its Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries3 and Responsible Fisheries No. 5. Rome.
accompanying guidelines,4 the current importance 5 Kongkeo, H. 1999. Current Status and Development Trends of
and future potential of aquaculture for rural com- Aquaculture in the Asian Region. In Aquaculture in the Third
Millennium, edited by R. P. Subasinghe, et al. Bangkok: NACA; and
munities and for food security. An increasing recog- Rome: FAO.
nition of the importance of small-scale aquaculture 6 FAO. 2001. Integrated Agriculture-Aquaculture: A Primer. FAO
is taking place.5 Rural aquaculture generates em- Fisheries Technical Paper No. 407. Rome; and International Institute
ployment and cash income, and provides animal of Rural Reconstruction and International Center for Living Aquatic
Resources Management (ICLARM). 1992. Farmer-Proven Integrated
protein and essential nutrients to consumers. It Agriculture-Aquaculture: A Technology Information Kit. Manila.
contributes to rural livelihoods, improves food sup- 7 FAO-NACA. 2000. Aquaculture Development Beyond 2000: The
ply, and makes low-cost fish available in domestic Bangkok Declaration and Strategy. Bangkok.
markets. Integrating aquaculture into smallholder 8 FAO-NACA. 2002. Focusing Small-Scale Aquaculture and Aquatic

farming systems can reduce risks to farmers Resource Management on Poverty Alleviation. Bangkok.

through crop diversification; it also allows nutrient 9 ADB. 1997. The Bank’s Policy on Fisheries. Manila.

integration of aquaculture with existing crop and livelihood opportunities, strengthened local insti-
livestock farms.10 ADB also supports aquaculture tutions, and propelled private sector interest in
development through research and development, hatchery and aquaculture pond operations.13
dissemination of environmentally-friendly tech- ADB pronounced poverty reduction as one of
nologies, and provision of unsubsidized inputs and its five strategic development objectives in 1992.14
financial services, including microfinance. By then, 10 ADB-financed aquaculture develop-
By 31 December 2003, ADB had financed 25 ment projects had explicit objectives to address
projects with major aquaculture development the needs of small-scale fish farmers. Despite this
components, with approved loans totaling $665 explicit bias, project completion reports and
million (Appendix 1, Table A1.1).11 Early aquacul- project performance audit reports indicated that
ture development initiatives date from the 1970s (6 the outcomes of these projects did not always
projects), but the majority of project approvals (13 favor poor and small-scale fish farmers because of
projects) took place in the 1980s, coinciding with (i) ineligibility for credit because of limited assets
a surge in global interest in aquaculture. This was for collateral; (ii) high operating risks, inability to
partly because of its recognized potential to meet absorb losses, and rising debts; (iii) inadequate
production and consumption needs, and to gener- water supply, substandard water quality, poor farm
ate foreign exchange through exports. ADB management, and inadequate site selection; (iv)
approved 5 aquaculture projects in the 1990s, and limited skills and experience with the newly ac-
1 project in 2002. In general, these projects focused quired technology and management practices; (v)
on intensifying and improving the efficiency of inflexible and unresponsive institutions; and (vi)
aquaculture production through development of inappropriate policies. This experience affirmed
hatcheries and support services, such as credit, that focused targeting of the poor is insufficient to
extension, and related services. Of these improve their socioeconomic conditions. ADB pro-
25 projects, 21 projects have been completed, 1 gressively expanded its development approach to
project was canceled when its approval lapsed, encompass a wide range of social and environmen-
Young 3 projects are ongoing, and 12 projects have been tal concerns. In addition, ADB declared poverty
of fishpond independently evaluated. 12 Successful projects reduction as its overarching goal in 1999.15
harvests demonstrated aquaculture technologies, provided
10ADB also supports marine aquaculture of fish, seaweeds, bivalves,
and other invertebrates to the extent that these activities do not
negatively alter the ecological balance in coastal areas.
11 This comprises 9 wholly aquaculture projects and 16 fisheries
projects with aquaculture components. All have been completed,
except for the (i) Fisheries Resource Management Project in the
Philippines (expected to be completed in 2004), (ii) Coastal
Community Development and Fisheries Resource Management Project
in Indonesia (expected to be completed in September 2005); and
(iii) Aquatic Resources Development and Quality Improvement Project
in Sri Lanka (expected to be completed in 2009).
12 According to the project performance audit reports, 5 projects were
rated either generally successful or successful, 5 partly successful,
and 2 unsuccessful.
13 These successful projects generally attained economic internal rates
of return of 10–26%, with marked increases in yields and net incomes.
However, due to the paucity of data in general, the impacts of these
projects on benefit distribution, employment, nutrition, and food
security could not be easily ascertained.
14 ADB adopted poverty reduction as one of its five strategic
development objectives in its Medium-Term Strategic Framework
(1992–1995); the other four objectives were promoting economic
growth, supporting human development, improving the status of
women, and managing natural resources and the environment soundly.
15 ADB. 1999. Fighting Poverty. Manila. The ADB’s Long-Term Strategic
Framework (2001–2015) provides fundamental operating principles
to ensure that all activities are integrated and directed to its
overarching goal.




RATIONALE FOR THE understanding of contextual circumstances, oper-

ating environments, and enabling conditions. Cur-
SPECIAL EVALUATION rent knowledge gaps largely concern environmental
STUDY and social aspects, and the livelihood aspects of
small-scale and poor farmers, including barriers
In the past, determination of benefit distribution and access to adoption of technology and sus-
was not prominent in most ADB-financed aquacul- tained farm operations.18
ture development projects. Aquaculture was often
narrowly viewed as intensive farming of shrimp and
prawn species, adopted mainly by relatively wealthy PURPOSE AND METHOD
farmers to provide high-value products for exports. OF EVALUATION
Such views frequently dominate despite concerns
that the expansion and growth in shrimp farming This special evaluation study (SES) was designed to
without safeguards has often led to environmental identify and assess the major channels of effects for
degradation.16 This narrow view of aquaculture livelihoods and poverty reduction of small-scale
development hides the potential of fish farming, par- freshwater rural aquaculture, and to recommend
ticularly in the context of rural development. steps to make ADB operations in aquaculture devel-
Evaluation findings of completed projects opment more relevant for poverty reduction. For the
underscore the importance of (i) realistic assess- analysis, the SES examined the channels through
ment of the risks facing farmers and operators and which small-scale freshwater aquaculture farmers
the extent to which project designs address these are affected in their farming operations, such as
risks; (ii) requirements for innovative credit access to livelihood assets, markets and prices, the
schemes, credit demand analysis, and realistic labor market, access to services and facilities, infra-
access conditions; (iii) environmental assessments, structure, and key transforming processes, including
aquatic resources management, and appropriate institutions and policies.
safeguards; and (iv) aquatic biosafety and health The SES used a case-study approach with an
care. The findings also emphasize the need for rig- array of methods: (i) review of relevant publications,
orous assessment of the capacity of executing and including documented non-ADB experience in fresh-
participating agencies, extension services, infra- water rural aquaculture; (ii) secondary data analy-
structure enhancement, resource management, sis; (iii) key informant interviews and focus-group
and enforcement of regulations to prevent aquatic discussions; and (iv) household surveys of small-
diseases and environmental degradation. scale fish farmers and others who had not adopted
Finding suitable aquaculture development fish farming. The SES used both qualitative and
approaches to open up livelihood opportunities for quantitative methods of data collection and inquiry.
the rural poor remains a challenge. The poor face The presurvey activities were reconnaissance and
many constraints to adopting fish farming because rapid rural appraisal, pretesting and revision of
of lack of access to capital and resources, vulner-
ability, and aversion to risks. Fish farmers need ap-
propriate skills, land and water, financial capital, 16Philips M. J., C. K. Lin, M. C. M. Beveridge. 1993. Shrimp Culture
and the Environment: Lessons from the World’s Most Rapidly
organizational arrangements, physical facilities, Expanding Warmwater Aquaculture Sector. In Environment and
and infrastructure. However, there are consider- Aquaculture in Developing Countries, edited by R. S. V. Pullin, H.
Rosenthal, and J. L. Maclean. Manila: ICLARM.
able opportunities for the entry of poor people into
aquaculture through low-cost technologies and 17Edwards, P., D. C. Little, and H. Demaine, editors. 2002. Rural
Aquaculture. Wallingford, UK: Cabi Publishing.
help to secure access to and control of resources.17
18Edwards, P., D. C. Little, and H. Demaine. 2002. Issues in Rural
This, however, is not merely a question of target- Aquaculture. In Rural Aquaculture, edited by P. Edwards, D. C. Little
ing the poor. It demands a comprehensive and H. Demaine. Wallingford, UK: Cabi Publishing.

Figure 1:
framework for
channels of

survey instruments, preparation of sampling frames, health.20 This framework also recognizes season-
sampling of respondents, training of field enumera- ality, shocks, and trends that influence outcomes.
tors, and a survey dry run and its feedback. The Sta- The importance of access to different kinds of capi-
tistical Package for Social Sciences was used to tal assets can vary with specific and local circum-
generate descriptive statistics (frequency counts, stances. However, some conditions (such as access
percentages, and means) and inferential statistics for and tenure rights to land and water) are
analyzing survey data. The survey was based on re- essential for all aquaculture.
call by respondents rather than on documented As a means of determining perceived outcomes,
baseline information. Interviews with nonadopters survey respondents were asked to assess various situ-
of aquaculture provided insights to illustrate barri- ations over time: (i) 5 years ago, (ii) at present, and
ers and vulnerability of access to aquaculture. (iii) 5 years from now. A visual ladder-like scale
The SES applied a conceptual framework based with 10 steps was used, allowing respondents to
on a modified sustainable livelihood approach.19 make ordinal judgments.21 Step 1 on the ladder rep-
The framework places selected freshwater aquacul- resented the worst possible situation while step 10
ture practices in the context of farmers’ or opera- portrayed the best possible scenario.
tors’ access and vulnerability to livelihood capital
assets and processes that influence outcomes This conceptual framework takes into account key channels of
effects as described in the “Modified Poverty Impact Assessment
(incomes, employment, nutrition, and natural re- Matrix,” ADB. 2003. Economic Analysis of Policy-Based Operations: Key
source sustainability). This framework (Figure 1) Dimensions. Manila. p. 71. The SES framework combines these
channels of effects with the sustainable livelihoods framework of the
recognizes the importance of access to capital Department for International Development (DFID) of the United
assets in five dimensions (human, social, natural, Kingdom. Available:
physical, and financial capitals). The conceptual
20 Transforming processes and structures are also known as the
framework also recognizes key transforming pro- policies, institutions, and processes dimension of the sustainable
cesses: (i) markets and prices; (ii) labor market; livelihoods framework used by DFID. Available: http://
(iii) public and private institutions; (iv) facilities,
infrastructure, and services; (v) legal framework and The baseline-independent method was drawn from Pomeroy,
Robert, Richard Pollnac, Brenda Katon, and Canesio Predo. 1997.
development policies; (vi) aquatic resources man- Evaluating Factors Contributing to the Success of Community-Based
agement and the environment; and (vii) various Coastal Resource Management: The Central Visayas Regional Project
I, Philippines. Ocean and Coastal Management Journal 36(1–3): 97–
safeguards, including biosafety and aquatic 120.

CASE STUDIES and 100 households from the farm groups, and
interviews with fish traders, fish seed (juvenile
Eight case studies were selected and undertaken, fish including fry and fingerlings) traders, and
covering Bangladesh (three case studies), Philip- fish harvesters.
pines (three), and Thailand (two). These case stud- (iii) Case study 3, livelihood profiles of fish farmers in
ies are compiled in Part 2 of this book.22 Kishoreganj, was undertaken in the Greater
The selection of case studies took into account (i) Mymensingh area, a major region in Bangladesh
inclusion of the poor among operators of or partici- for freshwater fish farming. Kishoreganj was
pants served by selected fish farming practices; (ii) among 22 districts targeted in 1988–1997 under
presence of rural, small-scale freshwater aquaculture the ADB-financed Second Aquaculture Develop-
applications and practices; (iii) features indicating rep- ment Project to promote fish farming based on
resentative socioeconomic and agroecological condi- semi-intensive carp polyculture pond technology
tions; and (iv) favorable security or peace and order through the establishment of demonstration fish-
conditions that allowed unhindered access to selected ponds and farmer-to-farmer contact (footnote
sites and conditions for generating outcomes. The SES 27). This case study investigated common liveli-
was largely undertaken in 2003.23 hood conditions of inland freshwater fish farmers
The case studies probed and emphasized differ- in Bangladesh and included a survey of 100
ent aspects of freshwater aquaculture in diverse set- households with fishponds. Households were
tings. Altogether, the eight case studies in three selected randomly in areas typical of the Greater
countries provide a composite illustration of the SES Mymensingh area.
conceptual framework. Philippines. From the late 1980s, ADB and
Bangladesh. ADB first supported aquaculture other aid agencies contributed funds for research on
development in Bangladesh through a project in the genetic improvement of farmed tilapia and dissemi-
late 1970s.24 A later project further supported aquac- nation of improved breeds.28 Nile tilapia (Oreochromis
ulture development to increase fish production for niloticus) farming was also promoted through other
domestic consumption, expand employment, and
increase incomes in rural areas.25 ADB has supported
Bangladesh in promoting and disseminating fish 22 The eight case studies (Part 2 of this book) were prepared as supporting
farming technology, particularly carp polyculture. documents for ADB’s evaluation (Part 1) of the sector.
Three case studies were undertaken in Bangladesh. 23 Fieldwork was interrupted on a number of occasions because of
(i) Case study 1, an overview of small-scale fresh- unanticipated security conditions and travel restrictions, which caused
scheduling difficulties for several SES team members who were engaged
water aquaculture in Bangladesh, was designed intermittently for the study. These conditions included the emergence
to investigate countrywide significance of fresh- of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS); local security advisory
and conditions to ensure safe and unhindered access to survey sites in
water aquaculture, social dimensions of rural the Philippines for interviewers and enumerators; and an aborted mission
poverty among farmers, major aquaculture sys- in April 2003 in Bangladesh, when team members were prevented from
visiting sites outside Dhaka. Consequently, the fieldwork commenced in
tems, fish markets, employment in aquaculture, June 2003 in Bangladesh, and in July 2003 in the Philippines and
ADB’s support to aquaculture development, Thailand. Information gathering, data analyses, data interpretation, and
synthesis of information for the case studies continued until January
safeguards for aquaculture development, rel- 2004.
evant lessons, and ways to benefit the poor. 24 ADB. 1977. Appraisal Report on the Aquaculture Development Project
(ii) Case study 2, farming carps in leased ponds by in Bangladesh. Manila. (Loan 329-BAN[SF]: Aquaculture Development
Project, for $18 million, approved on 13 December 1977.)
groups in Chandpur, was based on a component
of the ADB-financed Command Area Develop- 25 ADB. 1986. Appraisal Report on the Second Aquaculture Development
Project in Bangladesh. Manila.
ment Project.26 To mitigate the decline in capture
26 ADB. 1995. Report and Recommendation of the President to the Board
fisheries, a small-scale freshwater aquaculture of Directors on a Proposed Loan to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh for
project was designed using a low-cost technology the Command Area Development Project. Manila. (Loan 1399-BAN[SF]:
Command Area Development Project, for $30 million, approved on 7
based on carp polyculture that had been promoted November 1995.) The project was designed for implementation over 5
by an earlier ADB-financed project in Chandpur.27 years, but loan closing was extended for 2 years to 30 June 2003.
The project (i) organized the poor, primarily 27 ADB. 2002. Project Performance Audit Report on the Second Aquaculture

women, into groups; (ii) trained these groups on Development Project in Bangladesh. Manila.
fish farming; (iii) helped the groups to acquire 28 Through selective breeding, the development of genetically improved
farmed tilapias (GIFT) was partly financed by ADB under TA 5279-REG
fishponds; and (iv) provided them with (ADB. 1988. Technical Assistance for the Genetic Improvement of Tilapia
microfinance services. The project helped unem- Species in Asia. Manila), for $475,000, approved on 8 March 1988. ADB
also supported dissemination of GIFT through TA 5558-REG (ADB. 1993.
ployed, underemployed, marginal, and landless Technical Assistance for the Dissemination and Evaluation of Genetically
people who had access to less than 0.2 hectare Improved Tilapia Species in Asia [DEGITA]. Manila), for $600,000,
approved on 14 December 1993. The DEGITA distributed GIFT to
(ha) of cultivable land. The study included a sur- Bangladesh, People’s Republic of China, Philippines, Thailand, and
vey of 100 randomly selected fish farming groups Viet Nam, with on-station and on-farm evaluation of their performance.

issues. This case study included a survey of 100
tilapia cage farmers and 81 nursery pond farm-
ers from three major tilapia-producing munici-
palities that accounted for 98% of the total
number of cages in the lake and associated nurs-
Thailand. In an attempt to learn from non-ADB
experience, two case studies were undertaken in
(i) Case study 7, an overview of small-scale fresh-
water aquaculture in Thailand, was designed to
investigate and illustrate the historical develop-
ment and importance of aquaculture, fish seed
supply and growout (the farming of fish seed to
market size), markets, extension services, com-
munity-based initiatives, aquaculture develop-
ment policy, safeguards for aquaculture
development, key lessons, and ways to benefit
the poor.
Cage ADB-financed projects in the Philippines.29 Farmed (ii) Case study 8, development of technology and
farming in tilapia production increased more than five-fold extension for small-scale fish farms in Northeast-
Lake Taal,
Philippines from 1981 to 2001, largely because of improved ern Thailand, was undertaken to examine (a)
breeds, increased input supply and commercial feed, steps, processes, and challenges involved in de-
technical support and extension, and cooperation veloping technology options and extension for
between government agencies and the private sec- small-scale fish farmers; and (b) relevance of a
tor. Taking into account the dominance of tilapia in distance extension approach for resource-poor,
freshwater aquaculture in the Philippines, three case mobile, and literate fish farmers. This case study
studies were undertaken for the SES. draws heavily from the experience and coopera-
(i) Case study 4, an overview of freshwater aquacul- tive efforts of the Aqua Outreach Program of the
ture of tilapia in the Philippines, was undertaken Asian Institute of Technology and the Depart-
to investigate tilapia markets, prices, marketing ment of Fisheries of Thailand.
channels, access to inputs (fish seed, feed, fertil-
izers, land, and water), and support services, and
to derive relevant lessons.
(ii) Case study 5, farming tilapia in ponds in Cen- Chapter III discusses relevant features of poverty and
tral Luzon, was undertaken to illustrate bio- dimensions of vulnerability. Chapter IV analyzes fea-
physical and socioeconomic characteristics of tures of capital assets and transforming processes
this region as the main producing area of tilapia that influence small-scale freshwater aquaculture,
in the country, and to describe the technology using examples from the case studies. Chapter V
and management for farming tilapia, profiles of summarizes key findings from the case studies.
fish farmers, markets, institutions, support ser- Chapter VI draws pertinent lessons from ADB opera-
vices, policy and legal instruments, natural re- tions in freshwater aquaculture in general. Chapter
sources management, and environmental issues. VII provides recommendations for making small-
This case study included a survey of 248 farm scale freshwater rural aquaculture more relevant for
households comprising tilapia farmers and rice poverty reduction.
farmers who had not adopted fish farming.
(iii) Case study 6, tilapia cage farming in Lake Taal,
Batangas, was undertaken to describe the tech- 29 (i) ADB. 1989. Project Performance Audit Report on the Laguna de Bay
nology and management used for tilapia cage Fish Pen Development Project in the Philippines. Manila. (Loan 371-PHI:
farming and nursery operations, profiles of fish Laguna de Bay Fish Pen Development Project, for $9 million, approved on
1 December1978.)(ii) ADB. 1989. Report and Recommendation of the
farmers and other beneficiaries, and relevant President to the Board of Directors on a Proposed Loan to the Philippines
processes pertinent to markets, labor, institutions, for the Fisheries Sector Program. Manila. (Loan 971/972[SF]-PHI:
Fisheries Sector Program, for $80 million, approved on 26 September
support services, policy, legal instruments, natu- 1989.) For aquaculture, the project aimed to intensify production to
ral resources management, and environmental raise yields, productivity, and quality, particularly for local consumption.



The SES recognizes poverty as a multidimensional
concept that includes (i) deprivation or lack of
access to capital assets essential to livelihoods; and
(ii) vulnerability to physical and economic shocks,
and to various attributes of seasonality. Poverty is
reflected in low standards of living; deprivation of
income and nonincome assets; shortfalls in con-
sumption, nutrition, and access to services; and lim-
ited means to cope with crisis situations. Poverty also
reflects lack of employment opportunities.
Land ownership as an income-generating
physical asset has a predictable link with poverty
incidence in rural areas, although the size of land-
holdings is an imperfect measure of wealth. For
example, rural poverty in Bangladesh stood at
47.1% in 1995/96, and poverty incidence among
the landless was 64%.30 The extremely poor are
completely landless, owning neither homestead
land nor arable land and, if not homeless, they live
on borrowed land, sometimes in fear of eviction.
Those with homestead land of less than 0.2 ha
have little food security, suffer from continuous
food deficits, and possess insignificant assets to
rely on during crises. Among farmers with access The period of food deficits coincided with the Fish farmer’s
to limited land (0.2–0.5 ha), the incidence of pov- completion of major farming activities (pond prepa- home in
erty in 1995/96 was as high as 44%. Even among ration, rice planting, etc.), marked by an absence of
those who had access to moderate amounts of land income and a slackening of on-farm employment,
(0.5–1.0 ha), including fishponds, poverty inci- usually in August and September. Food deficits also
dence was 34%. Lack of access to employment was coincided with the occurrence of typhoons that fre-
a major feature of poverty among disadvantaged quently affect the area. Similarly at Lake Taal, more
women in Chandpur. An overwhelming majority of than 80% of cage farmers and fish seed nursery op-
these women could not find remunerative employ- erators experienced periods of food inadequacy in
ment, the major reasons being social barriers, 2002, particularly during July and August, coincid-
household responsibilities, and inability to work ing with unfavorable climatic conditions.
physically as wage laborers. In both Chandpur and
Kishoreganj, Bangladesh, small-scale aquaculture
30 ADB. 2002. Poverty Lines Bangladesh, Poverty and Development
households faced food insecurity for up to 4
Indicators Database. Manila. The poverty line represents the total
months a year. consumption or income at which rural households satisfy their
In the Philippines, small landholders, leasehold- nutritional requirement of 2,122 calories/day/person. Poverty lines
are derived through regression of the functional equation that relates
ers, and other tenants are among the rural poor. For per capita per day calorie intake to monthly per capita expenditures.
example, 43% of the small-scale tilapia farmers sur- Separate urban and rural poverty lines are computed for 21 regions
at threshold per capita per day calorie intakes.
veyed in Central Luzon were below the poverty 31 The annual per capita poverty line in Central Luzon is P13,843
line.31 Two thirds of all surveyed farmers there ($314 at $1=P44.10 in 2000), requiring a family of six to have a
experienced some period of food deficits in 2002. minimum annual income of P83,058 to meet food and nonfood needs.

DIMENSIONS OF Table 1: Examples of Crises Faced by Small-Scale Fish

VULNERABILITY Farmers in Kishoreganj, Bangladesh (n=100)

Crisis Households
Vulnerability relates to the ability of individuals to Experiencing Crisis (%)
respond to influences of shocks and seasonal pat-
terns. Shocks may encompass natural events Illness of Household Members 82
Shortage of Food 48
(droughts, floods, and climatically related condi- Flood Damage 32
tions), human health (illness, food deficits, and mal- Poor Production of Rice 29
nutrition), livestock diseases and crop failures, and River Bank Erosion 24
various unanticipated events with economic impli- Cyclone or Wind Damage 21
cations on households and individuals. Seasonal pat- Excess Rain 16
Loss of Employment 5
terns, shocks, and trends can have major impacts on Theft 5
capital assets of households and individuals, and con- Loss of Land 5
sequently on their abilities to generate incomes, to Payments for Wedding Dowry 5
benefit from employment, and to provide food and
n = number of respondents.
nutrition for their families. Natural and human- Source: Special evaluation study survey.
caused disasters can also have significant impacts on
natural resources or environmental sustainability on
which rural livelihoods heavily rely. financial reserves when natural calamities occur,
An overwhelming majority of small-scale fish and when families have unexpected cash outlays.
farmers in Kishoreganj, Bangladesh, were exposed But these reserves are often inadequate to meet
to several crisis situations, the most serious of which unanticipated heavy burdens when natural disas-
were illnesses of household members; shortfalls in ters and personal misfortunes strike. Tilapia cage
rice production and shortage of food; and damage farmers and operators of fish seed nurseries at Lake
from floods, erosion, and cyclones (Table 1). These Taal reported similar crisis situations: typhoons,
conditions are common among small-scale freshwa- floods, drought, illness in the family, and financial
ter fish farmers in Bangladesh. Existing social safety losses from livelihood occupations.
nets are inadequate. Many farmers who are consid- Farmers in Northeastern Thailand face un-
ered relatively better-off among their peers are pre- favorable climatic conditions. Multipurpose house-
cariously above the poverty line and are likely to fall hold and village ponds are typical features of the
into poverty when faced with crisis situations. Fish landscape because of unreliable water supply—the
farmers in Chandpur experienced similar crisis situ- effectiveness of erratic monsoon rainfall, with most
ations, although they have not suffered from flood rain in June–October, is reduced by the predomi-
damage, because of flood protection infrastructure. nantly sandy soils. Drinking water is mostly from
Theft of livestock and fish was also cited as a source rainfall collected by the roof of the house and
of crisis. stored in large jars; fish ponds are used for bath-
Fish farmers in the Philippines are generally ing and washing clothes and dishes, as well as for
vulnerable to natural and climatic risks. Tilapia livestock and crops. The problem of drought has
farmers in Central Luzon cited several major crisis intensified over the last 30 years because cash crop
situations, including natural calamities, such as ty- cultivation has led to the clearance of forests from
phoons, drought, and floods. Other crisis situations the rolling uplands,32 which has increased run-off
were illness in the family, death of a household and the incidence of flash floods, reduced water
member, and financial losses from farming opera- tables, and deposited salt dissolved from upland
tion. In some instances, illness of a family member soil layers in surrounding rice lowlands.
depleted financial resources to the extent that
affected households could no longer continue with
fish farming and were unable to cope with mount- 32The reduction of forest cover has been dramatic in Northeastern
ing personal debts. Livestock serves as savings and Thailand, from 7.1 million ha in 1961 to 2.1 million ha in 1995.




Box 1: Key Components of Capital Assets
Although technology and its demand on capital
resources are central issues in the adoption of
Human Capital
selected farming practices, poor and small-scale
— Formal and informal education, and work experience
farmers need more than technology options and
— Skills requirement
financial capital if they are to benefit from aquac- — Roles of information providers in developing human capital
ulture. Different combinations and components of — Employment, including full-time and part-time occupations
the five types of capital assets (human, social, natu-
ral, physical, and financial) are required for people Social Capital
to engage in small-scale aquaculture in different — Networks, community-based organizations, nongovernment
locations. The presence or absence of various com- organizations, and others that facilitate exchanges of experience,
ponents of capital assets can facilitate or hinder, and dissemination of knowledge and information
respectively, the likelihood of success. Box 1 lists — Social practices that influence cooperation
these components. — Social attributes and social conditions that affect access to livelihood
Individual farmers and households employ
— Conflicts and conflict resolution
their capital assets in different ways, and use vari-
— Social and cultural norms and practices, and gender relations
ous means to overcome access barriers through
combinations of asset components. The extent to Natural Capital
which households use their capital assets for fish — Tenure and access rights to land and water
farming depends on alternative opportunities. — Characteristics and size of landholdings, fishponds, and fish cages
Contextual circumstances play an important role — Use of natural resource assets
in determining how individuals engage in and ben- — Quality of the natural resource base, aquatic resources
efit from aquaculture as fish farmers, caretakers, management, and the environment
laborers, or market agents. — Safeguards for natural capital assets
The case studies (footnote 22) on small-scale — Climatic conditions, natural and biophysical risks
freshwater fish farming revealed a number of key
Physical Capital
features in the use of capital assets, highlighted in
— Possession of a home and household assets
the following sections. Although the conditions — Access to roads and transportation
described here are not applicable to all case stud- — Access to support facilities and infrastructure
ies, these examples attempt to illustrate key fac- — Access to reliable water supply
tors and circumstances that are pertinent to capital — Communications
assets for livelihoods in small-scale aquaculture.
Financial Capital
Human Capital — Availability and access to financial resources, including credit and
As evidenced in the case studies, the technologies — Household finance, savings, and remittances
— Financial risks
and management systems of the selected fish farm-
— Profitability of aquaculture operations
ing practices do not demand excessively sophisti-
cated skills, although basic knowledge of fish
farming is required. Human resource skills, acqui-
sition of skills to narrow knowledge gaps, and in poor households, did not have much formal edu-
access to sources of information are important for cation; more than half had no more than 5 years of
farmers to engage in fish farming. primary school (Table 2). They had little prior expe-
The surveyed fish farmers in Chandpur, rience in fish farming and had acquired the neces-
Bangladesh, comprising mostly women homemakers sary skills from a nongovernment organization

Table 2: Educational Status of Surveyed Fish Farmers in Bangladesh

Chandpur (%) Kishoreganj (%)

Educational Status Household Head Spouse (n=99) Household Head Spouse

(n=100) Female Members (n=100) (n=99)
Fish Farming Groups

No Education 10 15 27 67
Primary (class 1–5) 36 45 37 21
Secondary (class 6–10) 29 25 24 9
Secondary School Certificate 19 11 9 1
Higher Secondary Certificate 3 3 0 2
Undergraduate, University/College 3 1 3 0

n = number of respondents.
Source: Special evaluation study survey.

farmers. Evidence has shown that diffusion of

information has been effective when the farmer-
to-farmer extension has relied on feasible, simple,
and low-cost farming technology.
Fish farmer respondents in the Philippines had
generally not finished high school education. Table
3 illustrates some features of human capital of
farmers in the Philippines.
The case studies in Bangladesh and the Phil-
ippines indicated that fish farmers generally have
several occupations and fish farming is not a full-
A homestead
fishpond in time task. Having several income sources is a sur-
Bangladesh vival strategy among small-scale farmers, as well
as a way of spreading risks; most income comes
(NGO) through group-based efforts in capacity from informal employment. For example, fish
development, including group formation, personal farmers in Central Luzon, Philippines, were pre-
motivation, and confidence building. Deliberate dominantly male with secondary occupations
and intensive efforts to train the poor were instru- that included rice farming, vegetable farming, live-
mental in overcoming their knowledge barrier. stock raising, vending/trading, and carpentry.
Profiles of fish farmers in Kishoreganj, Bangladesh, Similarly, fish farmers in Kishoreganj, Bangladesh,
also indicated that the majority of farmers and were primarily men with several jobs ranging from
their spouses did not have more than 5 years of rice farming, sharecropping, and seasonal wage
formal education. Farmer-to-farmer contacts, labor to microenterprise and capture fishing in in-
coupled with experience from learning by doing, land waters. These occupational patterns empha-
were the key means of gaining skills among these size (i) the importance of alternative employment
opportunities, and (ii) the different ways by which
small-scale farmers have responded to opportuni-
Table 3: Characteristics of Small-Scale Fish Farmers and Rice Farmers in
Central Luzon, Philippines ties to diversify their livelihoods.
In Kishoreganj, there were few shared roles in
Variable Tilapia Farmers Rice Farmers fish farming between males and females. In gen-
(n=124) (n=124 ) eral, women encountered social barriers and were
primarily homemakers; they were unable to work
Age (average years) 51.0 56.9
Education (average years) 9.6 7.3 physically as laborers outside their homesteads. In
Household Size (average number) 5.3 5.5 Chandpur, women could not find employment
Length of Experience in Present Occupation 4.7 29.7 apart from fish farming in groups as created by
(average years) deliberate ADB-financed development initiatives.
Length of Experience in Previous Occupation 16.8 8.0
The opportunities in group-based fish farming en-
(average years)
abled these women to generate incomes and to
n = number of respondents. play a significant shared role in activities normally
Source: Special evaluation study survey.
dominated by men. Nevertheless, understanding

gender roles in fish farming is critical in situations Table 4: Gender Roles in Fish Farming Activities in Chandpur, Bangladesh
when households employ family labor to perform
various tasks. Although women were recruited to Activity Only Male (%) Only Female (%) Shared (%)
form fish farming groups in Chandpur, shared roles
between females and males were predominant Pond Preparation 28 2 70
Fish Seed Procurement 10 3 87
(Table 4). Thus, advisory and extension services Feed Procurement 6 4 90
could not target women without involving their Fertilizer Procurement 6 4 90
spouses or other family members. Fertilization 1 10 89
Feeding Fish 1 13 86
Social Capital Harvesting Fish 87 3 10
Grading Fish 44 10 46
Marketing Fish 92 1 7
Social capital in the form of networks, cultural
norms, and other social attributes has significantly Source: Special evaluation study survey based on responses from 100 respondents.
helped exchanges of experience, sharing of knowl-
edge, and cooperation among rural households. has been significantly overshadowed by the private
Freshwater aquaculture development in Bangladesh sector and existing social networks among farmers.
gained substantially from government extension Social networking plays a crucial role in accessing
support based on demonstration of feasible tech- assets for tilapia farming, particularly with respect
nology for carp polyculture, but subsequent spread to fish farmers’ dependence on external financiers.
of improved fish farming practices in the country Mutual trust is paramount in a financier-farmer
relied heavily on farmer-to-farmer contacts and relationship. Farmers of good reputation, belonging
favorable social networks among members of the to a large social network, have good chances of ob-
rural communities (footnote 27). Nearly all the taining access to financial and other resources
surveyed farmers in Kishoreganj said their current through personal referrals and contacts. Referrals
fish farming practices originated locally, mostly open doors of opportunities, and financiers rely on
through information and advice on fish farming such indirect assessments to minimize moral hazards
from other farmers, and (40% of them) from in engaging potential small business partners, such
friends and neighbors. as farm caretakers and employees.
Access to social capital also hastened the In Northeastern Thailand, a farming systems
acquisition of information, training, and advisory research and extension approach was followed to
services for tilapia farming in the Philippines. Most ensure that the technology developed was relevant,
tilapia farmers traced the origin of their tilapia and would be adopted by small-scale farmers in the
farming practices to their own province, dissemi- region. The approach involved (i) situational analy-
nated through an informal network of farmers and sis to assess the needs for, and the potential benefits
private sector groups, such as hatcheries, fish seed from, aquaculture technology for small-scale farm
nurseries, and feed suppliers. More than two thirds households; (ii) identification of appropriate tech-
of the surveyed fish farmers in Central Luzon nologies from reviews of knowledge, on-station and
claimed that they received training through such on-farm research, as well as adaptive and hands-on
connections, specifically on fishpond preparation, field trials with small-scale farmers to test and refine
tilapia husbandry, fish nutrition, and seed produc- technical recommendations; and (iii) research into
tion. However, most of these tilapia farmers were the production of extension materials and ways to
not affiliated with any livelihood association. Mul- disseminate them to farmers and potential clients. A
tipurpose cooperatives were the most popular distance approach was adopted in view of the lack
choice among farmers affiliated in a formal asso- of government staff for extension delivery. The tech-
ciation. niques used have included brochures, radio broad-
The importance of social networks was further casts, and television programs. The distance
evidenced among tilapia cage farmers at Lake Taal, approach took into account key requisites for effec-
Philippines. An overwhelming majority of the sur- tive communications, including local farmers’ cul-
vey respondents acquired their fish farming practices ture and existing social networks, language, learning
from sources within their province, including a net- experience, and lifestyle. Access to cellular tele-
work of fellow farmers, friends, relatives, govern- phones has also greatly helped exchanges of infor-
ment agencies, feed suppliers, fish seed suppliers, mation among farmers and extension agents.
financiers, media, educational institutions, and The case studies in Bangladesh and the Phil-
NGOs. Among providers of information and ippines indicated that conflicts among fish farm-
advice, the role of government agencies in provid- ers, and with other users of land and water, were
ing extension services to tilapia farmers at Lake Taal limited. Nevertheless, different interests in the use

Group of of limited land and water resources may result in Natural Capital
women fish social conflicts, and the vulnerable poor frequently
lose out under such circumstances. For example, Without access to land and water, the poor are un-
there are reports of longstanding conflicts at Lake likely to engage in fish farming directly, although
Taal between the lake’s fishers and tilapia cage there are employment opportunities for laborers.
farmers. The fishers, their own illegal practices For inland freshwater aquaculture, access and ten-
aside, blame tilapia cage farmers for the decline in ure rights to land and water are major prerequi-
the lake’s fisheries, citing impeded navigation, low- sites. Direct beneficiaries of aquaculture
ered water quality, and obstruction of the main development have largely been fishpond owners or
outlet river channel. those who have secured access and tenure rights
Unfavorable social environments can pose risk over designated areas of land and water. Innova-
of losses through theft or poaching of fish. These tive arrangements are needed to enable the poor
incidents were reported to be significant in the to have secure access to land and water.33 When
study areas in Bangladesh and the Philippines. the landless gain access to ponds or water bodies
Theft risks usually increase when fishponds or fish through lease or other access arrangements, secure
cages are too far from farmers’ homes to allow sur- access rights are critical. Without binding and long-
veillance. Full surveillance of fishponds or fish term agreements on access rights, fish farmers are
cages requires increased labor inputs and, there- vulnerable. Eviction is common when access is not
fore, costs of fish farm maintenance. Increased secure, and interrupted operation can result in
theft risks and the associated costs may limit the losses of investments that the poor cannot recover.
feasibility of fish farming, especially among house- Fish farming in low-cost small cages was piloted
holds headed by females who, on their own, are and introduced in Bangladesh to primarily landless
unable to protect their assets against an unfavor- poor people who were provided with access to lakes,
able social environment. Group-based fish farming rivers, water canals, and seasonal water bodies.
among women in Chandpur in Bangladesh has Technically feasible, small-scale fish cages allowed
provided collective protection through pooling of
labor resources and rotational guard duties around 33Watanabe, T. 1993. The Ponds and the Poor: The Story of Grameen
their fishponds. Bank’s Initiative. Dhaka: Grameen Bank.

the landless poor to benefit from aquaculture.34
But constraints faced the wider adoption and use
of fish cages by the poor, such as initial construc-
tion costs, exposure to thefts, unaffordable supple-
mentary feed, and incompatibility between the
immediate need to earn daily income among the
poorest and the seasonal nature of fish cage in- Fishpond in an
come. Providing access to water bodies alone was setting in
not sufficient for the poor to continue with fish Bangladesh
farming. Thus, the adoption of this technology has
remained localized, and has not been widely rep- quarter claimed to be co-owners under a multiple
licated in Bangladesh. ownership arrangement. Only 6% of the households
Access to fishponds among rural households had fishpond lease arrangements, and these had
is common in Bangladesh. The majority of fish- durations of 1–5 years. With the growing rural
ponds were constructed as borrow pits, which population in Bangladesh and the large number of
were dug out for the soil to be used to raise the dependents, land inheritance leads to multiple own-
ground level of village settlements and pathways. erships of fishponds. This situation generates serious
Thus, the ponds were not deliberately built as fish- issues related to co-ownership and collective action
ponds, but as part of excavation works necessary among land shareholders. Many issues related to
for village and homestead development. The num- underutilized fishponds in Bangladesh were attrib-
ber of small homestead fishponds in Bangladesh uted to multiple ownership, when cost sharing, ben-
probably exceeds 5 million. This reflects the sig- efit distribution, and assignment of responsibilities
nificance of fishponds in the livelihoods and social for pond management became difficult. While fish-
fabric of rural Bangladeshi households. Fishponds pond leasing is an option for the landless poor, the
are often multipurpose ponds; villagers use pond annual lease costs may act as an entry barrier. But
water for washing clothes and dishes, bathing, live- this barrier can be overcome as evidenced in
stock, cooking, and drinking water after filtering. Chandpur.35
In general, fish farming does not interfere with the
multipurpose use of ponds, providing strong incen- 34 CARE Bangladesh introduced the development of small (1 cubic
tives for pond owners to safeguard the quality of meter) cages as a means of making aquaculture accessible to and
overcoming resource constraints among the landless poor. Popular
pond water. The availability of ponds provides an fish species grown in small cages include tilapia (Oreochromis
impetus for fish farming development without in- niloticus), grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella), and silver barb
(Barbodes gonionotus).
curring additional and deliberate costs for pond
35 In Bangladesh, annual leasing rates in 2002 were $432–518 Fishpond
construction. (Tk25,000–30,000)/ha in Chandpur, and an average of $444 adjacent to a
As illustrated by the case study on farming (Tk25,700)/ha in Kishoreganj. Annual leasing costs were $194–484 rice field in
carps in leased ponds by groups in Chandpur, (P10,000–25,000)/ha in Central Luzon, Philippines. Bangladesh
group-leasing of ponds was the primary access route
for the poor to farm fish. Without this group-
based access to leased ponds, the poor would not
have been able to farm fish. Several NGOs in
Bangladesh have adopted similar arrangements to
facilitate access to land and water for the poor and
landless; the NGOs have used social influence and
financial support, including gaining government
support to allow the use of state-owned ponds.
Lease arrangements using private and state-owned
ponds can provide significant assurance on tenure
rights under specific terms and conditions. Ponds
are rarely left completely idle in Bangladesh; pond
owners offer them for rent when they do not use
the ponds themselves.
In Kishoreganj, the respondents were either
marginal farmers or small landholders with limited
access to land. In contrast to situations in Chandpur,
two thirds of respondent households in Kishoreganj
acquired their ponds through inheritance, and a

Guard hut and Access and tenure rights to land and water are Physical Capital
fish cages in equally fundamental for tilapia farming in the Phil-
the Philippines
ippines. In Central Luzon, tilapia farmers had access Surveys conducted in Bangladesh and the Philip-
to land through ownership or lease arrangements. pines for the SES indicated that fish farmers were
Lands were generally acquired through inheritance not among the poorest or destitute. The poorest
and purchase. For tilapia farmers who did not own people were generally excluded from aquaculture
fishponds, access was acquired through guaranteed because of the need for capital assets. The fish
user rights, typically lasting 1–5 years. Other farmer respondents generally owned their own
arrangements included profit sharing between home or had access to a dwelling with basic sani-
farmers and landowners, or between pond caretak- tation facilities, although many of them were poor
ers and pond owners. or precariously above poverty in terms of vulner-
Access to lake waters for fish farming in the Phil- ability. For example, fish farmers in Chandpur and
ippines illustrates a different perspective. The waters Kishoreganj of Bangladesh had access to basic
of Lake Taal are owned by the state. Cage farming homes or dwelling units made of wood, sheet
sites are leased out by the Government to fish farm- metal, and light natural materials such as bamboo,
ers for a fixed term, with provisions that open access paddy straw, jute sticks, leaves, and earth. Most of
to aquaculture should not exceed 5–10% of the these farmers owned scavenging poultry and some
total water area of the lake. Zoning is necessary had other small and large livestock. Possession of
because the lake has several purposes, including household assets was modest: less than half of the
capture fisheries, tourism and recreation, fish farm- surveyed households in Chandpur claimed to have
ing, and environmental protection. A license is a radio (37%), a television (15%), and a sewing
needed to operate a fish cage, and must be renewed machine (8%). In the Philippines, the great major-
annually. Licensing for fish cage farming and cage ity of the surveyed small-scale fish farmers owned
ownership is limited to people who reside in the their homes or dwelling units and almost all
municipalities surrounding the lake. However, the owned a television, an electric fan, and water-
inability of most local residents to finance fish cage sealed toilets. More than half of them had access
operations has led to arrangements involving non- to telephones and/or cellular phones.
resident financiers or absentee-investors, while the Access to roads, transport facilities, commu-
local residents serve as caretakers or cage work- nications, reliable water supply, and various sup-
ers for cage farms that are registered under their port facilities including health services is an
names. Secured access to land and water alone important enabling condition for sustainable live-
does not necessarily give the ability to operate fish lihood development, including for fish farming. In
farms; access to other, complementary capital Bangladesh, most respondents reported difficulties
assets is required. with transportation, communications, electricity,

Table 5: Access to Facilities among Fish Farmers in Chandpur (n=100) and Kishoreganj (n=100), Bangladesh

Neither Difficult
Facility Very Difficult Difficult Nor Easy Easy


Transportation 0 27 99 48 1 25 0 0
Communication 97 51 3 41 0 8 0 0
Medical 8 31 83 50 9 19 0 0
Electricity 16 17 74 59 10 24 0 0
Water Supply 0 5 27 32 73 63 0 0
Toilet 1 1 22 39 76 60 1 0

C = Chandpur, K = Kishoreganj, n = number of respondents.

Source: Special evaluation study survey.

and health services, but they had reasonable access their fishponds, and the rest claimed that they had
to reliable water supply (Table 5). Fish farmers in received small loans from moneylenders, relatives,
the Philippines enjoyed easier access to roads and friends, NGOs, cooperatives, and government-
transport facilities, communications, and other sponsored programs. Major reasons cited for not
support infrastructure and facilities. Their access obtaining financial assistance were unavailability
to facilities ranged from fair (neither easy nor dif- of credit, unfamiliarity with credit, complex pro-
ficult) to very easy. Most tilapia farmers in Central cedures for acquiring credit, high interest rates,
Luzon had reliable water supplies through deep and unfavorable repayment conditions. On aver-
wells, which lessened water-related conflicts with age, farmers’ groups in Chandpur each leased fish-
rice farmers who depended heavily on irrigation. ponds covering a total of 1 ha, while individual fish
farmers in Kishoreganj had less than 0.2 ha of fish-
Financial Capital ponds. The relatively small pond areas operated by
fish farmers in Kishoreganj also explains why they
Access to financial capital, including household fi- were able to rely on their own financial resources.
nance and savings, formal and informal credit With modest financial resources, Bangladeshi
sources, and income is important for financing fish households can afford modest working capital re-
farming activities. The demand for initial invest- quirements to stock fishponds with fish seed, par-
ments and subsequent operating expenses depends ticularly when they use inexpensive feeding
on the technology selected, farm management prac- methods that rely on natural feed in fertilized
tices, and input requirements. Many factors influ- ponds.36 Operating costs vary depending on stock-
ence access to financial capital: an individual’s ing rates, pond ownership and whether lease pay-
wealth, existence of financial services, suppliers’ ments are required, fertilization rates and
credit and services, remittances, modes of trade supplementary feeding regimes, and the extent to
financing, credit terms and conditions, credit wor- which farmers undertake pond preparation prior to
thiness, and conditions that can affect an individual’s stocking and the level of general maintenance
access (and barriers) to financial capital. throughout the year. With good management, ad-
Although carp polyculture systems as com- equate use of inputs, and multiple stocking and
monly practiced in Bangladesh are not capital harvests, carp polyculture systems in perennial
intensive, the poor in Chandpur would not have ponds yield an average of 3.7 t/ha, generating
been able to farm fish on their own with their lim- gross revenues of about $3,110 (Tk180,000)/ha
ited resources. Collateral-free microcredit has been and net incomes of $1,555 (Tk90,000)/ha at farm
instrumental in providing groups of poor fish farm- gate in 2002 constant prices. Annual production
ers with working capital to complement their mea- costs average $1,555 (Tk90,000)/ha, including
ger resources. The farmers’ groups required about payments for leased ponds, fish seed, supplemen-
$1,330 (Tk77,000)/ha for working capital, which tary feed, hired labor, harvesting, and other costs.
would have taken them an average of 87 months In general, small-scale farm households own less
to save. Thus, access to credit and the NGO advi-
sory services that accompanied this credit were 36 Customized fishpond management to fit the circumstances of the
very important in this case. In contrast, two thirds poor can benefit from a fish farming system that primarily relies on
natural feed produced in the pond by capitalizing on sunlight and
of the respondents in Kishoreganj reported that photosynthesis of phytoplankton, and utilizing organic and inorganic
they had relied on their own sources of funds for fertilizers.

institutions was available, farmers avoided bor-
rowing from these sources because of high interest
rates, paper work, requirements for insurance
and collateral, and inconveniences that increased
transaction costs. Instead, those who did borrow
relied mainly on feed suppliers, relatives, and
friends. A few received regular remittances.38 How-
ever, the long growing period before harvest and
sales strained household finance and access to
financial capital was generally a major constraint.
Although tilapia farming in fishponds is gen-
erally more profitable than rice farming (Table 6),
many rice farmers in the Philippines have not
adopted tilapia farming because of their limited
resources and constraints to meet financial capital
requirements. Operating risks associated with
tilapia farming also dampen desires of rice farm-
ers to adopt fish farming. The risks have often
deterred small-scale farmers from attempting to
obtain formal credit, fearing the loss of property
or collateral in the event of harvest failure.
Small-scale than 0.2 ha of fishponds and the majority do not The emergence of informal credit schemes
tilapia nursery lease ponds. These small-scale farms can obtain
farm in the from nonbank sources has benefited small-scale
Philippines working capital of $86–259 (Tk5,000–15,000) an- farmers, although some of these schemes carry
nually from various sources. Appendix 2 provides higher interest than bank loans. These nonbank
illustrative financial farm budgets of carp financing arrangements include financier-care-
polyculture farms in Bangladesh. taker arrangements, trader-operator agreements,
In the Philippines, two thirds of the small-scale contract farming, and suppliers’ credit schemes.
tilapia farmers surveyed in Central Luzon drew on At Lake Taal, high operating costs and inherent risks
their own limited funds for capital. Constraints in of fish farming deter local residents from using and
meeting working capital requirements may lead to risking their own limited financial assets for fish
suboptimal farm performance.37 Impediments to farming.39 These conditions have led to the emer-
seeking financial assistance were lack of access to gence of financier-caretaker relationships, which
formal credit, high interest rates, and lack of finan- have gained popular local acceptance. About two
cial assistance from government sources; also, thirds of the surveyed fish cage farmers at Lake
some did not need to borrow. Where formal credit Taal were caretakers and recipients of financial
from commercial banks and private lending assistance provided by nonresident financiers. The
financier provided funds for farming activities, while
the caretaker managed the fish farm. Net profits
Table 6: Comparative Net Incomes per Hectare in 2002 from Tilapia Ponds after each crop cycle were distributed between the
and Rice Farms in Central Luzon, Philippines

Mean Gross Mean Production Net Income 37 In Central Luzon, operating costs of tilapia fishponds per crop cycle
Cycle/Crop Income Cost of about 4 months may amount to $4,128 (P213,000)/ha: feeds
(P)a (P) (P) (72%), fingerlings (11%), labor (7%), water and fuel (6%), and
fertilizers and chemicals (4%).
Tilapia Pond 38 Remittances are transfer payments to the Philippines, which are
First 336,582 212,729 123,853 usually salaries and/or wages sent home by Filipinos employed
Second 320,152 208,617 111,535 abroad. In Central Luzon, remittances contributed to 5% of household
incomes of fish farmers.
39 At Lake Taal in the Philippines, tilapia farming in cages is capital
Rice Farm
First 39,205 17,107 22,098 intensive. Typically, farmers operate fish cages (10 meters [m] wide,
10 m long, and 6–10 m depth) for 5–6 months per crop cycle. In
Second 47,875 12,104 35,771 2002, the average annual operating expenses amounted to $2,074
(P107,000) per crop cycle or $4,147 (P214,000) annually for two
P = Philippine peso. crops. These expenses comprised feeds (79%), seeds (18%), labor
Includes both cash and noncash incomes. Noncash income, or the monetary equivalent of (2%), and fuel and miscellaneous items (1%). With yields of 3 t per
fish that were either consumed or given away, accounted for 9%. In the case of rice farmers, cage per crop cycle, a cage can generate net incomes of more than
the mean cash income from the sale of paddy accounted for 60%, and noncash income or $581 (P30,000) within 5–6 months. However, the operating costs
monetary equivalent of rice consumed amounted to 40%. and cash outlay requirements are major entry barriers to local
Source: Special evaluation study survey of 248 farms. residents.

two parties, based on their initial agreements.40
Box 2: Components of Transforming Processes
Appendix 3, Tables 3.1–3.3 provides illustrative
financial farm budgets of tilapia farming in the Markets and Marketing
Philippines using fishponds and cages. — Demand, supply, and prices
— Roles of intermediaries and marketing chains from input producers/
TRANSFORMING PROCESSES suppliers to farmers, and from farmers to consumers
— Transaction costs
The SES probed several major transforming pro- — Perishability, seasonality, and variability
cesses that can facilitate or hinder the generation Labor Market
of desirable outcomes from the employment of — On-farm and off-farm employment opportunities, including self-
capital assets in aquaculture. This section discusses employment
key features of these transforming processes, — Formal, informal, full-time, part-time, and seasonal employment
including markets and marketing, labor market, — Availability of household/family labor
roles of public and private institutions, support ser- — Paid/unpaid labor, wages, opportunity costs
— Labor migration and its impacts on farm labor availability
vices, facilities and infrastructure, legal framework
— Reciprocal labor exchange
and policies, aquatic resources management and
environment, and safeguards for biosafety and Public and Private Institutions
aquatic health. Box 2 lists the components of the — Relevant roles of government agencies, local governments, and
nongovernment organizations
transforming processes.
— Relevant roles of private institutions, including private companies
and community-based organizations
Markets and Marketing — Public and private partnerships
Services, Facilities, and Infrastructure
Most of the fish do not reach consumers directly
— Service providers
from producers. Market intermediaries as enabling
— Advisory and extension services
agents are critical in the marketing chain. Func- — Communications, roads, and transportation
tioning markets enable the flow of goods and ser- — Input suppliers
vices from producers to consumers. Intermediaries
Legal Framework and Policies
perform postharvest tasks, such as handling, clean-
— Licensing requirements
ing, sorting and grading, icing, and transportation. — Rules and regulations
This intermediation creates jobs, including for the — Pertinent government policies
poor. For example, in Thailand, domestic market-
Safeguards for Aquatic Resources, Environment, and Health
ing of freshwater fish comprises several channels
— Environmental carrying capacity
and types of markets and intermediaries. Fish mar- — Genetic diversity and management of alien species
keting is primarily a private sector function. Mar- — Spatial planning and management
ket participants include (i) farmers who sell their — Effluents, nutrient recycling, and environmental protection
fish to wholesalers, retailers, or collecting agents; — Food safety requirements, biosafety, and disease prevention
(ii) fish collectors who act as intermediaries be-
tween fish farmers and fish traders by gathering
fish from various farms and benefiting from price
differentiation as a result of postharvest grading of The farmers’ share of retail prices of selected spe-
fish; (iii) fish agents who earn commission fees cies can amount to 50–60%. With good
from transactions between buyers and sellers at postharvest support facilities, freshwater fish are
assembly markets; (iv) fish wholesalers who pur- easily delivered from production centers to mar-
chase fish from assembly markets or buy directly kets throughout the country. Fish transportation
from fish farmers, and sell to retailers; (v) fish pro- benefits from reliable road networks and commu-
cessors who buy fish directly from fish farmers, nications facilities that link all districts and prov-
assembly markets, wholesalers, and other proces- inces.
sors; and (vi) fish retailers who sell to final fish In Bangladesh, the market chain from fish
consumers. Overall, market access by fish farmers, farmers to consumers encompasses primary, sec-
including small-scale producers, is generally not a ondary, and retail/consumers markets, involving
constraint in Thailand. Prices at the farm gate and
in wholesale and retail markets are very competi- 40 Existing financier-caretaker sharing arrangements at Lake Taal
include sharing of net profits on the basis of 50:50, 60:40, or 80:20
tive, with numerous buyers and sellers from the ratios in favor of the financier. Under some partnerships, financial
farm to consumers. The marketing margin, the losses from previous crop cycles are carried forward to the next cycle
under an arrangement known as a rollback system. This rollback
difference between the price paid by the consumer system requires caretakers and financiers to share the risks of fish
and that received by the producer, varies by species. farming.

local fish traders, sales agents, wholesalers and dis- Similarly, domestic fish markets in the Philip-
tributors, and retailers. Fish farmers usually sell pines are competitive. Many marketing channels
their fish to local traders and collectors who then provide significant roles for market intermediaries,
sell to wholesalers and distributors with or with- including brokers, wholesalers, and retailers. Fig-
out the help of commission-based sales agents. ure 2 illustrates different channels of marketing
Farmers also sell their fish at village markets to tilapia in the Philippines. Farmed fish are sold live,
consumers, but direct sales are usually in small fresh, and (to a lesser extent) chilled or frozen. In
quantities. In Chandpur, the farmers’ groups over- Central Luzon, live tilapia command a higher price
whelmingly sold fish to local agents and to whole- than iced or chilled fish. A recent shift in consumer
salers/assemblers. Few farmers sold fish directly to preference for live tilapia has led to the develop-
a retailer. Reasons cited by farmers for choosing a ment of sales from aerated containers in markets
particular market outlet were convenience, price, and at the roadside. Some market intermediaries,
and terms of payment. Very few respondent fish particularly wholesalers, finance small-scale farm-
farmers in Bangladesh had significant problems ers to be assured of a steady supply of fish. Buyer
selling fish because market demand was high. and seller concentration is high. This is beneficial
However, markets are localized in some areas and for small-scale farmers because it provides diversi-
fish farmers had limited ability to reach other mar- fied market outlets for their produce. At the farm
kets because of time and distance constraints, gate, small-scale tilapia farmers can expect to re-
inadequate transportation, and poor road infra- ceive not less than 50% of retail prices. Entry and
structure. At urban markets, wholesalers sell fish exit of traders to the tilapia market have been rela-
to other wholesalers who in turn sell to retailers. tively easy, especially at the retail level. Product
Finally, retailers sell fish to consumers through differentiation and pricing are based on fish size
stalls at fish markets, roadside sales, and door-to- after harvest.
door sales to households. Although the physical Fish seed markets are competitive in
conditions (hygiene and sanitation) of fish markets Bangladesh, Philippines, and Thailand, providing
in Bangladesh are deficient, the markets function critical support to freshwater fish production.
well, with competitive market intermediaries and Small-scale fish farmers have a wide choice of seed
abundant sellers and buyers along the marketing suppliers. In the Philippines, the SES surveys indi-
chain. At the farm gate, farmers obtain not less cated that fish seed accounts for 11% of total
than 50% of retail prices. operating costs for fishpond and 18% of fish cage

Figure 2.
channels for
tilapia in the

Producer Broker

Fish Market Consumer

Wholesaler Retailer Retailer

Contract Emerging
Grower Export
(Processor) Market

operations. Major tilapia seed producers41 and
their accredited suppliers in the Philippines are
engaged in competitive marketing campaigns, pro-
viding technical assistance and various credit
terms to buyers, including small-scale tilapia farm-
ers. Market competition and the increasing choice
of tilapia strains of good performance have ben-
efited small-scale fish farmers in the Philippines:
they receive competitive prices, have informed
choices, and receive added technical services.
Market channels for tilapia seed in the Philip-
pines are relatively short because of the high risks
in handling, transporting, and selling fish seed.
Consequently, hatchery operators and fish seed
nurseries sell seed directly to fish farmers. In con-
trast, fish seed traders in Bangladesh are the last
and critical actors in a network linking hatcheries,
fish seed nurseries, and fish farmers. These fish
seed traders also provide advice to fish farmers,
share knowledge of fish farming with their custom-
ers, and bear significant risks of seed losses during
handling and transportation.42 Most itinerant fish
seed traders in Bangladesh buy their fish seed di-
rectly from private household nurseries and, to
some extent, from seed wholesalers.43 There is ad-
equate carp seed supply from primarily private
hatcheries and seed nurseries. Fish seed prices are
competitive and have declined in recent years.
Clusters of small-scale hatcheries serve freshwater
aquaculture farms in Bangladesh, rather than
single large hatcheries that require significant capi-
tal, knowledge, and managerial skill to operate.44
Similarly, in Thailand, a well-established network products also occurs in unsatisfactory and inad- Village fish
of local and more distant traders links fish seed equate icing or refrigeration facilities. Poor hygiene market in
producers to customers all over the country. and sanitation are pervasive in fish markets in
Through well-functioning markets and their distri- Bangladesh, necessitating quick disposal of fish at
bution networks, private farms produce and nurse wholesale and retail markets to final consumers to
fish seed to various sizes to meet requirements of prevent spoilage. Inevitably, outputs of fish farms
fish farmers.45
Overall, the marketing of freshwater fish in the 41 Tilapia seed production reached 1.02 billion fish in 2002, with
study areas does not present a major problem. 900 million from private sources and 120 million from state-affiliated
hatcheries. Assuming 40% seed mortality and an average market size
Markets for freshwater fish are predominantly do- of 5–6 fish per kilogram, farmed tilapia production in 2002 of 122,316
mestic. With growing demand for freshwater fish t would have required at least 942 million fish.

and their competitive prices relative to animal pro- 42 Seed trading in Bangladesh is a seasonal occupation that, in most
places, begins in April and ends in September. Seed traders travel on
tein substitutes, small-scale fish farmers do not buses and trains and typically carry a few thousand seed in aluminum
face serious problems in selling their products. containers on foot or by bicycle, to reach their farm customers.
Nevertheless, they face varying degrees of diffi- 43 A village seed trader may sell 3,000–6,000 fingerlings a day for up
culty and constraints related to site-specific condi- to 6 months each year, earning more than Tk300/day, or four times
the daily wage rate of agricultural labor.
tions of transportation, communications, and
44 In 2002, Bangladesh had 630 private and 110 state-owned
support facilities that contribute to functioning hatcheries. Small-scale hatcheries and nurseries developed by farmers
markets. Perishability and fragility require speed produce the vast majority of fish seed.
and care in handling and storage. Damage or de- 45 More than 600 million fry of tilapia, the dominant fish in small-
terioration in quality can occur rapidly because of scale freshwater aquaculture, both mixed sex and monosex male
(through hormone-induced sex reversal), were produced in 2001 in
unsatisfactory handling during harvesting, grad- Thailand. This tilapia seed supply was 45% of the total fish seed (1,520
ing, cleaning, washing, transporting, packing, un- million) produced that year. The Government produced about 17%
of the seed, approximately 65% of which were from inland fisheries
packing, and display in the market. Damage to fish stations.

on rural livelihoods, including those of farmers
who rely on household and seasonal labor. Alter-
native employment opportunities can seriously
affect the availability of farm labor or household/
family labor for fish farming. For example, farm
households in Northeastern Thailand have increas-
ingly sought to augment their earnings through
off-farm employment. This was initially through
seasonal migration to sugarcane fields and
orchards of Central and Eastern Thailand or for
temporary urban employment, but more recently
there has been a mass exodus of the agricultural
labor force to urban centers, particularly to Cen-
tral Thailand—for employment in the service, con-
struction, and industrial sectors—and overseas.
The Asian financial crisis in 1997 and subsequent
economic recession led to a mass layoff of work-
ers, leading to a return migration of the labor force.
However, the highly seasonal and unstable farm-
ing systems were unable to absorb returning
migrants adequately.
Economic recovery and expansion in other
sectors in recent years have led to scarcity of farm
labor in Northeastern Thailand, causing labor costs
to rise and limiting the feasibility of labor-inten-
sive fish farming. Earnings from fish farming there
generally contribute less than 20% and off-farm
incomes more than 40% of the total household
incomes of farmers. Although technology options
Retailing fish can successfully increase fish yields, this approach
seed in alone may not be feasible in a dynamic economy
that has significantly increased the opportunity
costs of labor. The labor market plays a significant
role in determining the relevance and significance
of certain technologies to livelihoods.
Not all rural households and farmers can
directly engage themselves in self-employment ini-
tiatives as operators or farmers in fish production.
Other activities associated with the production and
marketing of farmed fish offer employment oppor-
tunities for the rural population, including the
A good harvest poor. These opportunities include seasonal and
from a fishpond part-time labor for fishpond preparation and main-
in Bangladesh
tenance, harvesting, and postharvest activities,
including handling, cleaning, sorting and grading,
are seasonal and harvests are of variable quality as and icing and transportation. For example, harvest
reflected in size, weight, and other grading features and postharvest activities in Bangladesh are labor
that also influence product pricing. intensive and generate significant demand for
labor, as well as creating opportunities for self-em-
Labor Market ployment in rural areas where the supply of labor
is abundant. Part-time and full-time employment
The labor market is closely linked to human capital, in freshwater aquaculture and related services ben-
and is influenced by wider economic conditions and efit more than 3 million people in Bangladesh—
opportunities across all sectors in the country. The many more if their dependents are included.
labor market, which includes competing self-em- Because much of the employment benefits accrue
ployment opportunities, can have profound impacts in rural areas, the contribution of freshwater

Table 7: Occupations of Household Heads and Spouses, and Sources of Household Incomes in Kishoreganj,

Household Head Spouse Household Income

(n=100) (n=99) Source (n=100)
Primary Secondary Primary Secondary First Second Third
(%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%)

Fish Farming 6 25 0 5 6 12 66
Rice Farming 38 26 0 0 38 27 10
Sharecropping 2 9 0 0 4 10 1
Livestock 0 1 3 0 0 4 10
Wage Labor 7 3 1 1 7 4 0
Carpentry 1 0 0 0 1 0 0
Office Worker 7 1 2 0 8 2 2
Vendor/Trader 4 6 0 0 2 9 1
Microenterprise 21 3 0 0 21 6 0
Rickshaw Driver 1 2 0 0 2 1 0
Capture Fishing 8 14 0 0 8 13 1
School Teacher 3 0 0 0 1 0 0
Boat Operator 2 0 0 0 2 0 0
Cultivation of Other Crops 0 10 0 0 0 12 9
Homemaker 0 0 94 6 0 0 0
None 0 0 0 88 0 0 0

n = number of respondents.
Source: Special evaluation study survey of 100 farm households.

aquaculture to rural livelihoods and the poor is far workers to receive wages effectively lower than
reaching. For individual households, alternative legislated minimum wages.47 With the abundance
employment opportunities and diversified sources of labor, exchange labor from members of the
of incomes are important. The survey of farm local community is also used.48 Men, women, and
households in Kishoreganj, Bangladesh, revealed even children assist in hatchery/nursery, pond, and
that fish farming households were engaged in dif- cage operations. Heavy physical tasks, such as
ferent activities. The most important primary occu- pond construction and harvesting, remain male
pations of the household heads (males) in terms of dominated. Employment impacts are clearly seen
time spent were rice farming 46 and informal in the local economies where tilapia is farmed.
microenterprise; only 6% of respondents stated
that fish farming was their primary occupation The Roles of Public and Private
(Table 7). Fish farming was almost equivalent to Institutions
rice farming among the most important secondary
occupations, while two thirds of the respondents The SES case studies show that complementary
reported fish farming as their third most important and collaborative activities of public and private
source of income. Nearly all the spouses (females) institutions can facilitate aquaculture development
were homemakers and 88% held no other job. for small-scale farmers. For example, in Thailand,
In the Philippines, freshwater tilapia farming the Government has placed strong emphasis on the
provides employment opportunities for fishpond development of fisheries stations, which have cata-
operators and fish cage caretakers and their fami- lyzed the development of the private sector’s domi-
lies. Other work opportunities include full-time nant role in fish seed production and fish seed
and part-time employment in pond excavation,
cage and net making, boat operation, services, har- 46 The vast majority of respondents (93%) cultivated rice: 42% of
vesting, fish sorting and grading, marketing, trans- them cultivated one crop annually and 58% had two.
port, and miscellaneous activities. Small-scale 47 Based on surveys at Lake Taal, Philippines, the average monthly
pond and cage farms rely mainly on family labor; salary of regular workers or laborers in tilapia cage farming and
nurseries was $39 (P2,000) in 2002. For seasonal laborers, the average
larger farms employ regular full-time workers and daily wage was $2.67 (P138).
seasonal or casual workers for pond preparation, 48 Neighbors and other members of the community provide labor
stocking, and harvesting. In rural areas, with lim- (for pond preparation or harvesting) without financial payment. The
pond or cage owner is expected to reciprocate by helping fellow
ited employment opportunities and high unem- farmers when needed. If the activity is harvesting, fish are normally
ployment, labor is abundant. This has caused many given to reward those who participate.

Fish harvesting supply in the country. While the Government has the private sector has progressively taken over the
team at work in played an instrumental role in placing the neces- role of public institutions in fish seed supply and
sary facilities for initiating and ensuring fish seed private hatcheries now dominate seed supply in
supply to promote fish farming, its role does not the country. In parallel, the Government has paid
prevent the private sector from taking over the fish increased attention to improving broodstock qual-
seed supply business. The Government sustains its ity for private hatcheries by establishing a network
research and development efforts on fish breeding of broodstock centers. Appropriate interventions to
to maintain good-quality broodstock to ensure improve fish breeding practices and to provide
open public access to farmed fish species and regular replenishment of high-quality broodstock
strains of good performance. Further, the Govern- will require continued cooperative efforts between
ment realized that the provision of subsidized in- government agencies and private partners. Simi-
puts to promote small-scale aquaculture would not larly, state- and externally-funded extension ser-
lead to sustainable aquaculture development, and vices to promote improved carp polyculture
that it was necessary to extend appropriate infor- farming systems over the last two decades contrib-
mation on aquaculture technologies to small-scale uted to widespread adoption of such practices
fish farmers. The development of appropriate tech- throughout the country. Conducive social networks
nologies and extension to overcome technical con- have contributed to rapid farmer-to-farmer diffu-
straints facing new entrant small-scale farmers was sion and spread of information and advice on fish
conducted through research partnership between farming technologies.
the Asian Institute of Technology and the Depart- In the Philippines, the Government has placed
ment of Fisheries of Thailand. This research was great emphasis on the development of reliable fish
carried out in resource-poor Northeastern Thai- seed supply, including genetic improvement to
land, involving partnerships with local government improve the quality of tilapia broodstock and fin-
agencies, NGOs, and farmers. gerlings. Current tilapia seed production amounts
Earlier public investments in the fish seed in- to about 1 billion annually, of which 90% come
dustry in Bangladesh catalyzed the development from private sources (footnote 41). Government
of freshwater aquaculture. In the past two decades, hatcheries are expected to remain important

sources of seed amid the growing number of pri- initiatives undertaken at Central Luzon State Uni-
vate and corporate hatcheries. The Government versity and BFAR’s National Freshwater Fisheries
aims to improve food security through better tech- Technology Center.49 Fish seed and feed suppliers
nologies and encouraging the entry of small-scale in the Philippines provide advisory technical ser-
farmers to tilapia farming. The Bureau of Fisher- vices to fish farmers. Respondent fish farmers in
ies and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) will likely re- Central Luzon said they received advice from other
main an adjunct supplier and to some extent a farmers (49%), government sources (35%), feed
competitor of private seed producers in areas dealers (30%), friends (30%), relatives (27%), and
where private operators dominate. The continued fish hatcheries (10%). Input suppliers have
presence and roles of BFAR in the fish seed market emerged as key players in technology transfer and
have been debated among observers and stake- information dissemination. They complement gov-
holders because of possible conflicts with business ernment extension efforts.
interests of the private sector. Government fish At Lake Taal, private service facilities, such as
seed prices are competitive vis-à-vis those of other ice plants and transport services, supply the mar-
seed suppliers and do not undercut private seed keting needs of tilapia cage farmers and traders.
suppliers. In support of private sector development, Ice is regularly used to chill fish and keep products
BFAR promotes an accreditation program for private fresh from the farm to final market destinations.
hatcheries that obtain quality tilapia broodstock Boat services at the lake provide transportation to
from its national breeding program. Efforts by BFAR tilapia farmers for ferrying feeds and other sup-
have contributed to increased access and choices of plies, and harvesting services are also available.
fish seed supply among small-scale farmers. In Bangladesh, itinerant seed traders provide
Tilapia genetic improvement has become a advice and share knowledge of fish farming with
highly dynamic and competitive field of research their customers. In northwest Bangladesh, the im-
in the Philippines. Consequently, farmers now have portance of mobilizing and training poor seed trad-
access to a wide range of tilapia strains. Linkages ers to disseminate messages of aquaculture practices
between public and private organizations are vital that are suited to small-scale and resource-poor
to these research and development efforts, little of farmers has long been recognized.50
which would have taken place if the public sector In general, fish farmers do not rely on their
had not spearheaded the work with external sup- own labor for on-farm tasks and requirements. Ser-
port, including assistance from ADB. Private fish vice providers offer a wide range of labor-intensive
seed companies and input suppliers are not only support services, such as fishpond construction,
improving their products but are also advising farm- customized fishnet making, fish cage construction
ers on appropriate farming practices. Initiatives and repairs, and more essential services, including
taken by the private sector to support the effective input supplies (seed, feed, fertilizers), postharvest
uptake of genetically improved tilapia include activities, and marketing. Fish harvesting itself is a
research (on-station and on-farm trials), extension, specialized service in Bangladesh where fish farm-
farmer financing, risk-sharing arrangements with ers do not generally harvest their own fishponds.51
feed suppliers and financiers, and collaboration
with the public sector. The rapid commercializa-
49 In 2002, these institutions, along with the GIFT Foundation
tion of tilapia farming has been accelerated by all International and Phil-Fishgen, established the Tilapia Science Center
these developments and continuing favorable mar- at Central Luzon State University, to foster collaboration in supporting
tilapia farming in Central Luzon and countrywide. The subsequent
ket conditions. creation of Philippine Tilapia Inc. in 2003, has provided a venue for
stakeholders in the tilapia industry to work together through advocacy,
participation in the annual tilapia congress, trade fairs, promotion of
Services, Facilities, and Infrastructure tilapia consumption, and implementation of a tilapia industry
development plan.
Support services, facilities, and infrastructure are 50 Funded by DFID, the Northwest Fisheries Extension Project
critical in sustaining both farming and marketing operated during 1988–2000 in two phases in the poorest northwest
region of Bangladesh, which is characterized by infertile soils and
activities. Service providers, including input suppli- relative extremes of climate with the lowest agricultural productivity
ers, play important roles in providing information and pond fish productivity in the country. The extension approach
included the use of 1,200 fish seed traders as extension agents, by
and advice to farmers; their services complement the training them in fish farming. Each seed trader had contacts with 40
roles of government agencies in extension services. farmers on average, and about 60% of fish farmers purchased fish
seed from these trained seed traders.
Since 1972, tilapia farming in the Philippines
51 Fish harvesters typically work year round, with a peak in October–
has benefited from substantial and continuous sup- January. On average, harvesters conduct 1–2 harvests per week, and
port services, such as pond systems and husbandry employ 6–8 laborers who earn daily wages of about Tk100. Harvesters
can earn gross incomes, representing 8–12% of the fish value per
research, technology development, and training harvest, with daily net incomes of up to Tk260 after paying for labor,
and extension. Noteworthy are the development fishnet rental, transport, and repairs.

Legal Framework and Policies

Enabling development policies and legal instru-

ments can provide incentives for development of
small-scale aquaculture to benefit small-scale and
poor farmers. However, implementation and
enforcement in many situations remain challenging
because of issues related to capacities and
resources. The following provide some examples
of these challenges.
In the Philippines, the Local Government Code
of 1991 devolved many of the functions of central
Government to local government units, including
extension services, regulation and licensing, and
law enforcement in local waters. However, con-
straints on funding and weak institutional capaci-
ties have restricted their effective implementation.
Official policies for freshwater aquaculture in the
Philippines have long been and remain markedly
pro-poor, with numerous provisions that favor
small-scale operations and community welfare, but
these policies are frequently not implemented
effectively. The Fisheries Code of 1998 gives to
local government units, in consultation with local
farmers and subject to review by the appropriate
provincial councils, the authority to make ordinances
Making small The distance and isolation of many small-scale and decisions and to appropriate funds for general
net cages farms contribute to high prices of feed, seed, and welfare and for environmental protection. However,
(hapas) for
nursing fish fry other inputs because the costs of transportation are few fish farmers in Central Luzon are aware of
passed on to farmers. Access to inputs is a major the existing fisheries administrative orders.53 Lim-
problem for small-scale farms in remote locations. ited budgets, the voluntary nature of a code of prac-
Although there may be strong demand for fish in tice for aquaculture, 54 and weak enforcement
certain rural remote areas, localized fish farming capabilities of national and local governments
may be severely hampered because of difficulties constrain implementation of environment-friendly
in accessing critical factors of production, such as regulations.
seed and feed supplies. Decentralized seed produc- In Thailand, the National Fisheries Policy on
tion, the use of natural feed, and increased reliance aquaculture aims to increase fish production to
on homegrown supplementary feed may help fish meet the demand for domestic consumption,
farming in remote areas. But such efforts are still increase income for fish farmers, and raise the
influenced by other conditions, including access to standard of living of small-scale fish farming
roads and transportation and other basic infra- households. Current strategies also focus on pro-
structure. viding technical services and certifying registered
Rural roads can help address various hatcheries and farms. The main policy goal for
nonincome aspects of poverty by improving access inland freshwater aquaculture in Thailand is to
to education and health services.52 Weak infra- provide fish protein for the rural poor, based on an
structure can increase transaction costs and approach of providing government support under
become barriers to market transactions on a large conditions through which the rural people can
scale. The majority of fish farmers in Central Luzon
and Lake Taal, Philippines, regarded as fair their
52 ADB. 2002. Impact of Rural Roads on Poverty Reduction: A Case
present access to roads, transportation, and mar- Study-Based Analysis. Manila.
kets. In addition, access to cellular telephones 53For instance, farmers with fishponds of 300 square meters or larger
(especially text messaging capability) has improved are required to secure an environmental compliance certificate from
communications tremendously in the Philippines the Department of Environment and Natural Resources; those with
smaller fishponds are not.
and Thailand, and more recently in Bangladesh,
54 Fisheries Administrative Order No. 214, series of 2001. Code of
allowing farmers to acquire market information Practice for Aquaculture. Quezon City, Philippines: Department of
from their contacts in different locations. Agriculture.

Fishpond in a participate and become self-reliant. The National favored as a means of increasing fish production
rice field Fisheries Policy hinges on the assumption that fu- levels. Aquaculture behind water retention struc-
ture rural freshwater aquaculture development re- tures can provide new livelihood options for those
mains at a small-scale level, mainly for domestic who have lost access to capture fisheries. However,
consumption and local household food security, enclosure of floodplains for fish stocking can have
especially for the rural poor. In 2001, the Govern- serious implications on access by the poor to the
ment decentralized authority for management of traditionally open-water resources. Expansion of
fishery resources in all community waters to sub- aquaculture into open waters without adequate at-
district governments. Decentralization has also tention to access and property rights and the
given communities a stronger voice in decision implications for local communities, can generate
making regarding use of local natural resources. To serious social issues related to equity and distribu-
date, the local authorities have limited experience tion of benefits.
in natural resources management and need to de-
velop their capacity in order to attain the trust of Safeguards for Aquatic Resources,
the communities. Likewise, the communities have Environment, and Health
not had experience in making enforceable deci-
sions about ways in which the resources should be Small-scale and poor fish farmers are extremely
managed. There are opportunities for building ca- vulnerable to various types of risk that can lead to
pacity and forging partnerships between the com- harvest failures. A crop failure can offset profits
munities and government services. gained from 4–5 harvests. Site suitability and
In Bangladesh, major policy issues pertaining selection are key elements for minimizing risks,
to freshwater aquaculture have largely been on im- while climatic conditions and seasonality factors
provement and development of fish farming tech- bring unavoidable natural risks. Safeguarding
nology to increase fish production on a sustainable natural assets through careful management can
basis, and to educate and motivate people to
undertake aquaculture.55 The inland open-water 55 Department of Fisheries. June 2003. The Future for Fisheries: Policy
fish stocks have declined and fish farming is Framework. Dhaka.

help to ensure continuing water supply of accept- units are expected to take the lead in implement-
able quality for fish farming, and to minimize con- ing policies and regulations. A major challenge has
flicts between the different users of limited been on how to reconcile and to strike a balance
resources. The following illustrates the importance among the competing uses of the lake, particularly
of safeguards. aquaculture, fisheries, and tourism. The existing
Small-scale fishponds generally do not pose Tagaytay-Taal Integrated Master Plan was con-
adverse environmental impacts. However, dis- ceived for this purpose.57 To date, however, tilapia
charges of nutrient-rich water from groups of cage farming has not been adequately managed in
medium- and large-scale ponds into watercourses terms of its relationships with other lake users and
can cause pollution (high biochemical oxygen its environmental impacts. The number of fish
demand and elevated nitrogen, phosphate, and sus- cages increased from 1,601 in 1993 to 6,843 in
pended solids), especially in the dry season. Environ- 2002, with the highest number recorded in 1999
mental issues that can adversely affect fishponds at 10,567. The total number is greater than these
relate both to conditions within the farming system official records because of illegal cages. These are
and external effects. For example, one third of fish clearly visible, particularly in areas where cages are
farmers interviewed in Central Luzon believed that prohibited.58
the sustainability of tilapia farming was threatened Introduction of alien aquatic species can pose
by water pollution in ponds. Measures to address threats not only to biodiversity and the natural envi-
environmental threats include waste treatment, ronment but also to fish farming because of the risks
reduction in chemical use, improvement of infra- of introducing diseases and parasites. In the rural
structure/pond repair, and control of the water economy, freshwater aquaculture has become indis-
entering the pond. However, such measures have not pensable in the context of household food security,
been effectively implemented. employment, and incomes for the poor. However,
For fish farming in cages in lake waters to be freshwater aquaculture is constantly exposed to risks
sustainable, natural resources management (in- because at present there are no effective measures
cluding water quality, environmental influences, to protect it from possible adverse impacts of future
and considerations of climatic and natural risks) introductions of alien species and farmed organisms,
is a critical factor. Lake Taal is not a stable envi- particularly from the introduction of diseases and
ronment for tilapia farming. The lake is the deep, parasites.59 In Thailand, introductions and transfers
flooded caldera of one of the Philippines’ largest of alien aquatic species have been made deliberately
and still active volcanoes. The unpredictability of and accidentally.60 Alien species were introduced
this volcano and associated seismic activity, with mainly for aquaculture and the aquarium trade, and
sulfide and ammonia releases from the lake floor, in many cases were imported illegally without
mean that fish in the lake are always potentially at adequate quarantine.
risk. Clearly, the volcano poses the main threat of In the Philippines, the introduction and use of
a major disaster to the fish farming industry in the alien aquatic species, and related inspections and
lake. Further, the daily addition of large quantities
of artificial feeds to the cages places large nitrogen 56 For example, in 1993, the Provincial Council of Batangas approved
and phosphorus loadings on the lake. Despite over- Fisheries Ordinance 4, Series of 1993, “Ordinance Providing for the
riding external risks from natural causes, safe- Protection and Rehabilitation of Taal Lake’s Fisheries and Ecosystem,”
which prohibits “active and other forms of destructive fishing gear/
guards are required to minimize losses from method” and delineates areas in which fish cages and fish traps can
potential human causes by paying close attention be operated. It also set limits for structures in the Pansipit River that
would impede fish migrations and recruitment to fished populations
to site selection and feasibility, taking into account in the lake—one among many instruments enacted to protect this
other, competing uses of the lake waters. river’s role in sustaining the lake’s fisheries.
Allocation of space through zoning and licens- 57 Department of Tourism. 1993. The Tagaytay-Taal Integrated Master
ing, and designation of allowable activities are im- Plan. Volume 4: Aquaculture and Fisheries Program. Manila.

portant to ensure sustainable use of water 58 The construction of illegal cages, particularly at the edges of the
Pansipit River, has been a perennial problem for local government
resources and to minimize social conflicts among officials, exacerbated by lack of effective monitoring and political will
diverse users. Many measures have been designed to control the situation.
to contribute to the sustainable management and 59 For example, Bangladesh, Philippines, and Thailand have imported
conservation of the Lake Taal fisheries.56 In 1996, the alien predator African catfish (Clarias gariepinus). Potential
devastating impacts may occur when entrepreneurs introduce alien
the entire lake was designated under the Philip- species; government authorities may be unaware of these devastating
pine National Integrated Protected Areas System effects on ecology and farming in other countries.

as a protected area, in which ecological processes, 60 Termvidchakorn, A., C. Vidthayanon, Y. Getpetch, P. Sorrak, and P.
Paradonpanichakul. 2003. Alien Aquatic Species in Thailand. Bangkok:
genetic diversity, and sustainable use of natural re- Bureau of Inland Fisheries Research and Development, Department
sources must be maintained. Local government of Fisheries.

quarantine, have long been regulated—under the Freshwater aquaculture, comprising mostly small-
1998 Fisheries Code and preexisting legislation— scale fish farms, produced 850,000 t of fish in 2002,
but the controls have been inadequate because of 37% of the country’s total fisheries production.68
lack of resources and lack of public awareness and Similarly, fish is an important component of
concern. Philippine fish farmers, institutions, and the diet and a valuable source of animal protein
the aquarium fish trade introduce alien aquatic and other nutrients in the Philippines. The annual
species in contravention of national regulations per capita consumption of fish and fish products
and of the international conventions and codes of was 36 kg in 1993, based on the most recent data
conduct to which the Philippines is a party.61 This from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of
situation poses potential threats not only to the Philippines. Although per capita tilapia con-
biodiversity and the natural environment but also sumption is a relatively small part of total fish con-
to tilapia farming in the country because of the sumption—which comprises mostly marine
risks of introducing diseases and parasites. Over- fish—tilapia is the dominant freshwater fish; its
all, these deficiencies call for disease prevention average annual per capita consumption increased
capability, including the development of diagnos- from 0.66 kg during 1979–1988 to 1.61 kg in
tic and mitigation facilities. Further, adoption and 1989–1997, a decadal increase of 145%.69
implementation of aquaculture health manage- In Thailand, fish and rice consumption is high,
ment guidelines for transboundary movements of although the diet is becoming more diversified
live aquatic animals through health certification, with increased consumption of wheat and meat.
quarantine, and diagnostic procedures are impera- More than 20 fish species are farmed with total
tive. Safeguards need to be developed, based on
recommended biosafety measures.62
The products of freshwater aquaculture are
mainly sold domestically near the areas of produc- 61 The 1993 Convention on Biological Diversity
(, ratified by the Philippines, requires parties to
tion, as whole, ungutted fish, fresh killed, live, or “Prevent the introduction of, control, or eradicate those alien species
chilled on ice. Nevertheless, the application of which threaten ecosystems, habitats or species.” Responsible use and
control of species introduced for aquaculture and fisheries are guided
quality-control functions and inspection services to by FAO, of which the Philippines is a member state. They are part of
comply with international standards for HACCP the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (http:// Prior appraisal of the
will facilitate the development of safeguards for possible impacts of alien species introductions is a major aspect of the
food safety.63 Hygiene and sanitation standards at FAO Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries-Precautionary
Approach to Capture Fisheries and Species Introductions (http://
market places vary. For example, quality control at These have not
landing, handling, distribution, and market places yet been adequately applied in the Philippines.
in Bangladesh is only periodically carried out.64 62FAO. 2003. Introduced Species in Fisheries: Responsible Use and
This is largely because of a shortage of food-qual- Control. Rome.

ity inspectors and lack of emphasis on food-qual- 63 HACCP is a systematic approach to the identification, evaluation,
and control of food safety hazards. The hazard analysis involves the
ity control for domestic marketing. Consequently, assessment of the critical control point, defined as the step at which
issues such as cleanliness, hygiene, and applica- control can be applied and is essential to prevent or eliminate a food
safety hazard or reduce it to an acceptable level.
tions of chemicals, including preservatives on fish,
are not monitored. With the increasing importance W. Collis. 2003. Review of the Fisheries (Coastal and Marine
Resources) Sector in Bangladesh. Dhaka: Consultant’s Report to ADB.
of aquaculture in the supply of fish products for
65 (i) Codex Alimentarius Commission. 2000. Procedural Manual.
domestic consumption and human nutrition, coun- Eleventh Edition. Rome: Joint FAO/World Health Organization (WHO)
tries will need to pay increasing attention to food Food Standards Programme. A Codex Committee on Fish and Fishery
Products (CX-722) sets worldwide standards for fresh, frozen, and
safety standards, including hygiene standards for otherwise processed fish. (ii) WHO. 1999. Food Safety Issues
domestic fish markets.65 Associated with Products from Aquaculture, Report of a Joint FAO/
NACA/ WHO Study Group. WHO Technical Report Series 883.55p.

OUTCOMES 66 Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics. 2000. Household Expenditure

Survey. Dhaka.
67 Thompson, P., N. Roos, P. Sultana, and S. H. Thilsted. 2002. Changing
The contribution of freshwater aquaculture to Significance of Inland Fisheries for Livelihoods and Nutrition in
human nutrition is significant. In Bangladesh, Bangladesh. Journal of Crop Production 6 (1/2): 249–317.
where annual fish consumption was about 14 kilo- 68 Over the last 2 decades, there has been a dramatic increase in
grams (kg)/person in 2000,66 fish account for 60– inland freshwater aquaculture production in Bangladesh, rising
sharply from 123,800 t in 1986 to 561,000 t in 2000.
80% of the animal protein consumed by the
69 This average per capita consumption of tilapia hides a wide variation
population and provide essential vitamins, miner- in tilapia consumption in the Philippines; tilapia production is
als, and fatty acids. Inland fisheries and freshwa- concentrated in provinces of the Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog
regions. In areas where marine fish are not readily available,
ter aquaculture are the main sources of these freshwater fish consumption (mainly tilapia) can be significantly
nutrients for most of the rural and urban poor.67 higher than the national per capita consumption.

freshwater fish production of 271,000 t in 2000.70 with a total farm gate value of P5.13 billion ($102
Estimated average, annual per capita consumption million) in 2001. Tilapia ranked second after milk-
of fish in 1998–1999 was 28.8 kg.71 Freshwater fish among major fish species farmed in the Philip-
fish from inland capture fisheries and aquaculture pines. Tilapia production exceeded 120,000 t in
accounted for 70–90% of the total quantity of fish 2002, when at least 280,000 farmers and their fami-
consumed in all regions. The highest fish consump- lies benefited directly and indirectly from employ-
tion by region was 33.8 kg per capita in resource- ment generated by the freshwater tilapia industry.
poor Northeastern Thailand. Fish was the main The total number of people benefiting directly and
animal protein source, followed by chicken, pork, indirectly from employment generation associated
and beef. However, consumption varies considerably with tilapia aquaculture in the Philippines may be
among different groups; for example, annual per more than half a million when full-time, part-time,
capita fish consumption in communities of remote and seasonal labor is taken into account, including
areas in Northern Thailand is about 3–5 kg. labor for tilapia feed processing, fertilizer, and other
Outcomes of freshwater aquaculture develop- supplies, and various processing and distribution
ment in terms of income and employment genera- jobs.
tion in rural economies are significant. At farm Surveyed tilapia farmers in the Philippines
gate, freshwater aquaculture generated an output benefited from increased cash incomes, employ-
of about $700 million in 2002 in Bangladesh. ment, and improved nutrition from tilapia con-
Including postharvest handling and marketing, sumption. Increased cash income was primarily
freshwater aquaculture contributed more than attributed to profitable tilapia farming and good
$1 billion to the rural economy in 2002. With as harvests. At Lake Taal, fish cage farmers produced
much as 400,000 ha under fish farming, covering an annual average of 18,850 t of tilapia during
possibly more than 5 million fishponds, direct 1995–2002 valued at P952 million (footnote 72).
employment may have reached the full-time equiva- Surveys in Central Luzon provided evidence that
lent of more than 800,000 people, assuming a mini- fish farming offers self-employment for farmers
mum requirement of 2 people/ha. Current and their family members as well as for caretakers
employment figures for freshwater aquaculture and and laborers.73 A third of the surveyed fish farm-
its associated activities are grossly underestimated. ers in Central Luzon said that their personal capac-
Part-time and full-time employment in freshwater ity to invest in fish farming had increased over the
aquaculture and related services may benefit 3 mil- last 5 years because of savings. They had gained
lion or more people in Bangladesh. from technology dissemination and adoption. Al-
Survey respondents in Bangladesh over- though the respondents were generally optimistic
whelmingly believed that aquaculture had about their future in fish farming, they were cau-
improved their welfare through fish consumption, tious about the overall condition of natural re-
nutrition, and increased incomes. The incomes sources. Acidic soils, polluted water, and floods
enabled farmers to improve their housing and sani- were perceived as the main future concerns for
tation conditions and pay for clothes, medical and fishpond operations in the Philippines.
health services, and their children’s education. The
respondents also emphasized that they had gained
employment from fish farming. The surveyed fish 70 Department of Fisheries. 2003. Freshwater Fishfarm Production
farmers also confirmed that they had gained access 2000. Bangkok. Herbivorous and omnivorous fish species with greatest
to fish farming technology and that there had been relevance for small-scale aquaculture, such as carps, gouramis, and
tilapias, comprise about 60% of total freshwater aquaculture
an increase in the adoption of fish farming tech- production.
nology. Overall, the respondents were optimistic 71 Piumsombun, Somying. 2001. Production, Accessibility, and
about their future in fish farming, mainly because Consumption Patterns of Aquaculture Products in Thailand. In
Production, Accessibility, Marketing, and Consumption Patterns of
of profitability, having fish for their own consump- Freshwater Aquaculture Products in Asia, a Cross-Country Comparison.
tion, and employment. They felt that the major FAO Fisheries Circular 973. Rome.
threats to the environment were flooding, soil ero- 72 Philippines Bureau of Agricultural Statistics. Available: http://

sion, and cyclones. The remaining 10% of tilapia aquaculture production
came from brackishwater aquaculture.
In 2001, freshwater 72 fishponds and cages
73 In the study area of 4,745 ha, fishpond operations alone generated
accounted for more than 90% of total tilapia aquac- employment for about 7,300 farmers, or about 24,000 people
ulture production in the Philippines of 106,618 t, including household members.



This section summarizes key findings and lessons

from the country case studies (footnote 22), offering
considerations for making small-scale freshwater
aquaculture development beneficial to the poor.
These findings and lessons are generalized from the
eight case studies and do not represent every situa-
tion. However, the contextual issues are significant
and may be applicable elsewhere.
Improving Human Nutrition. Freshwater
fish farming has developed rapidly in the last two
decades, partly in response to a decline in capture
fisheries and to a rising demand for fish as an
important component of human diet. Although
fisheries may contribute a small amount in relative
terms to national gross domestic products, fish
contribute significantly to human nutrition by pro-
viding affordable animal protein, important mi-
cronutrients, and healthy lipids to consumers,
including the poor. The contribution of fish to total
animal protein consumption among poor house-
holds is high.
Recognizing Vulnerabilities. The poor typi-
cally have limited access to land and water. They
can still benefit from small-scale aquaculture albeit
also with significant constraints in accessing capi-
tal resources. However, the poor are vulnerable in
many aspects. They have limited capacity to cope
with crisis situations and risks. Although small-
scale fish farmers or landholders with fishponds
may not be categorized as marginally poor or the
poorest, most of them are precariously above the
poverty line when their vulnerabilities are taken
into account.
Understanding Binding Constraints and
Demand for Capital Assets. Conventional aquac-
ulture development initiatives are unlikely to reach
the landless and the poorest. Without access to
land and water, the poor are unlikely to engage demand for capital assets must also be well under- Selling small
directly in fish farming. Secure access and tenure stood—do the intended participants, including the tilapia in a
market in
rights to land and water are critical, although gen- poor, have the means to operate and maintain Thailand
erally not sufficient, conditions. Fish farming also aquaculture operations? The poorest people may
requires human capital, social capital, financial be generally excluded from engaging directly as
capital, and a vital operating environment that can operators in aquaculture production not only
facilitate access to markets, support services, facili- because of limited access to land and reliable sup-
ties, and infrastructure. For the poor to engage in ply of water and lack of access to financial capital
and benefit from aquaculture, the contextual to meet investment and operating costs, but also

because of inability to meet specific requirements on-farm labor, and such conditions restrict farm
for technology adoption and inadequate capacity households from adopting labor-intensive farming
to overcome these constraints. techniques.
Because of vulnerabilities and limited means to Understanding Market Dimensions. Mar-
cope with risks, many of the poor prefer livelihood kets provide key channels for the exchange of
opportunities with less perceived risks. Moreover, goods and services to generate incomes. For pro-
many of the poor are not in a position to have ready ducers, capital assets and factors of production
access to markets and essential factors of production have alternative uses, and markets can provide
because of their locations or exclusions for various important signals for producers to respond to
reasons. Aggregate supply and demand analyses can demand. Functioning markets enable the flow of
mask the difficulties that the poor as individuals face goods and services from producers to consumers,
in terms of barriers to meet the operating require- providing information on (i) products and their
ments of a particular type of aquaculture. The exist- features; (ii) prices of goods and services; (iii)
ence of an operating and efficient market does not places or locations of market transactions;
automatically translate into a system that serves the (iv) promotion of sales; and (v) various people,
poor. Relevant concerns for poverty reduction are the including producers, intermediaries and consum-
conditions that influence accessibility to markets and ers, who are involved in these markets. Major fac-
services and the extent to which individual circum- tors that contribute to functioning markets include
stances that characterize the prevailing features of transportation and communications. Freshwater
poverty contribute to inaccessibility of markets and fish farming cannot succeed if pioneered and left
other services. to sustain itself in isolated areas where essential
Benefiting from Group Formation and support services and markets are absent. Roads,
Collective Action. While the poor often lack the transportation, and communications play impor-
means to undertake aquaculture on their own, tant roles in the flow of goods, services, and infor-
group efforts—with appropriate organizational mation. Rural infrastructure makes access to and
and management arrangements and an incentive expansion of markets possible.
structure based on sharing costs, benefits, and Enabling Access to Credit. Small-scale
risks—can make their entry into aquaculture pos- farmers need access to credit to enter fish farming.
sible. Community-based organizations can mobi- However, they are frequently ineligible or discour-
lize resources and capital among the poor to aged to apply for bank loans because of stringent
overcome the barriers. Community-based group and inflexible requirements for loan application,
efforts may also require outside help to overcome unfavorable repayment terms, and inability to
such constraints as access to financial capital, prop- meet requirements for farm insurance and collat-
erty and tenure rights, skill acquisition, and issues eral. Aquaculture insurance has almost no history
related to systemic exclusion of the poor from gain- or current market. By contrast the emergence and
ful economic activities. increasing relevance of informal credit from non-
Considering Costs of Labor. Rural house- bank sources have benefited small-scale fish farm-
holds comprise producers, consumers, and suppli- ers, although such credit may carry higher interest
ers of labor. In the context of small-scale than bank loans. Nonbank financing schemes, such
aquaculture, the rising opportunity cost of labor as financier-caretaker arrangements, trader-opera-
because of rapid economic development and tor agreements, contract farming, and suppliers’
employment opportunities elsewhere implies that credit, can provide farmers with the required fi-
on-farm productivity needs to rise for fish farms to nancial capital for aquaculture. Microfinance ser-
remain financially attractive. Low-cost and afford- vices can also complement the requirements of the
able technology does not necessarily provide high poor, although the overall viability of such services
returns on labor inputs, while a more intensive should be emphasized to ensure sustained deliv-
mode of farming can create a greater demand for ery of credit and savings services.
financial and other resources that the poor do not Technology Implications. Fish farming tech-
have. The dynamics of the labor market, alterna- nologies can offer livelihood options for the land-
tive employment opportunities, and labor migra- less poor who can secure access to land and water,
tion have become important factors of although such options face socioeconomic con-
consideration in the development of feasible tech- straints. For example, feeding fish may require sub-
nology options for small-scale aquaculture. For stantial time for food gathering, preparation, and
example, in many areas of Northeastern Thailand, feeding. Moreover, returns from fish farming are
labor migration to urban areas and particularly to seasonal, while the poor generally require more
Bangkok and its vicinity has caused a scarcity of immediate income. The poor cannot easily afford

cash expenses, no matter how small the amounts. invariably confronted with budgetary constraints
Cash expenditures, coupled with difficulties in when responsibilities are decentralized without ac-
accessing financial capital, can become insur- companying financial resources. Further, decen-
mountable barriers for the poor to sustain aquac- tralization of roles often results in inadequate
ulture. Further, although requirements for physical human resources and gaps in required skills. A dis-
labor may be shared and minimized through col- tance extension approach with technologies
lective action among farmers, such organizational appropriate for household-level and pond-based
arrangements are not easy. The choice of technol- aquaculture is one way to reduce costs of exten-
ogy requires the matching of requirements and sion delivery. Such an approach was developed in
availability of resources. This matching becomes Northeastern Thailand. The extension materials de-
more difficult, of course, the deeper the degree of veloped took into account key requisites for
poverty. Focusing attention on appropriate low- effective communications, and local farmers’ cul-
cost technology options may be necessary to help ture and language, learning experience, and
farmers with limited access to capital assets and to lifestyle. Most local communities and individual
allow progressive improvements in technology as farming households have limited resources at
they gain experience, confidence, and profits. their disposal; thus, less technically-oriented but
Rising Feed Costs. A shift from intensive to demand-led approaches, including farming sys-
semi-intensive fish culture by increasing reliance tems research, are required to reach poor target
on natural food produced in fishponds through fer- groups. 74 Farming systems research requires a
tilization, with supplementation of rather than multidisciplinary approach to capture social
total reliance on commercial feed, can reduce feed dimensions, development contexts, and the oper-
costs. Because much of the feed ingredients is ating environment of targeted farmers. Thus,
imported, depreciation of local currencies against capacity building for the farming systems research
major currencies has triggered domestic prices of and extension approach should be accompanied
fish feed to rise. Production costs can be lowered by institutional assessment and reforms of exist-
by promoting a fish farming system that relies pri- ing processes to facilitate the delivery of
marily on natural feed produced in the pond, approaches that can effectively reach small-scale
supplemented by organic and inorganic fertilizers and poor farmers.
to stimulate further growth of the natural feed. Benefiting from Private Extension Services.
Technology options for such systems are available Challenges in developing viable technology options
and provide cost-effective means of increasing for aquaculture have continued to emerge with the
farm productivity. rapidly changing conditions of rural economies.
Securing Fish Seed Supply. Access to a reli- Although government agencies have remained
able fish seed supply is critical to fish farming. Stra- important sources of technical advice to small-
tegic linkages between fish breeding centers and scale farmers, favorable market conditions have
private hatcheries/fish seed nurseries can enable expanded opportunities for fish farmers to receive
fish farmers in major production areas to gain advisory services from private service providers,
access to a range of fish seed. The case studies have including suppliers of fish seed and feed. Govern-
indicated that the development of a reliable seed ment support for research and development, and
supply to support an expanding fish farming indus- maintenance of public access to appropriate aquac-
try can benefit both small- and large-scale fish ulture technologies have remained important
farms and consequently generate rural employ- enabling instruments. Social networks and other
ment and incomes for many people. contributing features of social capital have enabled
Making Extension More Effective. Small- farmers to benefit from information exchange and
scale fish farmers need access to information and knowledge sharing through farmer-to-farmer con-
technology, and to a network of service providers, tacts. This flow of information often overshadows
both public and private. In an environment that the conventional government extension services.
calls for decentralized roles of governments, the
immediate impact of the devolution of responsibili-
74 Farmers were involved in all stages of research, including the
ties for extension services from central authorities development and dissemination of extension materials in the
to local government units is often the deterioration Northeastern Thailand case. While this approach has proven effective,
the participatory processes and the time taken to develop the extension
of extension quality and frequency of contacts dur- materials may not be readily acceptable to institutions with entrenched
ing the transition period. Local governments are top-down approaches.




This chapter draws lessons from completed ADB replace damaged cages.75 In the Philippines, ADB
projects with freshwater aquaculture components, supported the development of milkfish pen and
based on project/program performance audit tilapia cage culture in Laguna de Bay in 1979–
reports. These lessons complement the findings of 1988 (footnote 29 [i]) to improve the socioeco-
the case studies discussed earlier. Taken as a whole, nomic conditions of small-scale fish farmers and to
the project completion reports and project/program increase fish supply to Metropolitan Manila. Two
performance audit reports reveal the importance of typhoons, in 1986 and 1987, damaged 95% of the
(i) realistic assessment of operating risks and the fish pen modules and cages, inflicting heavy losses
extent to which project designs address these risks, and incurring onerous debt burdens among fish
(ii) recognition of actual operating requirements and farmers. Assisting the poor called for careful plan-
the extent to which targeted participants can meet ning, particularly where this assistance involved
these requirements, and (iii) other enabling condi- acquisition of capital assets involving credit in a
tions for achieving success. high-risk situation. Moreover, these fish farmers
suffered from and contributed to social problems
OPERATING RISKS that beset the development of the fish pen indus-
try at the lake, particularly the largely uncontrolled
Underestimation and ignorance of operating risks development of fish pens that resulted in conflicts
can result in debilitating losses to fish farmers. For between their operators and open-water fishers.
example, the promotion of fish cage farming of The typhoon damage was exacerbated by the lake’s
carps at Kaptai Lake in Bangladesh was done with- physical, chemical, and biological conditions that
out adequate understanding of such risks: cyclones
Small tilapia in damaged fish cages, surviving cages experienced 75 ADB. 1989. Project Completion Report on the Aquaculture
a rural market poor fish growth, and operators did not repair or Development Project in Bangladesh. Manila.

contributed to increased fish mortality and poor returns.77 Subsequently (1989–1996), farm-pro-
fish growth rates. ADB experience calls for realis- duced fish became one of the high-value cash crops
tic risk assessments, including an analysis of stake- in Pakistan because of the successful establishment
holders’ willingness and capacity to face such risks of demonstration fish farms and dissemination of
under varied scenarios. information on fish farming that did not compete
with existing livestock and agriculture production
activities. 78 Favorable returns were achieved
APPROPRIATENESS OF through simple farming techniques, using abun-
DESIGN AND TECHNOLOGY dant and relatively cheap animal manure for fer-
tilizing fishponds, and using affordable cereal bran
Proven fish farming technology without adequate for fish feed.
local adaptation may result in serious shortcomings
in its adoption and farm performance. Introduction
of technologies requires good understanding of their OPERATING REQUIREMENTS
multidimensional requirements. For example, the
introduction of improved aquaculture techniques to Recognizing the capital asset requirements of fish
inland fish production in Myanmar was unsuccess- farming is essential for making aquaculture work
ful76 because of inadequate water supply for fish for the poor. ADB experience indicates that numer-
hatchery operations, inadequate skills and experi- ous small-scale aquaculture farmers have not been
ence with the newly introduced cage farming tech- able to use project services because (i) they did
niques, porous soil conditions, deficient pond design, not own a pond or land area large enough to con-
and poor water management. struct a viable pond, (ii) they lacked access to
In Bangladesh, an aquaculture development property rights to allow use of land and water
project (footnote 75) promoted several aquaculture resources, (iii) they were unable to meet estab-
developments during 1978–1988, including the lished eligibility criteria for credit, (iv) they had in-
establishment and development of carp hatcheries, adequate skills or expertise, and/or (v) they lacked
freshwater shrimp hatchery and farms, fish pens, fish access to production input supplies. For example,
cages, brackishwater shrimp and fish culture, fish- in Nepal, the national government policy in the
net-making plant, fish salting and drying facilities, 1980s on leasing water bodies did not allow the
and ice plants. The project was based on highly poor to acquire leases.79 Without timely access to
optimistic assessments of technology potential with- suitable water bodies or land for constructing fish-
out adequate investigation of (i) the complexity of ponds, the poor were unable to acquire credit,
the components, (ii) institutional ramifications, and inputs, and other services provided by a project
(iii) the demand for and availability of skilled people there in the 1980s. Small-scale and poor Nepalese
to adopt and operate the recommended technology. farmers were effectively disadvantaged when they
The results were inappropriate design features and could not fulfill collateral requirements for acquir-
technologies (i.e., fish processing facilities, fish pens, ing credit. Larger and wealthier farmers were,
and fish cages), compounded by a general lack of however, ready and qualified to receive project ser-
commitment to the project by the executing agen- vices. Further experience in Nepal (1987–1994)
cies. Despite flexible efforts by ADB to address these also failed to prove that fish farming was a viable
issues, the combined effects led to reduced project option for the poor: on the one hand it was costly
benefits. In contrast, under the second aquaculture to construct new fishponds; on the other hand,
development project (footnote 27), the promotion natural water bodies, such as reservoirs, rivers, and
of carp polyculture in fishponds benefited many irrigated sites, were underused but not readily
farmers in Bangladesh. The sociocultural conditions accessible for fish farming.80 The poorest house-
in the villages facilitated the dissemination of the holds benefited from employment in harvesting
technology. Diffusion of information was effective
because the extension services relied on feasible, 76 ADB. 1989. Project Completion Report on the Second Fisheries
simple, and low-cost technology to improve aqua- Development Project in Myanmar. Manila.

culture practices. 77ADB. 1993. Project Performance Audit Report on the Aquaculture
Development Project in Pakistan. Manila.
Experience in Pakistan (1980–1989) indicated
that the poor faced significant constraints in ADB. 1997. Project Completion Report on the Second Aquaculture
Development Project in Pakistan. Manila.
accessing capital resources to engage directly as
79ADB. 1990. Project Performance Audit Report on the Aquaculture
operators of fish farms, but that wealthy landlords, Development Project in Nepal. Manila.
including absentee landowners, shifted land use 80ADB. 1995. Project Completion Report on the Second Aquaculture
into fish farming because of its attractive financial Development Project in Nepal. Manila.

and marketing fish, but had neither land for a fish- capital to buy inputs, especially commercial feeds.
pond nor adequate collateral for acquiring credit to The program advocated the use of more intensive
engage in aquaculture. This experience in Nepal fish culture, but did not provide adequate analysis of
drew attention to the need for deliberate efforts to whether farmers would have the means and
enable the landless, marginal, and small-scale farm- resources to change their farming systems. This
ers to benefit from aquaculture development. Al- reflected deficient understanding of the require-
though the projects provided technology, training, ments and incentives for change. In comparison,
credit, extension, and other services, the issue of project initiatives in Sri Lanka (1984–1991) to
access was not adequately addressed during project increase fish production by growing carps in sea-
preparation and implementation. sonal tanks (reservoirs for irrigation) initially
ADB experience in Indonesia, Nepal, Philip- showed promising results, but fish seed supply
pines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand has underscored the from government-owned hatcheries was discontin-
need for rigorous assessment of credit demand, ued in 1990 and there was no alternative supply
realistic identification of potential credit users, and of fish seed,83 resulting in an abrupt end to this
socioeconomic analysis of potential borrowers, form of aquaculture in the country. Inland fresh-
including the extent to which potential credit us- water aquaculture was developed for producing
ers can comply with requirements stipulated for ornamental fish for export, rather than for grow-
loan applicants. ADB experience in credit opera- ing fish for domestic consumption as intended by
tions under aquaculture development projects the project. This again reflected inadequate under-
showed that lending requirements led to low credit standing of purpose and the requirements for
use; the requirements were not in favor of the achieving the desired objectives.
landless and small-scale poor farmers. The objec- Appropriateness and selection of sites suitable
tive of providing credit to aquaculture farmers who for aquaculture development also have a critical
did not have substantive collateral contradicted the role to play. The performance of aquaculture
operating principles of commercial banks that development projects has been lowered by unsuit-
insisted on secured lending to reduce repayment able environmental conditions for aquaculture,
risks. Requirements imposed by project credit adverse conditions within the culture system, and
operations also undermined commercial lending effects of surrounding environments. Long-term
principles, when participating banks did not have sustainability of aquaculture depends on effective
the flexibility to set their own interest rates based prevention of environmental degradation, appro-
on lending risks. In Bangladesh (footnote 27), the priate aquaculture system maintenance, and
interest rate was fixed for all clients with no dis- adequate management of water quality, including
tinction between short-term loans, long-term effluents.
loans, working capital, and investments. In gen- Experience from ADB-financed projects has con-
eral, bank credit officers perceived small-scale firmed that mitigation of risks of diseases and their
farmers without previous credit records as major potential devastating impacts on aquaculture pro-
risks. Access barriers to credit were greatest for duction should be seriously considered in aquacul-
those who were intended to benefit most from the ture development. Aquaculture health and sani-
projects. Collateral requirement for aquaculture tation management, including issues related to
credit was an issue in the Philippines, when fish- diagnostics, health certification, and quarantine, is
pond lease agreements were unacceptable to equally important to minimize risks of epidemics.
banks as loan collateral,81 despite government Food safety and hygiene are also important in
efforts for stakeholders to consider leases as an aquaculture. Appropriate legal instruments for and
enabling instrument for providing fish farmers enforcement of food safety and hygiene, and harmo-
with access to land and water. nization of standards for food safety are key chal-
In an ADB-funded program in the Philippines, lenges for improving human nutrition and health.
aquaculture development plans were made on the
basis of fishponds that were covered by lease
agreements, aiming to intensify fish farming to
81ADB. 1991. Project Performance Audit Report on the Aquaculture
raise yields and consequently to increase domes- Development Project in the Philippines. Manila.
tic fish consumption.82 Most of the fishpond opera- 82 ADB. 1999. Program Performance Audit Report on the Fisheries Sector
tors were unable to shift from extensive to Program in the Philippines. Manila.
intensive culture because they lacked resources, 83ADB. 1995. Project Performance Audit Report on the Aquaculture
such as regular supply of fish seed and working Development Project in Sri Lanka. Manila.



This SES has examined the channels through work for improving diagnostic assessment is con-
which small-scale freshwater aquaculture farmers sistent with and complementary to the logical
are affected in their operations. Based on this exami- framework approach, which emphasizes problem-
nation, the following recommendations are aimed tree and cause-effect analysis,84 and key areas of
at improving ADB operations in aquaculture devel- economic analysis of projects.85
opment and making them more relevant for pov- Recognize Barriers, Requirements, and
erty reduction. Risks. Assessing the characteristics of farm house-
Analyze Channels of Effects for Poverty holds and analyzing their poverty features are part
Reduction. Contextual understanding of the ma- of an appraisal process of finding ways to make
jor ways in which various types of small-scale aquaculture work for the poor. The appraisal should
freshwater rural aquaculture can benefit the poor consider the following:
is critical for determining the conditions for mak-
ing aquaculture work for them. Project preparation 84 Saldanha, C., and J. Whittle. 1998. A User’s Guide: Using the Logical
and design activities for aquaculture development Framework for Sector Analysis and Project Design. Manila: ADB.
should consider using the conceptual framework 85ADB. 2003. Key Areas of Economic Analysis of Projects: An Overview. Harvesting fish
utilized in this study (footnote 19). This frame- Manila. in Bangladesh

(i) Benefits derived from aquaculture are prima- nonbank sources, including suppliers’ credit, traders’/
rily for those who can mobilize and use a com- buyers’ credit, contract farming, and partnership
bination of capital assets to gain from available arrangements with financiers/investors. Micro-
opportunities. finance can also make a difference to the poor.
(ii) When aimed at poverty reduction, aquaculture Analyze Markets and Marketing of Aqua-
development efforts should be designed care- culture Products and Factors of Production.
fully by (a) clearly defining people intended Small-scale farmers, including fish farmers, need
to benefit from these efforts, and (b) devising to generate satisfactory returns by providing goods
appropriate strategies to help them benefit and services for which there is effective demand,
from the interventions. at prices and costs that can justify their supply. A
(iii) Design features for such interventions need to thorough assessment is required of markets and
recognize (a) specific features of poverty; (b) marketing of farm outputs and factors of produc-
options and feasible means to overcome key tion. This assessment should include, but should
barriers for entry into and remain in aquacul- not be limited to
ture; and (c) risks that the poor have little (i) demand analysis, including localized condi-
capacity to cope with, and ways to mitigate tions for highly perishable, seasonal, and vari-
these risks. able products that characterize aquaculture
Assess Specific Demands on Users’ Capac- products;
ity to Operate Aquaculture Systems. An assess- (ii) the marketing chain, market intermediation,
ment is required of (i) technology options for and the roles of market intermediaries in link-
selected farming practices and their demand for ing producers with consumers;
capital assets, (ii) users’ access to capital assets, (iii) producers’ access to markets;
and (iii) the extent to which intended users of (iv) key factors influencing transaction costs;
selected aquaculture systems have the required (v) availability and supply of factors of production
capacity to operate and sustain the systems. and associated services; and
Analyze Available Options for Providing (vi) support infrastructure and facilities contribut-
Access to Land and Water. Without land and ing to the flow of goods, information, and ser-
water, the poor are unlikely to engage directly in vices.
fish farming. Secure access and tenure rights are Analyze the Labor Market. A labor market
critical. Access options may include assessment should be conducted to analyze formal
(i) leasing of existing ponds without new con- and informal employment opportunities, wage
struction, although such an arrangement may rates, and other labor market characteristics, in-
require a third party to facilitate; cluding labor migration and seasonal patterns that
(ii) provision of limited tenure rights over state- influence households’ decisions on employment.
owned water bodies (such as lakes, rivers, res- Farm households rarely have a single source of
ervoirs, and seasonal water bodies) through income. Livelihood choices including various
licensing, zoning, and enforcement of appro- sources of household incomes should be assessed
priate rules and regulations; to ensure that aquaculture as a livelihood option
(iii) use of common-property water bodies (such as is not analyzed in isolation.
community and village ponds) when sharing Understand the Roles of Services, Facili-
costs, benefits, risks, and responsibilities are ties, and Support Infrastructure. Small-scale
feasible; and farm households have limited resources at their dis-
(iv) group-based access arrangements, such as posal. Demand-led and innovative approaches are
joint leasing of private ponds and licensed use required to reach the poor among them. Govern-
of state-owned water bodies, taking into ment agencies may remain important sources of
account lease costs, permit fees, users’ technical advice for small-scale farmers, but the
affordability, and viable arrangements for col- roles of other players—farm input suppliers, social
lective action. networks in information exchange and knowledge
Consider Options for Financing Aquacul- sharing—and the extent to which farmer-to-farmer
ture Investments and Operations. Small-scale contacts contribute to the flow of information
farmers need access to financial capital to enter fish should be assessed and should complement the
farming. Affordable access to credit is an important government extension services. Aquaculture devel-
feature of farmers’ household finance. Small-scale opment cannot succeed without adequate support
farmers frequently do not borrow from banks because services and markets. Roads, transportation, and
of inflexible requirements for collateral and various communications play important roles in the flow
administrative hurdles. Instead, they rely on of goods, services, and information.

Assess the Roles of Public and Private In- Protect Aquatic Resources, Environment,
stitutions. The complementary roles of public and and Aquatic Health. The development of aquac-
private institutions are important in aquaculture ulture cannot be sustained without adequate atten-
development. Public institutions can catalyze and tion to aquatic resources management,
facilitate development in the private sector, but environment, and aquatic health. Steps must be
they must not hinder or replace the private sector. taken to ensure sustainability of the environment by
Partnerships and collaborations in research and taking measures for biosafety, disease prevention,
development in key support areas, such as fish and environmental protection.
breeding, genetic improvement, farming systems, Recognize Multiple Uses of Water and
and aquaculture husbandry should be explored as Minimize Conflicts. Freshwater aquaculture co-
part of an assessment of sector context. exists with other water uses, with potential conflicts,
Assess the Policy Environment, Legal for example, between fish farmers and rice farmers,
Framework, and their Conditions. Appropriate and between lake fishers, fish cage farmers, and
policies, legal instruments, and their enforcement tourism operators. Relationships between fresh-
can act as enabling agents to aquaculture develop- water aquaculture and other sectors need to be
ment. Licensing requirements, rules, and regula- based on recognizing the limited availability of
tions for aquaculture operators, associated agents, freshwater bodies and finding ways to benefit as
and labor can influence the extent to which the many co-users of water as possible. Growing fish
poor are affected. before, during, and after the use of waters for other
purposes can add greatly to those benefits.

The Case Studies




BACKGROUND increased sharply from 123,800 t in 1986 to

561,000 t in 2000, and average yields nationwide
This case study was undertaken to provide a con- rose from 840 kilograms/hectare (kg/ha) to 2,440
textual overview of small-scale freshwater aquac- kg/ha. With farm gate prices of farmed fish of
ulture in Bangladesh, including the significance of about $0.80/kg (Tk45–50/kg), freshwater aquac-
freshwater aquaculture, social dimensions of rural ulture production contributes about $700 million/
poverty among farmers, different aquaculture sys- year at farm gate value to the rural economy, or
tems, freshwater fish markets, employment, safe- more than $1 billion annually when postharvest
guards to sustain aquaculture, relevant lessons, handling and marketing are included.
and ways in which the poor can benefit from small- The domestic demand for fish has continued
scale aquaculture.1 to rise with the rapid increase in population, which
Fish play an important role among the popu- grew at 1.8% annually on average in the 1990s and
lation in Bangladesh as indicated by the proverb reached 128.1 million in 1999. Many seasonal
machte bhate Bangali (fish and rice make a ditches have been converted into perennial fish-
Bengali). Situated in the delta of the Brahmaputra, ponds through deepening and area expansion. The
Meghna, and Ganges rivers, the climate, water, and total fishpond area in the country is currently
soil conditions of Bangladesh are favorable for in- unclear: DOF statistics indicate that there are
land fisheries and aquaculture. At the height of the 230,000 ha of fishponds, while the Fisheries Sec-
rainy season, more than a third of the total land tor Review and Future Development Study esti-
area (147,570 square kilometers) of the country mated the total at 400,000 ha, including ditches
is submerged. 2 According to the Bangladesh and small ponds of 50 square meters (m2) or more
Bureau of Statistics (BBS), the fisheries sector, in surface area. Survey results of selected sites of
including aquaculture and capture fisheries, has the Mymensingh Aquaculture Extension Project
had an annual growth exceeding 7% since 1995 (MAEP) financed by Danish International Devel-
and contributed 6% to the country’s GDP in 2000.3 opment Assistance (DANIDA) showed that DOF
Freshwater aquaculture led this with an annual
growth exceeding 10% over the last decade. With 1N. Bestari undertook this country case study in collaboration with
annual fish consumption of about 14 kilograms N. Ahmed, P. Edwards, and R. Pullin.
(kg)/person in 2000,4 fish account for 60–80% of 2 Khan M. S., E. Haq, S. Huq, A. A. Rahman, S. M. A. Rashid, and H.
the animal protein consumed by the population, Ahmed.1994. Wetlands of Bangladesh. Bangladesh Centre for Advanced
Studies and Nature Conservation Movement. Varying significantly with
and also provide essential vitamins, minerals, and seasonal changes, the total average water surface of Bangladesh was
fatty acids. Inland fisheries and freshwater aquac- estimated at 7–8 million hectares (ha), or about 50% of the total
land surface, comprising rivers and streams, freshwater lakes and
ulture are the main source of these nutrients for marshes, reservoirs, fishponds, cultivated fields, and estuarine
most of the rural and urban poor.5 systems.
According to the Fisheries Sector Review and 3BBS. 2000. Statistical Yearbook of Bangladesh. Dhaka: Bangladesh
Future Development Study conducted in collabo- Bureau of Statistics.
ration with the Department of Fisheries (DOF),6 4 BBS. 2000. Household Expenditure Survey. Dhaka: Bangladesh Bureau
of Statistics.
the total fisheries production of 2.3 million met-
ric tons (t) in 2002 comprised 850,000 t (37%) 5 Thompson, P., N. Roos, P. Sultana, and S. H. Thilsted. 2002. Changing
Significance of Inland Fisheries for Livelihoods and Nutrition in
from inland freshwater aquaculture, 95,000 t (4%) Bangladesh. Journal of Crop Production 6 (1/2): 249–317.
from coastal aquaculture, 750,000 t (33%) from 6 DOF. June 2003. The Future for Fisheries: Findings and
inland capture fisheries, and 590,000 t (26%) from Recommendations from the Fisheries Sector Review and Future
Development Study. This study was commissioned with the assistance
marine capture fisheries. Over the last 2 decades, of the Danish International Development Assistance (DANIDA),
there has been a dramatic increase in inland fresh- Department for International Development (DFID) of the United
Kingdom, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United
water aquaculture production. DOF statistics indi- Nations, United States Agency for International Development, and
cate that fishpond production in Bangladesh World Bank.

statistics on fishpond areas significantly underes-
timated the total. Including all sizes, the number
of small homestead fishponds in Bangladesh may
be more than 5 million, reflecting their importance
in the livelihoods, nutrition, and social fabric of
rural households.
Most fishponds were originally ponds con-
structed as borrow pits, which were dug out for the
soil to be used to raise the ground level of village
settlements and pathways. Thus, the ponds were
not deliberately built as fishponds, but as part of
excavation works necessary for village and home-
stead development. In the past, fish farming was
extensive and predominantly involved stocking of
ponds with so-called riverine seed (wild fish fry
and fingerlings caught from rivers), without sub-
stantial use of fish feeds to supplement natural
pond organisms or fertilizers to stimulate the
growth of these organisms. Following the intro-
duction of technology for induced spawning of
carps, coupled with improved and semi-intensive
fishpond management from the early 1980s, fish
farming became widespread, gaining unprec-
edented productivity improvement. Small-scale
freshwater pond aquaculture has benefited from
sustained efforts in various development projects but the size of landholdings is an imperfect mea-
funded by bilateral agencies, such as DANIDA7 and sure of wealth. Poverty also means insecurity
the Department for International Development against shocks (such as accidents, illness, and
(DFID)8 of the United Kingdom, and multilateral deaths in the family), lack of opportunities, and
support from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) disempowerment.
and World Bank in collaboration with DOF. Apart
from technology development, including fish 7 Commencing in 1989 and in ending in 2003 with three phases, the
seed9 production and growout, these development DANIDA-funded MAEP was instrumental in the dissemination of
initiatives emphasized dissemination of technol- improved carp pond polyculture technology throughout the Greater
Mymensingh area, as a means of increasing fish production, raising
ogy, farmer-to-farmer contacts and diffusion of incomes, and reducing poverty among rural households. A recent
knowledge, awareness building, capacity develop- impact study (2003) undertaken by Winrock International indicated
that MAEP beneficiaries with ponds made up 10% of the overall
ment of seed producers, enhancement of seed population of the area, and 34% of households reported using ponds
traders’ roles, and engagement of nongovernment for fish cultivation. The seven districts of MAEP represent about 10%
of the surface area of Bangladesh, but their annual fish production
organizations (NGOs). was estimated at 329,000 t, representing about 39% of the total
freshwater aquaculture production of 850,000 t. Average yields were
reported to have increased from 1 t/ha in 1989 to 3.3 t/ha in 2002.
SOCIAL DIMENSIONS OF The region has relatively good road networks and access to major
fish markets in Bangladesh.

RURAL POVERTY 8 The DFID-financed Northwest Fisheries Extension Project (NFEP)

in two phases operated during 1988–2000 in the country’s poorest
Northwest region, characterized by infertile soils and relative extremes
Poverty in rural Bangladesh is multifaceted, of climate, with the lowest agricultural and pond fish productivity.
reflected in low standards of living, lack of educa- Sandy soils and a 6-month dry season have constrained the
development of the pond polyculture of carp that is prevalent
tion, poor health, and vulnerability of most house- elsewhere in Bangladesh. Large areas of the Northwest are recognized
holds to natural and human-induced disasters.10 as famine-prone. NFEP’s extension approach (i) established more than
200 model villages in which more than 9,000 farmers received training
The basic causes of poverty are lack of access to in aquaculture; (ii) used more than 1,000 seed traders as extension
(i) productive resources, primarily land and agents; and (iii) trained more than 250 secondary teachers in
water; (ii) public resources, such as health services 9 In Bangladesh, fish seed is categorized and named according to
and education services; and (iii) employment. size. Fish fry are defined as juvenile fish larger than newly hatched
Inadequate social safety nets make the landless fish (locally known as hatchlings) but smaller than fingerlings, which
are defined as juvenile fish normally longer than 2.5 centimeters.
particularly vulnerable. Land ownership, as an Raising fish seed to fish of marketable size is termed “growout.”
income-generating physical asset, has a predict- 10Sen, Binayak, 2000. Bangladesh Poverty Analysis: Trends, Policies
able link with poverty incidence in the rural areas, and Institutions. Consultant’s Report to ADB.

from food deficits for several months each year. Livestock
They adopt alternative livelihood strategies to provide manure
meet their needs. They sharecrop and work as for fishpond
casual laborers. Although they have homesteads, Far left: Part-
their housing conditions are generally very basic time fish
Wealth ranking in rural Bangladesh is relative with poor access to sanitation facilities. To some farmer at home
with his
and wealthier households may still be vulnerable. extent, the marginally poor can obtain credit by
In 1995/96, rural poverty stood at 47.1% and na- seeking informal loans through interactions with
tional poverty incidence was 47.5%.11 Some fea- wealthier households and links with NGOs.
tures of poverty include (i) malnutrition among Next in rank are small landholders, of whom
children under 5-years old, at 56% (1992–1998), 34% live below the poverty line. They have access
(ii) poor access to sanitation among the rural to moderate amounts of land for farming (0.5–1
population, at 30% (1990–1996), and (iii) low ha), often including fishponds; they tend cattle and
adult literacy rates of females and males, at 43% small livestock, and live in basic houses. They do
and 59%, respectively (1998).12 Nearly two thirds not produce much surplus. They may have some
(64%) of the landless are poor. Extremely poor access to financial capital and credit, but are vul-
households (the poorest of the poor) are com- nerable to crisis conditions. Some fishpond own-
pletely landless, owning neither homestead land ers may also be categorized as medium-sized
nor arable land and, if not homeless, live on bor- landholders, those who possess 1–2 ha of land,
rowed land, sometimes in fear of eviction. These produce some surplus, and employ seasonal wage
households are always food insecure, and often laborers. Yet, 25% of these medium-size landhold-
engage in food foraging. With no social capital, the ers live below the poverty line, with the rest pre-
poorest include destitute people who often resort cariously above it. They can easily slide into
to begging as an occupation. The functionally land- poverty situations when faced with an unexpected
less13 are next in rank, those who usually live on crisis. Among landowners with more than 2 ha, the
land owned by other people or have access to very incidence of poverty is 16%, although they are
small areas of homestead land (less than 0.2 ha) among the elite in the local power structure.
with poor housing conditions. They have little food
security, suffer from continuous food deficits, work
as daily wage and/or seasonal laborers, and have 11 The poverty line represents the total consumption or income at
which households satisfy their nutritional requirement of 2,122
very few or no assets to fall back on during crises. calories/day/person. Separate urban and rural poverty lines are
Among marginal households, the incidence of computed for 21 regions at threshold per capita per day calorie intakes.
poverty is 44%. These are households with access 12BBS, Statistical Yearbooks, various issues. Dhaka: Bangladesh
Bureau of Statistics.
to limited amounts of land (0.2–0.5 ha) and that
may have small fishponds or a share of fishpond(s) 13 With the growing rural population, land inheritance leads to
multiple ownership of fishponds, presenting an array of issues related
in multiple ownership. Marginal households suffer to co-ownership.

manure. These protein- and micronutrient-rich
FRESHWATER natural feeds can be supplemented with readily
AQUACULTURE SYSTEMS available, locally produced, cheap, energy-rich fish
feeds (chiefly rice bran) and protein-rich fish feeds
Carp Pond Polyculture. The main production sys- (mainly mustard oilcake).
tems for freshwater aquaculture in Bangladesh are There are no significant adverse environmen-
extensive and semi-intensive pond polycultures of tal impacts from these polycultures of carps in
carps. 14 Indian, Chinese, and common carp ponds. The system helps to maintain water quality
polycultures in small ponds produced 700,000 t in and promotes efficient use and recycling of nutri-
2002, about 80% of the total freshwater aquacul- ents. The risk of environmental degradation in the
ture production in Bangladesh. The remaining 20% ponds because of supplementary fish feed is mini-
were mainly from commercial fishponds, fish cages, mal. Villagers frequently use pond water for house-
and integrated farming in ricefields.15 According to hold purposes, including washing. Fish farming
DOF statistics, silver carp (Hypophthalmicthys does not normally interfere with the multipurpose
molitrix)16 contributed 23% of total fishpond pro- use of ponds and this provides strong incentives for
duction in 2001 and has become an important food pond owners to safeguard pond water quality.
fish for the poor, together with silver barb
(Barbodes gonionotus) and, increasingly, Nile tila- 14 Popular species are the indigenous Indian major carps [catla (Catla
pia (Oreochromis niloticus), which were initially catla), rohu (Labeo rohita), and mrigal (Cirrhinus mrigala)], and alien
species, including the Chinese silver carp (Hypophthalmicthys
promoted for farming in seasonal ditches. Oppor- molitrix), grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella), and common carp
tunities for the poor stem from extensive and semi- (Cyprinus carpio). Other alien species grown in fishponds include the
silver barb, locally called shorputi (Barbodes gonionotus), and bighead
intensive fishpond systems that depend on natural carp (Aristichthys nobilis).
feed, such as plankton and detrital organisms 15 W. Collis. 2003. Review of the Fisheries (Coastal and Marine
whose growth can be stimulated by moderate use Resources) Sector In Bangladesh. Consultant’s Report to ADB.
of inorganic (mainly urea and triple superphos- 16 Silver carp is fast growing; it can be harvested after 3 months
phate) and organic fertilizers, including animal when it reaches 300–400 g.

Small-Scale Aquaculture Enterprises.
Owner-operated small enterprises with intensive
fishponds have rapidly increased since 1995 along
the Dhaka-Mymensingh corridor and elsewhere in
the country. Their current total contribution to
freshwater aquaculture production is limited, al-
though there is much scope for future growth. A
more intensive fish farming system has emerged
in some small areas, in which ricefields in low
lying areas have been converted into ponds and
existing ponds made more productive with the use
of commercial feeds; the feeds dominate farmers’
production costs. These enterprises often lease
land for fish farming at Tk50,000–70,000/ha. Cur-
rent estimates show that there are at least
500 small enterprises producing more than
20,000 t of fish per year; yields reach 10–15 t/ha
with 1–2 crops/year. Such enterprises employ 2–
4 persons/ha. The main species grown is the cat-
fish, pangas (Pangasius hypophthalmus). However,
farm gate prices of pangas have fallen below T55/
kg and some farms have recently switched to
higher-priced tilapia to maintain profitability,
albeit with lower fish yields. Although tilapia is be- rice-fish farming to total fish production has been A good harvest
ing adopted by an increasing number of entrepre- marginal.20 However, the harvested fish when con-
neurs and commercial fish farms in Bangladesh, sumed by the farmers themselves can improve the
commercial farming of tilapia is constrained by the nutritional status of their households significantly.
limited availability of seed.17 Direct involvement is limited to those with suffi-
Small-Scale Cage Farming. Fish farming in cient landholdings among better-off farmers. Key
low-cost small cages was piloted and introduced constraints to the development of rice-fish farm-
in Bangladesh primarily to landless poor with ing include water management practices to fit both
access to lakes, rivers, water canals, and seasonal fish and rice requirements, coupled with risks of
water bodies.18 Many fish species can be farmed flooding and fish losses, poaching, and drought.
in low-cost cages, using feeds gathered by house- Rice-fish farming requires low inputs of fertilizers
hold members from their surroundings, vegetable and integrated pest management, in which chemi-
wastes, and supplementary feed, such as rice bran cal pesticide application and contamination are re-
and oilcake. 19 Small-scale fish cages allow the duced. However, risks remain from the higher use
landless poor to benefit from aquaculture because of such pesticides by neighbors. Other challenges
there are limited investment requirements—pro- include harmonization of the fish production cycle
vided there is access to water bodies. Available with the rice-crop calendar, dictating timely avail-
low-cost feed, ease of handling and harvesting, as ability of fish seed. The risks associated with rice-
well as income potential and food security, are the fish faming and the extent to which farmers’ risk
main benefits. But there are constraints facing the
wider adoption and sustained use of fish cages by 17Tilapia fingerling prices are relatively high at Tk0.80–1.00 (size
the poor. These constraints include construction 4–5 cm), about 4–5 times the price of carp fingerlings.
costs, thefts, unaffordable cash requirements for 18 CARE Bangladesh introduced the development of 1-cubic-meter
supplementary feed, and incompatibility between cages as a means of making aquaculture accessible to and overcoming
the resource constraints of the landless poor.
the immediate need to earn daily income among
the poorest and the seasonal income that cage cul- 19 Popular fish species grown in small cages include tilapia, grass
carp, and silver barb.
ture can offer. Thus, although fish-cage farming
20 An estimated 280,000 ha of ricefields where integrated pest
has been introduced among the poor, its adoption management is practiced are considered suitable for rice-fish farming.
has remained localized. With an optimistic assumption that 20% of the areas are double
cropped with rice and fish for one growing season per year, and with
Rice-Fish Farming. The production of fish in fish yields of 50 kg/ha, this practice would yield a total of 2,800 t of
ricefields has been promoted by development fish annually, representing an incremental income of Tk140 million
at the farm gate. This type of fish production accounted for only 0.3%
projects as a way to obtain incremental benefits with of the estimated national freshwater aquaculture production of
little additional investment, but the contribution of 850,000 t in 2002. Source: Footnote 15.

Transporting returns to labor, land, and investments, but with
fish seed on significant risks of theft, poaching, natural preda-
foot tion, floods, and other weather risks.21 Extensive
low-lying areas that flood during the monsoon are
subdivided with barriers of various kinds—bamboo
fences, dikes, and nets—creating enclosed and
semi-enclosed areas suitable for fish farming.
These areas are stocked with fish when flooded
and cultivated with rice during the dry season.
Crop shareholders are generally landowners. The
enclosure of extensive areas for fish farming is con-
strained by social as well as organizational and
management issues. Such enclosure generally
restricts open access of the poor to floodplains on
which some of the poorest rely for their livelihood.
Further, multiple ownership and shareholding of
fish pens lead to issues of collective action related
to cost sharing and benefit distribution arrange-
Transporting ments, roles and responsibilities of co-owners,
fish seed by equitable access to land and tenure rights, and
bicycle various interests in water use and management,
including those of neighboring water users.
averseness has influenced the uptake of such tech- Fish Seed Supply. At present, there is adequate
nology in Bangladesh have not been fully studied. carp seed supply in Bangladesh from about 630 pri-
Despite successfully demonstrated rice-fish tech- vate and 110 government-owned finfish hatcher-
nologies and the large number of farmers who ies. Fish seed prices have declined in recent years.
have been trained through various projects, rice- In 2002, these hatcheries produced more than
fish farming has yet to be widely adopted.
Other Fish Farming Systems. Fish pens and 21 Current experience indicates that when small areas are fertilized,
enclosure of water bodies for fish farming are also they can generate fish production of 500–700 kg/ha, and yield
significant returns to fish farmers. With production costs of Tk10–
widespread in Bangladesh. Fish pens in canals, 15/kg of fish produced, farmers derive attractive returns from farm
small rivers, and lakes can generate attractive gate fish prices that exceed Tk50/kg.

200,000 kg of fish seed as larvae (hatchlings). poorest region of the country, involving the more
They are produced by induced spawning of fish in easily bred and fast-growing species (common
hatcheries that have been developed in clusters by carp, silver barb, and tilapia) that are appropriate
private sector entrepreneurs in better endowed for farming by the poor.27 Seed of these species can
areas, such as Bogra, Jessore, and Greater be produced without access to major hatchery
Mymensingh.22 In 1998, only 2,885 kg of riverine facilities, by using a small hapa (fine mesh net
seed were collected, compared with 118,100 kg of cage) suspended in a water body, or in a flooded
seed produced by hatcheries.23 ricefield. The small investment enables resource-
Nursing of fish larvae to fry and fingerlings is poor farmers to adopt the technology. Local pro-
commonly carried out in small-scale, private, duction and seed trading networks can reduce the
household fish seed nurseries in villages, provid- need for long-distance seed transport, thereby low-
ing employment for both owners and laborers. ering delivery cost and improving seed survival.
Various observers have claimed that hatcheries in However, there are potential constraints to basing
Bangladesh have faced problems related to negative fish seed supply on small, isolated fish broodstock
selection of fish broodstock, indiscriminate hybrid- populations.28 Unless decentralized fish seed pro-
ization, and inbreeding, but such claims, and how duction includes appropriate breeding strategies to
they are specifically related to seed quality and seed maintain the genetic quality of broodstock, the per-
performance, have not been rigorously and compre- formance of the production stocks will decline.29
hensively investigated. Clusters of small-scale hatch- Appropriate interventions to improve manage-
eries developed by farmers serve freshwater ment practices and regular replenishment of high-
aquaculture in Bangladesh, rather than single large quality seed for broodstock require concerted
hatcheries that require significant capital, knowl- efforts through participatory approaches with
edge, and managerial skill to operate. If better qual- farmers, government agencies, and NGO stake-
ity genetic stock could be introduced to, and holders to develop and institutionalize improved
maintained by, small-scale hatcheries, these hatch- rural fish seed supply.
eries would provide benefits to a wide range of fish
farmers, most of whom are marginal farmers and
small landholders. In recent years, increased atten- 22 AIT/NFEP. Undated. Fish Seed Quality in Northwest Bangladesh. State
of the System Report. Bangkok: Asian Institute of Technology (AIT);
tion has been given to broodstock management and Parbatipur, Bangladesh: Northwest Fisheries Extension Project
and fish breeding to minimize negative selection (NFEP).
and inbreeding in hatcheries.24 DOF has recently 23 Hasan, M.R., and G.U. Ahmed. 2002. Issues in Carp Hatcheries
emphasized development efforts to improve and Nurseries in Bangladesh, with Special Reference to Health
Management. In Primary Aquatic Animal Health Care in Rural, Small-
broodstock quality through the establishment of a Scale, Aquaculture Development, edited by J.R. Arthur, M.J. Phillips,
network of broodstock centers.25 Fish seed perfor- R.P. Subasinghe, M.B. Reantaso, and I.H. MacRae. FAO Technical
Fisheries Paper 406. Rome: FAO. p. 147–164.
mance depends on many factors, including the 24 Hussain, M.G. 1998. Broodstock Management and Breeding Plans
conditions in the hatcheries and during transpor- to Control Negative Selection and Inbreeding in Hatchery Stocks:
tation to final users, and handling and acclimati- Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute. Concept Paper presented at
the Workshop on Broodstock Management for Genetic Maintenance
zation prior to stocking. Transportation modes and and Improvement, 27–28 April 1998, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
distances vary widely. 25 These initiatives are supported by the World Bank-financed Fourth
Fish seed traders are the last and most critical Fisheries Project, including a grant from the Global Environment
actors in a complex network linking hatcheries and Facility for aquatic resources development, management, and
seed nurseries to fish farmers. In addition to sell- 26 In the Greater Mymensingh Area, carp seed prices at nurseries are
ing seed, these traders often provide advice to fish currently at Tk0.10–0.15 per fingerling (size 4–5 cm), while seed
farmers and disseminate knowledge of fish farm- traders sell these fingerlings to farmers at Tk0.20–0.25 each. A village
seed trader may sell 3,000–6,000 fingerlings each day for up to 6
ing to their customers. Seed trading is a seasonal months a year, earning more than Tk300/day or four times the daily
occupation that, in most places, begins in April and wage rate of agricultural labor.
ends in September. Seed traders travel on buses and 27 Little, David C., Israel Golder, and Benoy Barman. 1999. Rice Field-

trains, and typically carry a few thousand seed in alu- Based Fish Seed Production: Understanding and Improving a Poverty-
Focussed Approach to Promotion of Aquaculture in Bangladesh. AARM
minum containers on foot or by bicycle, to reach Newsletter 4(2): 7–10.
their farm customers. Seed traders face significant 28Little, David C., Pham A. Tuan, and Benoy Barman. 1999. Health
risks of seed losses during long journeys. Most retail Management Issues in Freshwater Fish Hatcheries, Nurseries and Fry
Distribution, with Emphasis on Experiences in Vietnam and
seed traders buy their fish seed directly from private Bangladesh. Paper presented at the DFID/FAO/NACA Asia Regional
household nurseries and, to some extent, from seed Scoping Workshop on Primary Aquatic Animal Health Care in Rural,
Small-Scale Aquaculture Development in Asia, 27–30 September,
wholesalers.26 Dhaka.
Strategies for decentralized seed production 29 The reasons include inadvertent negative selection, inbreeding,
are being developed in Northwest Bangladesh, the genetic drift, and introgressive hybridization.

Fish Health. Fish farming in Bangladesh is
still mostly extensive and semi-extensive. The
stocking densities and amounts of fertilizer and MARKETS
feeds added to fishponds are relatively low. Con-
sequently, fish health is generally good from seed The market chain from fish farmers to consumers
to harvested adults. The only exception to this has encompasses primary, secondary, and retail mar-
been sporadic outbreaks of epizootic ulcerative kets, involving local fish traders, sales agents,
syndrome (EUS), a complex of primary and sec- wholesalers-distributors, and retailers. Depending
ondary infections by viruses, bacteria, and fungi on the transaction volumes, fish farmers usually
that can result in ulcerated fish or cause mass mor- sell their fish to local traders or fish collectors who
tality. EUS can affect a wide range of carp, barb, then sell to wholesalers-distributors with or with-
catfish, and snakehead species, but does not affect out the help of commission-based sales agents.
tilapias. Outbreaks of EUS appear to be much less Farmers and local traders also sell their fish at vil-
severe now than in previous years. The only lage markets to consumers. Local traders-collectors
known preventive treatment is liming of ponds, usually sell their fish beyond their villages at
which farmers confirm as effective. Farmers do not upazila30 markets to wholesalers, who transport
seem to regard the continuing risk of EUS out- the fish to urban fish markets by road, rail, or boat.
breaks as very serious. Auction sales at villages and other markets are
Retail fish
At urban fish markets, wholesalers also sell to
traders other wholesalers who sell to retailers. Retail sales
are made at retail stalls in fish markets, roadside
stands, and door-to-door to household customers.
The intermediaries perform postharvest tasks that
include handling, cleaning, sorting, grading, icing,
and transportation. In general, facilities at fish
markets are minimal with poor hygiene and sani-
tation. There are currently no standard practices
for handling, washing, sorting, grading, cleaning,
and icing of fish. In villages, fish are commonly
Fish traders at
an urban
wholesale 30An upazila is an administrative government unit consisting of
market unions, each of which consists of several villages.

placed on the soil floor or in bamboo baskets.
Access to ice is generally not a problem. Although
the physical conditions of fish markets are poor,
they function efficiently and market intermediar-
ies are competitive. Fish farmers’ prices at farm
gate are no less than 50% of the consumer retail
prices, reflecting a short chain of intermediaries
between primary suppliers and consumers. Fresh-
water fish are traded whole, ungutted, and fresh
without processing apart from sorting and icing.
The duration between harvest and retail for local
markets is usually less than 24 hours.

Apart from direct self-employment opportunities
from fish farming, freshwater aquaculture offers inappropriate technologies.32 The main constraints A fishpond
diverse livelihood opportunities for operators and were the complexity of the components, inad- harvesting
employees of hatcheries and seed nurseries, and equate implementation capacity, and the related team
for seed traders and other intermediaries. Labor is institutional ramifications. Poor performance was
needed for pond construction, repairs, and fish attributed to an overambitious project design,
harvesting. The total number of people benefiting which had not fully taken into account the techni-
from direct employment in aquaculture is difficult cal, social, and economic feasibility of aquaculture
to estimate because households are rarely engaged investments.
full time in fish farming. With as much as 400,000 Second Aquaculture Development
ha under fish farming, direct, full-time employ- Project. Drawing on experience from its prede-

ment may reach more than 800,000 people, as- cessor, a less complex design was adopted in the
suming a minimum requirement of 2 persons/ha. second ADB project (implemented during 1988–
Most of the work is part time, however, and the 1997) to support Bangladesh aquaculture. The
number of people directly involved is probably main objectives were to increase shrimp produc-
much more than 2 million. When related services tion in ponds to generate foreign exchange earn-
are included, freshwater aquaculture may benefit ings, increase freshwater fish production for
3 million or more people, and much more again domestic consumption, and expand employment
if their dependents are included as indirect house- and increase incomes in the rural areas. In fresh-
hold beneficiaries. Much of the employment ben- water aquaculture, 1,498 demonstration fishponds
efits accrue in rural areas and include the poor. were established in 22 districts, focusing on dis-
Thus, the contribution of freshwater aquaculture semination of fish farming technology that ben-
to rural livelihoods is far reaching in Bangladesh. efited small-scale farmers. The social structure and
networks in the villages helped to spread the
introduced technology. Visits to demonstration
ADB SUPPORT TO FRESH- ponds were made possible through neighbors,
WATER AQUACULTURE friends, relatives, and local contacts. The improved
fish farming techniques benefited small household
DEVELOPMENT farms and their household members—who con-
sumed up to a quarter of the fish produced.34 The
Aquaculture Development Project. 31 ADB
first supported aquaculture development in
31 ADB. 1977. Appraisal Report on the Aquaculture Development Project
Bangladesh in the late 1970s. The project sup-
in Bangladesh. Manila. (Loan 329-BAN(SF): Aquaculture Development
ported largely independent subprojects, including Project, for $18 million, approved on 13 December 1977.)
the establishment of carp hatcheries, development 32 ADB. 1989. Project Completion Report on the Aquaculture
of a freshwater shrimp hatchery and farms, devel- Development Project in Bangladesh. Manila.
opment of fish pens, development of fish cages, 33 ADB. 1986. Appraisal Report on the Second Aquaculture Development

brackishwater shrimp and fish culture, fishnet mak- Project in Bangladesh. Manila. (Loan 821-BAN(SF): Second Aquaculture
Development Project, for $45.5 million, approved on 16 December
ing, fish salting and drying facilities, and ice plants. 1986.)
The project was based on optimistic assessments 34 ADB. 2002. Project Performance Audit Report on the Second
of technology potential and led to the selection of Aquaculture Development Project in Bangladesh. Manila.

project promoted aquaculture practices that floodplain fisheries by promoting freshwater
yielded high financial returns to farmers, largely aquaculture extension and organizing services
pond owners, who adopted such practices. with the help of NGOs to motivate and organize
There is evidence that farms have improved the poor to engage in pond aquaculture. The
their productivity through better pond management ongoing second project, under its water resources-
and rational use of fertilizers, supplementary feed, oriented support program, includes freshwater
and other inputs. Average fish yields are 1.2–3.2 t/ aquaculture opportunities as livelihood improve-
ha for different categories of ponds. At 2002 con- ment options for the poor, particularly those who
stant prices, perennial carp polyculture ponds can lost access to floodplain fisheries. Relevant project
provide an annual net income of Tk100,000/ha with initiatives for freshwater aquaculture include (i)
good management, before debt service. When small- micro-infrastructure development, such as excava-
scale farmers operate improved ponds, they can gain tion of small ponds to be leased to groups of poor
an annualized net return of more than 50% of their for fish farming; (ii) livelihood support to the poor
total operating expenses. In comparison, unim- by providing access to inputs, fertilizers and seeds,
proved carp farming with little husbandry generates small tools, and equipment for productive activi-
an annual net income of less than Tk20,000/ha ties, including fish farming; and (iii) skills devel-
before debt service, and totally neglected ponds or opment for income-generating activities.
derelict ponds may not yield significant returns.35 Fish Genetic Improvement. Mozambique
The project trained more than 600 DOF staff, in tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) was introduced
addition to training demonstration farmers. About into Bangladesh in 1954 from Thailand, and tila-
28,000 fish farmers attended organized events to pia seed was distributed all over the country. The
promote carp polyculture during 1994–1996 in species thrived mainly in ponds and open waters
more than 180 upazilas. in central and southern areas. Nile tilapia (O.
Command Area Development Project. 36 niloticus) was first introduced in 1974, also from
This project comprised (i) command area develop- Thailand, and initially stocked in a sewage-fed lake
ment aimed at developing on-farm field irrigation in Dhaka and in ponds at fishery research facilities
channels, improving the existing distribution and in Chandpur. Seed of Nile tilapia was also distrib-
drainage systems, and providing minor flood pro- uted throughout the country. 40 A survey of
tection works, within the command areas of Pabna
and Meghna-Dhonagoda irrigation systems; (ii) 35 According to DOF, there are three classes of fishponds in Bangladesh:

promotion of integrated pest management to re- (i) actively managed ponds, (ii) moderately managed ponds, and (iii)
ponds with no management and neglected, derelict ponds. DOF
duce the use of chemical pesticides through train- estimated that 16% of ponds in 2000 were derelict, while 28% were
ing of trainers, extension among farmers, and categorized as ponds with moderate management.

demonstration of alternative cropping practices; 36 ADB. 1995. Report and Recommendation of the President to the Board
of Directors on a Proposed Loan to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh
and (iii) small-scale fisheries development within for the Command Area Development Project. Manila. (Loan 1399-
the irrigation command areas to compensate for BAN(SF): Command Area Development Project, for $30 million,
approved on 7 November 1995.) The project was originally designed
the loss in capture fisheries by providing extension for implementation over 5 years, but the loan closing date was
services, organizational and management develop- extended for 2 years from 30 June 2001 to 30 June 2003.
ment support, and credit inputs to facilitate fresh- 37 The selection criteria, although flexible, gave preference to women

water aquaculture development, primarily in small and marginal farmers whose households generally owned less than
0.5 acres of land (0.2 ha). Other considerations included
ponds and canals. DOF engaged NGOs to organize unemployment, irregular employment, and limited access to cultivable
and develop the capacity of the poor in selected land.

project areas in Pabna and Chandpur to adopt fish 38 ADB. 1995. Report and Recommendation of the President to the Board
of Directors on a Proposed Loan to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh
farming as a livelihood option. The development for the Small-Scale Water Resources Development Sector Project. Manila.
approach comprised interventions that motivated (Loan 1381- BAN(SF): Small-Scale Water Resources Development Sector
Project, for $32 million, approved on 26 September 1995.) The
eligible beneficiaries,37 primarily women, orga- purpose of the project was to promote sustainable growth of rural
nized them into groups, trained them in fish farm- incomes of the poor by developing community-based water
management organizations and small-scale infrastructure in 300
ing, provided the groups with access to fishponds locations in the western part of Bangladesh.
by leasing private ponds, delivered microcredit for 39 ADB. 2001. Report and Recommendation of the President to the Board
fish farming, and promoted savings. of Directors on a Proposed Loan to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh
First 38 and Second 39 Small-Scale Water for the Second Small-Scale Water Resources Development Sector Project.
Manila. (Loan 1831-BAN(SF): Second Small-Scale Water Resources
Resources Development Sector Projects. These Development Sector Project, for $34 million, approved on 12 July 2001.)
projects included small-scale freshwater aquacul- 40 Rahman, Ataur A.K. 1992. Tilapia in Bangladesh. In Papers
ture development initiatives in irrigation com- Contributed to the Workshop on Tilapia in Capture and Culture-
Enhanced Fisheries in the Indo-Pacific Fishery Commission Countries,
mand areas. The first project included mitigation edited by Elvira A. Baluyut. FAO Fisheries Report 458 Supplement
activities to reduce and to compensate for loss of FIRI/R458. Rome: FAO. p. 139–142.

60 farming households in five upazilas of near full exploitation for agriculture, aquaculture,
Mymensingh and 40 households from one upazila industry, and human settlements. These conditions
in Joypurhat district showed that tilapia was cul- have left very few areas in a natural state. Inland
tured in monoculture or polyculture in 29% of capture fisheries are heavily overexploited, with
these household-level ponds in Mymensingh and significant reliance on annual stocking of indig-
18% in Joypurhat.41 About half the farmers (54%) enous and alien fish species, and increasing use of
reported that uncontrolled breeding in the pond barriers to enclose waters for fish enhancement for
was a problem in tilapia production, while the oth- specific user groups. Inland capture fisheries con-
ers (46%) considered this breeding to be an advan- tinue to contribute significantly to national fish
tage because it provided seed. supply and employment; the adverse impacts of
Earlier studies have indicated that resource- flood control structures and water management on
poor small-scale farmers can potentially benefit floodplain fisheries must be mitigated to prevent
from the advances of research if institutional sup- undue hardship for those who have lost access to
port is provided.42 Subsequently, with ADB assis- capture fisheries. However, there is potential for
tance, the Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute increasing the carrying capacity of the environ-
(BFRI) received genetically improved farmed tila- ment for fish through expansion of freshwater
pia (GIFT) in 1994 from collaborative research aquaculture and enhancement of enclosed fisher-
undertaken in the Philippines.43 Since then, BFRI ies. Aquaculture behind water retention structures
has taken further steps to promote selective breed- can provide new livelihood options for those who
ing of the GIFT strain and has disseminated tilapia have lost access to capture fisheries.
seed to selected hatcheries, seed nurseries, and Fish Seed Quality. Broodstock management
growout farmers. However, the role of BFRI in the and recording of breeding histories are currently
dissemination of GIFT has been constrained by its inadequate, and both inbreeding and accidental
limited resources. The presence of the GIFT strain hybridization are thought to be widespread.46
in Bangladesh has been augmented by emerging Typically, hatcheries keep small numbers of
private hatcheries that have acquired additional broodstock for (i) larger and highly fecund species
GIFT seed from Thailand. of indigenous carps such as rohu, catla, and mrigal;
ADB also contributed to the genetic improve- and (ii) alien silver and bighead carps. For the latter,
ment of carp species in Asia.44 It is a complex pro-
cess because of the diversity of species, farming 41 Hossain, Md. Amjad. 1995. Investigations into the Polyculture of
systems, and socioeconomic dimensions of Asian Two Indian Major Carps (Labeo rohita and Cirrhina mrigala) and Nile
tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) in Fertilized Ponds. Doctor of Technical
carp farming nations. The widely farmed carp spe- Science Dissertation, Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok.
cies all have a longer generation interval than tila- 42 Gupta, M.V., M. Ahmed, M.A.P. Bimbao, and C. Lightfoot. 1992.
pia. ADB assistance was intended to determine Socioeconomic Impact and Farmers’ Assessment of Nile Tilapia Culture
priority carp species for genetic improvement, in Bangladesh. ICLARM Technical Report 35. Manila.

develop a research approach and methodology, ini- 43 TA 5558-REG: Dissemination and Evaluation of Genetically Improved
Tilapia Species in Asia, for $600,000, approved on 14 December 1993.
tiate a training program, and develop improved The development of the GIFT strain, through selective breeding, was
carp breeds. Approved in late 2003, a second phase partly financed earlier by ADB under TA 5279-REG: Genetic
Improvement of Tilapia Species in Asia, for $475,000, approved on 8
of assistance focuses on the dissemination of March 1988. The main collaborating institutions were the
improved carp species and establishing national International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management
(ICLARM; now known as the WorldFish Center), the Philippine Bureau
carp breeding programs in several countries, in- of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the Freshwater Aquaculture Center
cluding Bangladesh.45 of the Central Luzon State University of the Philippines, and the
Norwegian Institute of Aquaculture Research. The GIFT strain was
first disseminated to Bangladesh, People’s Republic of China (PRC),

SAFEGUARDING FRESH- Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam, under the ADB-financed TA 5558,
implemented by ICLARM.

WATER AQUACULTURE 44 TA 5711-REG: Genetic Improvement of Carp Species in Asia, for $1.3
million, approved on 12 December 1996. In the context of this
technical assistance, the WorldFish Center collaborated with the
Environmental Carrying Capacity. The inland national research institutions in six countries to initiate a coordinated
program for genetic improvement of carp species. Genetic
aquatic resource systems of Bangladesh are among improvement experiments were conducted for the common carp in
the world’s richest and most diverse, comprising PRC, India, Indonesia, Thailand, and Viet Nam; for silver barb in
Bangladesh, Thailand, and Viet Nam; for blunt snout bream in the
floodplain watercourses, associated natural water PRC; and for rohu in India.
bodies (perennial and seasonal), fishponds, 45 TA 6136-REG: Achieving Greater Food Security and Eliminating
ditches, and canals. Two main features of this flood- Poverty by Dissemination of Improved Carp Species to Fish Farmers, for
$0.95 million, approved on 11 November 2003.
plain ecosystem are (i) its natural seasonal and
46 Hussain, M.G., and M.A. Mazid. 2001. Genetic Improvement and
longer-term changeability, as rivers change course
Conservation of Carp Species in Bangladesh. Mymensingh: Bangladesh
with consequent erosion and silt deposition; and (ii) Fisheries Research Institute; and Penang: WorldFish Center. 71 p.

unintentional production of hybrids occurs generation times and are easy to breed and/or
through lax sorting of broodstock and cross-fertili- widely accepted by consumers are the most likely
zation. Seed suppliers are obliged to produce qual- choices, for example, common carp, Nile
ity seed from broodstock that are managed as part tilapia, and silver barb, which are already domesti-
of ongoing, well designed breeding programs, but cated species. The current farming practices that
at present there is no fish seed certification sys- require stocking of ponds with 7 or more species,
tem.47 Productive freshwater aquaculture produc- need to be reassessed, taking into account the diffi-
tion requires quality fish seed for fast growth, culties of maintaining and developing seed quality
robustness, and survival. DOF’s current initiatives and supply, especially for the larger carp species.
to improve broodstock quality through the estab- Food Safety. The products of freshwater aqua-
lishment of broodstock centers can potentially culture in Bangladesh are mostly sold close to the
improve the genetic pool of broodstock. However, areas of production as whole, ungutted fish, fresh
there is a need for stronger operational links killed, live or iced. None of the species of freshwater
between research and development, extension ser- fish currently farmed is of significant interest for
vices, and on-farm practices. Sustained government export to world markets in the way that shrimp
support in collaboration with the private sector is is exported from coastal aquaculture—with the
required for the establishment, operation, and main- application of quality control functions and
tenance of broodstock centers. inspection services to comply with international
Conservation of Genetic Diversity. The standards for hazard analysis critical control point
stocking of open waters with indigenous and alien (HACCP).48 Large tilapia from advanced private sec-
fish species, the mixing of farmed and wild or tor farms might, however, become exportable in the
feral fish populations through flooding, and the future. Given the importance of fish products and
modifications made to fish habitats for flood control their marketing for domestic consumption,
and water management have undoubtedly changed Bangladesh will need to pay adequate attention to
the genetic diversity of some food fish species in food safety standards, including hygiene standards
Bangladesh. With freshwater fish coming increas- for domestic fish markets.49 There are no indications
ingly from aquaculture and from floodplain fisher- to date that fish in the human food chain signifi-
ies enhanced by stocking fingerlings, the population cantly increase human exposure to arsenic in
genetics of some exploited species are probably Bangladesh but more research is needed, as recom-
much changed from the natural state and are sub- mended in recent studies.50
ject to further change. The extent to which this has Biosafety and Disease Prevention. The pro-
affected genetic distinctiveness, importance for con- ductivity of freshwater aquaculture and stocked
servation, and possible use in breeding programs of waters in Bangladesh relies on indigenous and alien
key commercial species in Bangladesh, is not known. fish species. In the rural economy, freshwater
This applies to at least 13 indigenous carp species
47 Ahmed, M. 2002. Implementation of the Code of Conduct in
and many species of catfish, airbreathers, and small Aquaculture. In Report of the National Workshop on the Code of Conduct
indigenous species (SIS; i.e., fish species that attain for Responsible Fisheries–Bangladesh. Bay of Bengal Programme, edited
by Y.S. Yadava. Report BOBP/REP/93. Chennai, Tamil Nadu: Bay of
a length of less than 10 cm). Documentation and Bengal Programme; and Rome: FAO. p. 59–70.
conservation of the genetic diversity of these fish are 48 HACCP encompasses a systematic approach to the identification,
important in identifying and securing genetic evaluation, and control of food safety hazards. The hazard analysis
resources for the future, but this importance is not involves the assessment of the critical control point, defined as the
step at which control can be applied and is essential to prevent or
adequately recognized and funding is lacking. eliminate a food safety hazard or reduce it to an acceptable level.
Rationalization of Farmed Fish Species. The process of collecting and evaluating information on hazards
associated with the food under consideration to decide which are
Freshwater aquaculture and open water stock en- significant must be addressed in the HACCP plan.
hancement involve many species: indigenous and 49 (i) Codex Alimentarius Commission. 2000. Procedural Manual. Eleventh
alien carps, catfishes, tilapias, and numerous SIS. For Edition. Rome: Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme. A Codex
Committee on Fish and Fishery Products (CX-722) sets worldwide
any farmed fish species, domestication, establish- standards for fresh, frozen, and otherwise processed fish.
ment of well-managed breeding programs, (ii) World Health Organization (WHO). 1999. Food Safety Issues Associated
with Products from Aquaculture; Report of a Joint FAO/NACA/WHO Study
genetic improvement, and conservation of genetic Group. WHO Technical Report Series 883. Geneva. 55 p.
resources are substantial undertakings that have on- 50 Joint Consortium: National Centre for Epidemiology and Population
going costs. Bangladesh may not be able to Health, Australian National University, Australia; NGO Forum for
afford to invest the resources needed to develop do- Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation, Bangladesh; National Research
Centre for Environmental Toxicology, University of Queensland,
mestication, breeding, and conservation programs Australia; and the Occupational and Environmental Health Unit,
for 20 or more fish species. Rationalization and Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash
University, Australia. March 2002. Arsenic Mitigation in Bangladesh
prioritization are required, based upon what is fea- Pilot Project, Report on the Intervention Trial to Assess the Contribution
sible and affordable. Fish species that have short of Foodchain to Total Arsenic Exposure.

aquaculture is indispensable in the context of house- access arrangements for fish farming, secure access
hold food security, employment, and incomes for rights are critical. Without binding and long-term
the poor. However, at present there are no effective agreements on access rights, fish farmers are vulner-
biosafety measures to protect it from possible able. Eviction is common when access is not secure,
adverse impacts from future introductions of alien and interrupted operation can result in loss of invest-
species and farmed organisms, particularly from the ment that the poor cannot recover. Demonstrated
introduction of diseases and parasites.51 The Food profitability of fish farming may also increase the
and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United price of pond leasing because of an increasing
Nations recognizes, in its Code of Conduct for demand for fishponds by entrepreneurs. With an-
Responsible Fisheries52 and accompanying guide- nual pond leases reaching as high as Tk70,000/ha,
lines,53 the current importance and future potential the financial barrier for entry into aquaculture by the
of aquaculture for rural communities and for food landless is significant. Further, the profitability of fish
security. Safeguards need to be developed and rem- farming may entice landowners to operate fishponds
edies can be based on recommended biosafety mea- on their own or through caretaker arrangements,
sures. 54 Risks of disease propagation are high. and this affects the possibility of renewal of pond
Disease prevention capability, including diagnostic leases for landless people without long-term and
and mitigation facilities, needs to be developed, secure tenure rights.
along with adoption and implementation of aquacul- Pond Sharing. With the growing rural popula-
ture health management guidelines for trans- tion and large number of dependents per family
boundary movements of live aquatic animals (typically, a family has 5–8 members), land inherit-
through health certification and quarantine proce- ance leads to a multiple ownership of fishponds, pre-
dures. Such measures depend not only on political senting an array of issues related to co-ownership
will and adequate investment, but also on the behav- and collective action among shareholders. Arguably,
ior of farmers, researchers, and the general public. many of the issues related to underutilized or der-
All parties need to become fully aware of what is at elict fishponds stem from the social dimensions of
risk from irresponsible introductions and dissemina- multiple ownership, when cost sharing, benefit dis-
tion of alien aquatic species and farmed organisms. tribution, and assignment of responsibilities and
accountabilities for pond management become
Living Marginally with Risks. Marginal
Access to Land and Water. Direct beneficiaries farmers or the marginally poor with access to lim-
of aquaculture development have largely been pond ited amounts of land (0.2–0.5 ha) can still benefit
owners among small- (0.5–1.0 ha) and medium- from small-scale aquaculture but they have signifi-
scale landholders (1–2 ha). Access to land and cant constraints in accessing resources. Most direct
water is the key requisite for fish farming. Conven- beneficiaries of fish seed and growout technologies
tional aquaculture development initiatives that in Bangladesh are not the poorest people.55 Small-
emphasize the promotion of technology and provi- scale landholders with fishponds may have limited
sion of targeted extension services are unlikely to assets and may not be categorized as marginally
reach the functionally landless and the extremely
poor. Without access to land and water, the poorest 51 For example, Bangladesh has already imported an alien predatory
are unlikely to engage in fish farming directly. fish species, the African catfish or magur (Clarias gariepinus) that has
failed to meet utility expectations in aquaculture; DOF now
Access to Other Livelihood Assets. Apart discourages its use. Potential devastating impacts may occur when
from access to land and water, fish farming entrepreneurs introduce alien species, while the authorities are
unaware of their devastating effects on ecology and farming in other
requires human capital and skills, social capital, countries.
financial capital, and a vital operating environment 52 FAO. 1995. Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. Rome.
that includes support infrastructure, facilities, and 53 FAO.1997. Aquaculture Development. FAO Technical Guidelines for
access to markets. Access to financial and human Responsible Fisheries No. 5. Rome.
capital assets is necessary for households to ben- 54 FAO. 2003. Introduced Species in Fisheries: Responsible Use and
efit from aquaculture. The ability to pay for pond Control. Rome.
development and fish farming, including seed and 55 Hallman K., David J. Lewis, and Suraiya Begum. 2003. An Integrated

feed, requires financial capital, access to credit or Economic and Social Analysis to Assess the Impact of Vegetable and
Fishpond Technologies on Poverty in Rural Bangladesh. Food
both. Human capital, in terms of basic education Consumption and Nutrition Division Discussion Paper No. 163.
and capacity to learn, is required for people to gain Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute. The
study found that households farming owned ponds in the Greater
from training and extension services. Mymensingh area were not the poorest people. Only small landholders
Leasing a Pond. When the landless gain access and better-off households tend to own ponds. Group fishpond
technology, although potentially beneficial to poor households, was
to water bodies or ponds through lease or other undermined by collective action problems.

Theft. Fishpond owners and cage operators
often face the threat of poaching. Theft risks
increase when fishponds or cages are far from
farmers’ households. Surveillance requires labor
inputs for which the returns are not immediate.
These constraints have limited the feasibility of
fish farming to some extent, especially among
households headed by females, who, on their own,
are unable to protect their assets against an unfa-
vorable social environment.
Different Fish, Different Roles. Nationwide,
carp polyculture has long been popular, providing
a significant source of animal protein and other
nutrients for household nutrition. Mixed carp spe-
cies remain dominant while tilapia has had rela-
tively little impact yet on aquaculture in
Bangladesh as a whole. However, the role of
farmed tilapia in meeting poor people’s needs and
its demand in formal markets are becoming more
apparent.57 The misconception that tilapia are un-
important in Northwest Bangladesh arose because
Unloading fish poor or the poorest, but most small-scale landhold- few of them were seen in markets.58 Most small-
after harvest ers are only precariously above the poverty line. scale farmers were found to stock tilapia in
Targeting the Poor. Few aquaculture devel- polyculture with carps in small ditches and borrow
opment initiatives reach the poorest. When aimed pits near the households. Among poorer house-
at poverty reduction, development assistance holds, carps are mainly sold on the market for
should be targeted carefully by clearly defining the income and tilapia are mostly consumed by the
intended beneficiaries and devising appropriate households. The small size of the tilapia and their
strategies to help them benefit.56 The assistance ability to breed in ponds to provide seed were both
needs to recognize specific and prevalent features viewed positively by poorer households.
of poverty among the intended beneficiaries,
including the means of overcoming key barriers for
entry into aquaculture and adoption of technolo- WAYS TO REACH
gies, and to mitigate risks to which the poor are THE POOR
particularly vulnerable.
Labor and Cash Inputs. Although fish farm- One of the first major attempts to use technology in
ing technologies can offer potential solutions for aquaculture to benefit the landless poor directly was
the landless poor who can secure access to water the Grameen Bank’s Joyshagar Fisheries Project in
bodies, there may be socioeconomic constraints. 1986. The project developed a community-based
For example, feeding fish in small cages may model capable of mobilizing the landless poor to
require several hours of daily labor for food gath- grow fish in underutilized freshwater ponds. Groups
ering, preparation, and feeding. Moreover, returns of landless people were guaranteed secure access to
from fish farming are often highly seasonal. When state-owned ponds, allowing specific tenure rights.
the scale of operations increases, feed require- The main lesson learned was the need to develop in-
ments cannot be always met by pond fertilization novative organizational arrangements for the poor
and collection of feed from the immediate vicinity.
Supplementary feed may require cash outlays,
which the poorest cannot easily afford. Lack of 56 O’ Riordan, Brian. 1992. Strategies Towards Benefiting the Poor. NGOs
cash and difficulties in accessing credit are major in Bangladesh Fish Culture Workshop Dhaka 25–26 October. Rugby,
UK: Intermediate Technology Development Group.
barriers for the poor to undertaking aquaculture
on their own. Although labor may be shared and Barman, Benoy K., David C. Little, and Johannes Janssen. 2003.
Tilapia Culture Systems in Bangladesh. Global Aquaculture Advocate
minimized through collective action among farm- 6(4): 31–33.
ers, organizational arrangements are not easy to 58 Barman, Benoy K., David C. Little, and Peter Edwards. 2002. Small-
meet. Different interests in the use of the water Scale Fish Culture in Northwest Bangladesh: a Participatory Appraisal
Focusing on the Role of Tilapia. In Rural Aquaculture, edited by Peter
bodies may result in social conflicts; the vulnerable Edwards, David C. Little, and Harvey Demaine. Wallingford, UK: CABI
poor frequently lose out under such circumstances. Publishing. p. 227–244.

to have secure access to resources for them to ben-
efit from aquaculture technology.59 The relation-
ships between aquaculture and the poor were
elucidated by a study of fish farming in Northwest
Bangladesh to identify possible poverty-focused
activities.60 The poorest were generally excluded
from aquaculture production, but two types of pov-
erty-focused benefits were identified in the fish
farming system: (i) employment opportunities
through fish seed trading and (ii) increased avail-
ability of fish in poor people’s diets.
Group leasing arrangements for ponds have
been identified as a primary access route for the poor
to farm fish. To date, several NGOs have developed
projects to help the poor get access to land and
water, using social influence and financial support.61
Under the ADB-financed Command Area Develop-
ment Project (footnote 36), NGOs were engaged to
organize the poor—mainly women—into groups,
provide them with access to ponds for fish farming
through private lease arrangements, help the groups
acquire skills in fish farming and marketing, and pro-
vide them with microfinance services, including Extension services for fish farming can be Carps and
microcredit and savings facilities. highly effective when provided by trained and tilapia for the
village market
The DFID-financed Northwest Fisheries Exten- adequately equipped staff. However, funding for
sion Project (footnote 8) customized interventions such services is compartmentalized and made
for the poor by (i) promoting a fish farming sys- available through separate projects rather than on
tem that relied primarily on stimulating the growth a program basis. With the growing importance of
of natural feed (plankton) produced in the pond freshwater aquaculture for rural livelihood and
using organic and inorganic fertilizers;62 and (ii) poverty reduction, there is a clear need for stron-
mobilizing and training poor seed traders to dis- ger and well-funded government extension ser-
seminate information on aquaculture practices vices, including innovative means to help the poor
suited to the Northwest region. During 1989– in partnership with NGOs. Although NGOs have
2000, the project trained more than 1,200 seed been engaged by DOF in projects to promote fish
traders in fish farming. Reportedly, each seed farming among the poor, greater and long-term
trader had contacts with 40 farmers on average, effort will be required to help them overcome con-
and about 60% of fish farmers purchased fish seed straints to adopting fish farming as a livelihood
from NFEP-trained seed traders. However, poor option. The vast numbers of small seasonal ponds
seed traders favored relatively wealthier farmers—
who could purchase seed in cash—and did not of- 59Watanabe, T. 1993. The Ponds and the Poor. The Story of Grameen
fer to sell seed on credit to marginal fishpond Bank’s Initiative. Dhaka: Grameen Bank.
operators. Thus, access to working capital, includ- 60 Lewis, David J., Geoffrey D. Wood, and Rick Gregory. 1996. Trading
ing credit, is crucial for fishpond operators. the Silver Seed, Local Knowledge and Market Moralities in Aquaculture
Development. Dhaka: University Press Limited.
Microfinance can help the poor meet their finan-
cial needs to engage in aquaculture. An increasing 61 Fisheries Sector Review and Future Development Study. 2003.
Theme Study: Livelihoods, Social Development and Environment. Dhaka.
number of NGOs are providing microfinance services Since 1994, the Grameen Matsha Foundation (GMF) has taken leases
to rural customers, including those who are unable on 652 state-owned ponds and organized 4,200 poor people in groups
to develop these ponds for aquaculture. Group members have
to obtain a loan from other sources. Interventions landholdings of less than 0.4 ha, and the groups comprise poor people,
aimed at aquaculture development for the poor including those considered among the poorest; women make up 28%
of all group members. Members contribute their labor, while GMF
should be based on a microenterprise development bears all input costs, including the costs of pond leases, and provides
approach, taking into account access to and avail- technical and social development training to the groups. The members
and GMF operate on a profit-sharing basis.
ability of rural financial services. The feasibility
62 The natural productivity of ponds in Northwest Bangladesh is,
and viability of the microfinance services them- however, lower than elsewhere in the country because of a 4-month
selves should be emphasized to ensure sustained cold season (Nov–Feb) when water temperature may drop to 12
degrees Celsius and fish growth declines. During the 3-month monsoon
delivery of credit and savings services to the tar- period (Jun–Sep), clouds reduce sunlight on ponds, which limits
geted groups. plankton growth.

in Bangladesh owned by poor and marginal farmers relatively high prices of these SIS may discourage
are an underutilized resource for fish production. their consumption by poor farmers and encourage
Seasonal ponds are a natural habitat for SIS, them to sell SIS in the market. Challenges in farm-
and potentially suitable for their farming in com- ing SIS also include developing good quality
bination with other species, including the cultured broodstock for seed supply and improving the
carps.63 There is potential for integrating SIS in the knowledge of researchers and fishpond operators
development of small-scale freshwater aquaculture on the most appropriate stocking combinations
in Bangladesh, with an important role in enhanc- among SIS, carps, and other species.
ing nutrition security for the rural poor, particu-
larly in providing increased intake of vitamin A, 63 Roos, N., S.H. Thilsted, and M. A. Wahab. 2002. Culture of Small
Indigenous Fish Species in Seasonal Ponds in Bangladesh: The
calcium, and other essential nutrients. However, Potential for Production and Impact on Food and Nutrition Security.
market prices of some SIS have reached levels In Rural Aquaculture, edited by Peter Edwards, David C. Little, and
Harvey Demaine. Wallingford, UK: CABI Publishing. SIS fish are
above those of carps and other commercial species consumed with bones, thereby allowing intake of all available
because of increasing demand and scarcity. The nutrients from the fish.


Scope and Purpose

This case study was undertaken to examine small-

scale freshwater aquaculture development that
took place as part of an Asian Development Bank
(ADB)-supported project in an irrigation area in
Bangladesh. The study used primary and second-
ary data and published information to document
the human, social, natural, physical, and financial
capital available to poor people involved in the pro-
duction and consumption of freshwater farmed
fish and to identify channels through which the
poor can benefit, such as through access to liveli-
hood assets, markets and prices, access to services
and facilities, and key institutions and processes.1
The study is based on a part of the small-scale
fisheries development component of the ADB- incidence a little higher than the national level, at A group of
financed Command Area Development Project 50%. Poverty among the landless was much higher, women and
(CADP).2 This project had 3 parts: (i) to develop 74%. According to the project benchmark survey their leased
on-farm field irrigation channels, improve the in 1997, 34% of the households were landless at
existing water distribution and drainage systems, that time, 43% owned less than 0.4 hectares (ha)
and provide minor flood protection in the Pabna of land, 16% had landholdings of 0.4–1.0 ha, and
irrigation system in Pabna District and in the 7% had more than 1 ha of land.5
Meghna-Dhonagoda irrigation system (MDIS) in
Chandpur District; (ii) promotion of integrated 1 N. Ahmed led a survey of fish farming groups in Matlab, Chandpur.
pest management to reduce the use of chemical N. Ahmed, N. Bestari, P. Edwards, B. Katon, and R. Pullin collaborated
on the methodology, information analyses, and preparation of this
pesticides through training of trainers, extension report.
services to farmers, and demonstration of alterna- 2 ADB. 1995. Report and Recommendation of the President to the Board
tive cropping practices; and (iii) small-scale fish- of Directors on a Proposed Loan to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh
eries and aquaculture development within the for the Command Area Development Project. Manila. (Loan 1399-
BAN(SF): Command Area Development Project, for $30 million,
irrigation command areas through extension ser- approved on 7 November 1995.) The project was originally designed
vices, organizational and management develop- for implementation over 5 years, and the loan closing date was
extended for 2 years from 30 June 2001 to 30 June 2003.
ment support, and credit inputs to initiate
3 ADB. 1977. Report and Recommendation of the President to the Board
small-scale freshwater aquaculture, primarily in of Directors on a Proposed Loan to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh
small ponds, for the poor. The two irrigation systems for the Meghna-Dhonagoda Irrigation Project. Manila. (Loan 333-
BAN[SF]: Meghna-Dhonagoda Irrigation Project, for $24 million,
were earlier developed and financed by ADB.3 This approved on 15 December 1977 and closed on 30 June 1989.); and
case study focuses on small-scale freshwater ADB. 1978. Report and Recommendation of the President to the Board
of Directors on a Proposed Loan to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh
aquaculture development in Matlab, an upazila4 in for the Pabna Irrigation and Rural Development Project. Manila. (Loan
the MDIS area. 378-BAN[SF]: Pabna Irrigation and Rural Development Project, for $38
million, approved on 12 December 1978 and closed on 31 December
Relevance 4 An upazila is an administrative government unit consisting of unions,
each of which consists of villages.
Poverty Incidence. The MDIS area had a popula- 5 The unit of account for land in Bangladesh is commonly expressed in
tion of 139,900 people in 1995 and poverty decimals. 1 acre of land = 100 decimals; 1 hectare (ha) = 2.47 acres.

Mitigating the Loss of Capture Fisheries. poor, primarily women, into groups of 10–15;
The small-scale freshwater aquaculture develo- (ii) equip these groups with fish farming techniques
pment component was designed to compensate for and skills by training and extension; (iii) provide the
the decline of fisheries that accompanied the con- groups with access to ponds by leasing private
struction of flood embankments in the past. The ponds; and (iv) provide the groups with microcredit
CADP, in collaboration with the Department of and savings facilities. The selection criteria gave pref-
Fisheries (DOF), promoted a semi-intensive fish- erence to women and marginal and landless farm-
pond culture in Matlab by adapting the increas- ers with land of less than 0.2 ha. Other criteria
ingly popular carp polyculture farming system, included unemployment, irregular employment, and
which uses a mixture of endemic and alien carp people with limited access to cultivable land. The
species.6 In practice, this system has not varied group formation took about 6 months. The project
much in Bangladesh, except for differences in fish established 175 groups during 2000–2001, compris-
seed7 stocking density, maintenance, harvesting ing 2,590 members including 2,440 women in
schedules, and the types of ponds used, namely 165 groups in 14 unions covering 77 villages in
rainfed seasonal ponds and perennial ponds.8 DOF Matlab Upazila. Typically, each group acquired
promoted carp polyculture nationwide through access to several fishponds covering a total of 1 ha
many aquaculture development projects, including of water surface. The lease value of the ponds was
a component of the ADB-financed Second Aqua- Tk25,000–30,000/ha annually, with leases of 1–5
culture Development Project (implemented during years. Overall, VOSD helped the groups to gain live-
1988–1997), by establishing demonstration fish- lihood assets: (i) skills, personal motivation, and con-
ponds and promoting dissemination of fish farm- fidence; (ii) organizational development and group
ing technology in 22 districts including Chandpur.9 formation; (iii) ponds leased from individuals or
Establishing Groups of Fish Farmers. In multiple owners11 with tenure rights; (iv) access to
November 1999, DOF engaged a nongovernment markets; and (v) financial capital through
organization (NGO), the Voluntary Organization for microfinance services.
Social Development (VOSD), to develop the capac- Providing Microcredit to the Poor. The
ity of the poor in Matlab Upazila through fish farm- groups were new, with no previous access to alter-
recipients ing.10 The approach taken was to (i) organize the native and affordable credit sources. Their own
resources were limited and their assets, including
savings, were not adequate to meet the investment
and operating costs of fish farming. VOSD provided

6 Popular endemic species include catla (Catla catla), rohu (Labeo

rohita), and mrigal (Cirrhinus mrigala); and exotic species include
silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix), grass carp
(Ctenopharyngodon idella), and common carp (Cyprinus carpio).
7 In Bangladesh, fish fry are defined as juvenile fish, larger than newly
hatched fish (locally known as hatchlings) but smaller than fingerlings,
which are defined as juvenile fish normally longer than 2.5 cm.
8 The fish culture typically requires (i) a stocking density of about
10,000 fingerlings per hectare, with fingerlings of up to about 12 cm
long; (ii) pond fertilization using inorganic fertilizers, such as urea
and triple superphosphate and manure (chicken manure and cow
manure); and (iii) supplementary feeding using rice bran, wheat bran,
and mustard oil cake. With perennial ponds, multiple stocking and
harvests throughout the year are feasible. When a high density of fish
is stocked initially, partial harvests at intervals allow thinning of the
fish population to optimize biomass production of fish.
9 ADB. 2002. Project Performance Audit Report on the Second
Aquaculture Development Project in Bangladesh. Manila. A total of 1,498
demonstration ponds were established in 22 districts. Dissemination
of fish culture techniques benefited small farmers. The social structure
in the villages helped to spread the introduced technology. Visits to
demonstration ponds were made possible through neighbors, friends,
relatives and local contacts.
10 VOSD was awarded a contract of Tk5.93 million for the period 30
November 1999–30 November 2001, a contract extension of Tk2.20
million for 1 December 2001–30 June 2002, and another contract
extension of Tk1.46 million for 1 July 2002–30 June 2003. These
contracts covered the costs of training, group formation, other
capacity- building initiatives, and the operating costs of VOSD staff.
11 In many cases, several people owned the same ponds, and the
lease arrangements involved users in a group and a group of owners.
Absentee pond owners found leasing to be a convenient arrangement.

the groups with credit for working capital, with a agricultural lands, and fishponds) was under sev-
limit of Tk50,000 per group. In all, Tk8.75 million eral meters of floodwater for about 4 months
were disbursed to the groups, who used the funds every year. The construction of a flood protection
to pay for fish seed, feed, fertilizers, and hired labor embankment with associated peripheral roads and
for pond preparation and harvesting. The group irrigation canals greatly improved the living con-
members paid for the costs of pond leases, using ditions of its communities. 13 Flooding had
their savings and proceeds from the sales of house- occurred only twice since then: in 1987 in common
hold assets. The credit facility did not require any with most of Bangladesh, and in 1988 because of
collateral. Credit delivery began in early 2001. The a breach in the embankment during major flood-
credit terms were for 12 months, with an interest ing in the country. Occasional flooding seems
rate of 15% for the year and equal quarterly repay- inevitable with the continuing possibility of excep-
ments of loan principal. Interest charges were calcu- tional rains, sea level rise, and embankment fail-
lated on the declining balance of the loan principal. ures. There are continuing efforts to cope with
In practice, the repayment terms were flexible and shifts in the courses of the rivers and threats of land
not strictly bound by the requirement for equal quar- erosion in Chandpur by the Bangladesh Water
terly repayments. The group members each were re- Development Board, which considers the
quired to save a minimum of Tk5/week. In embanked area as an important and strategic
September 2003, DOF renewed its agreement with flood-protected area to be maintained.
VOSD for the operation of the credit facility on a re- Flood control structures here, as in other
volving basis for 5 more years. areas of Bangladesh, have contributed to the
VOSD obtained no further grant assistance to decline of inland capture fisheries, which also suf-
finance its advisory and extension services in fer from overfishing and general unmanageability.
Matlab Upazila after July 2003. The organization Reportedly, the production of inland capture fish-
opted to cover its operating costs from earnings eries declined from 962 t in 1983/84 to 336 t in
gained from the interest rate spread,12 but pre- 1991/92 at Meghna-Dhonagoda.14 The develop-
dicted that it would face increasing pressure to ment of freshwater aquaculture was an effort to
minimize its operating costs and to reduce lend- compensate for the decline in inland capture fish-
ing risks by extending the credit facility to various eries. Within the MDIS embankment, the change
other income-generating initiatives. from annual to exceptional flooding reduced
inland capture fisheries but increased opportuni-
METHODS AND SOURCES ties for agriculture and aquaculture with lower
risks. The cessation of annual flooding will have
For the preparation of this case study, site visits and long-term effects on the ecology and on the aquatic
key informant interviews were conducted intermit- and terrestrial biodiversity of the area, from soil
tently during June–November 2003. Information microorganisms to plants and animals, including
gathering included a survey in Matlab Upazila: (i) fish.15 The overall effect is increased retention of nu-
100 fish farming groups were selected randomly as trients (from organic and inorganic fertilizers, hu-
group respondents out of the total of 175 groups; man settlements, and livestock). The main change
(ii) 100 households were randomly selected, in agriculture since flood protection has been the
1 household from each of the selected 100 groups; assurance of two rice crops per year.16 The embank-
and (iii) market intermediaries comprising 10 fish ment has become a site for growing trees.
traders, 10 seed traders, and 10 fish harvesters were
interviewed. Secondary data came from DOF, VOSD, 12 VOSD charges 15% interest per annum to clients and pays an
the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, and the interest of 3% per annum to the Government for the credit facility.
Thus, VOSD receives a spread of 12% per annum, and bears the full
Bangladesh Water Development Board. risks of lending and credit recovery.
13 Briscoe, John. 2001. Two Decades of Change in a Bangladeshi

BIOPHYSICAL FEATURES OF Village. Economic and Political Weekly Vol. XXXVI, No. 40: 1–8.
14 Ali, M.Y. 1997 Fish, Water and People. Reflections on Inland
THE CASE STUDY AREA Openwater Fisheries Resources of Bangladesh. Dhaka. Losses in capture
fisheries were estimated at 2,800 t per year based on optimistic
fisheries productivity of the floodplains and open waters, while a much
Forming an island, MDIS is located on the Meghna lower estimate indicated annual losses at between 506 and 584 t.
River at its junction with Padma River and is sur- 15 The VOSD recognizes that land use in the area should maintain a
rounded by the branches of the Meghna and balance between rice farming, pond aquaculture, vegetable crops,
and fishing.
Dhonagodha rivers. The case study area is located 16 It is possible that livestock and poultry populations have also
in the MDIS covering 13,600 ha in Matlab Upazila. increased, but time series data cannot be obtained. Ducks are common
Prior to 1981, this entire area (human settlements, on and around fishponds.

There are possibly more than 10,000 ponds as extent grass, banana leaves, and wheat bran. These
well as numerous ditches and open water areas in simple feeds also act as pond fertilizers to some
Matlab Upazila, although there are no accurate sta- extent, and the basal fertility of ponds is usually
tistics. Some of the fishponds are more than 75- significant as well because of inputs from their sur-
years old and were originally excavated to raise the roundings. The groups did not fully follow the rec-
level of land for the village as well as for bathing, ommended fertilizer use and supplementary
watering livestock, domestic water supply, and tra- feed,20 in that less cow manure was used, but the
ditional fish farming.17 Other ponds are 15–20 groups compensated for this with more urea and
years old, and there is evidence of excavation of TSP. About two thirds of the respondents drained
newer ponds and ditches along the embankment their ponds, nearly always by pumping, and usu-
and roads. ally every 2–3 years.
The water quality of fishponds and ditches in Individual Group Members and Fish
the area is suitable for fish farming. Integrated pest Farming. Of the 100 individual group members
management has been promoted, but heavy use of surveyed, 64% were not involved in any other
pesticides continues, as is common in irrigated ar- aquaculture activity than the group-based fish
eas growing high-yielding rice varieties. This con- farming. A third (33%) farmed fish in household
dition does not appear likely to threaten fish ponds and ditches, and 3% nursed fry. All mem-
health, but pesticide residues in fish might be a bers were attracted to fish farming because of its
cause for concern. Farmers are not fertilizing or profitability and the possibility of having fish for
feeding at rates that could cause oxygen or other household consumption. Other reasons for fish
water quality problems for fish, and there appear farming included prior knowledge of aquaculture
to be no significant risks from off-farm sources of (11%), availability of fish seed (2%), availability
pollution. However, some tubewells in the area are of fertilizers (1%), and availability of feed (1%).
regarded as arsenic-contaminated, and some vil- Individual members used pond water for multiple
lagers are appealing for wells deeper than 250 purposes: washing clothes (98%), washing dishes
meters to be dug to find arsenic-free water. (95%), bathing (93%), livestock (30%), cooking
Groundwater is used in this area for both agricul- (26%), and watering crops (14%). Nevertheless,
ture and aquaculture, but there are no indications there were relatively few water-use conflicts. Most
to date that fish consumption has significantly in- respondents (86%) milled their own rice and used
creased human exposure to arsenic.
17 Farmers recall this traditional fish farming as haphazard stocking

of fish seed in ponds and harvesting whatever resulted from natural
productivity, with little or no feeding or fertilization. Fish yields,
following the stocking, husbandry, and harvesting methods promoted
TECHNOLOGY AND by VOSD, were reported by farmers to be 5–10 times higher than
those of the previously unmanaged ponds.
MANAGEMENT 18 Carp seed of all farmed species can be obtained from seed traders,
who purchase seed from hatcheries located in Chandpur and Comilla.
Several households in the villages where the groups farmed fish also
Seed Supply. The fish farmers in this area obtain nursed fry to fingerlings in ponds, from which the groups purchased
seed. There is one local private hatchery and one local state-owed
almost all of their fish seed (fry and fingerlings) hatchery in Matlab. Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) fingerlings
for stocking in ponds from hatcheries and nurser- are less common, but local sources of supply are emerging. For
example, a local farmer in Shabaz Khandi village of East Fatapur Union
ies operated by others. The only exceptions to this currently produces about 70,000 tilapia fingerlings a year (70–100
are that some Nile tilapia and common carp fin- pieces per kg; at Tk80/kg) from free breeding broodstock in ponds,
fed regularly on rice bran and mustard oil cake. This farmer sells
gerlings are produced locally (they breed in ponds tilapia fingerlings to 50–60 farmers in the vicinity, some of whom
and ditches) and there is undoubtedly some natu- stock tilapia with carps. His tilapia broodstock were obtained from
his grandfather’s pond, which came from a tilapia hatchery in
ral recruitment of small indigenous species.18 Most Mymensingh. He is keen to obtain genetically improved farmed tilapia
farmers believe it is necessary to stock ponds with (GIFT) after hearing about their good performance though a television
program (“Mahti-o-Manush”; meaning “Land and People”). He has
a mix of 7 or more carp species, although they received no training in tilapia seed production and is unaware of the
have varying ideas about stocking tilapia with carp reduced fecundity of tilapia broodstock after 2 years of use.
species.19 19 There are, however, some indications that new tilapia farmers are
stocking tilapia with common carp and rohu (Labeo rohita) and fewer
Growout. All 100 groups in the survey species in polyculture.
farmed a mixture of carps for 9–11 months each 20 The recommended VOSD fertilization rates/ha/week were
year. The groups generally complied with the rec- equivalent to 270 kg cow manure, 5.2 kg urea, and 6.9 kg of triple
ommended stocking density—an average stocking superphosphate (TSP). The recommended feeding rates were rice
bran, wheat bran, and oil cake in a 1:1:1 ratio fed at 5% body weight
rate of 11,250/ha. Ponds were fertilized with urea, for newly stocked 7.5–12.5 cm long fish for 1.5 months, 4% of body
triple superphosphate (TSP), and cow manure, and weight for the next 1.5 months, and 2–3% of body weight up to
harvest. The average annual fertilization rates actually used were 3.1
fed rice bran, mustard oil cake, and to lesser t/ha of cow manure, 420 kg/ha of urea, and 520 kg/ha of TSP.

the rice bran to feed fish (84%), cattle (15%), and
poultry (1%). About half (47%) of the respondents
had enough rice bran to feed their fish, and most of
the others (47%) reported buying rice bran for this


getting ready
Human Capital
primary occupations were rice farming (32%) and
The respondent households had an average fam- self-employment in microenterprises (28%), com-
ily size of 6.3 persons, 52% male and 48% female. pared with only 9% for fish farming. Fish farming
Ninety-two percent were Muslim and the others was a significant secondary occupation for house-
were Hindu. The respondents reported that 53% hold heads (24%) after rice farming (33%). Nearly
of their family members were 18-years old or all the spouses were primarily homemakers and
more, and 32% attended school. Although primary 94% of them reported fish farming as their second-
education is compulsory in Bangladesh, not all ary occupation. Table 2 presents the occupations
children could attend school because of poverty. of household heads and their spouses.
Children provided household labor and, in some
cases, schooling costs were unaffordable. With the Table 1: Educational Status of Respondent Household Heads and Their
sole exception of a widow, all household heads Spouses in Chandpur
were male. Only 6% of the household heads were Educational Status Household Head Spouse
30-years old or younger, 83% were 31–50 years (%, n=100) (%, n=99)
old, and the rest were more than 50-years old.
Excluding the widow, spouses of household heads No Education 10 15
were generally younger than the household heads: Primary (class 1–5) 36 45
Secondary (class 6–10) 29 25
21% were 30 years old or younger, and 71% were SSC (class 10 pass) 19 11
31–50 years. The educational status of household HSC (class 12 pass) 3 3
heads and their spouses is presented in Table 1. Undergraduate, University/College 3 1
Fish farming was not a full-time occupation or
n = number of respondents, SSC = secondary school certificate, HSC = higher secondary
the sole source of income for the households. certificate.
Among the household heads, the most important

Table 2: Occupations of Respondent Household Heads and Their Spouses in Chandpur

Household Head Spouse Household Income Sources

Occupation/Source (%, n=100) (%, n=99) (%, n=100)
of Income
Primary Secondary Primary Secondary First Second Third

Fish Farming 9 24 3 94 8 34 58
Rice Farming 32 33 0 0 34 35 2
Wage Labor 8 2 0 0 7 3 2
Carpentry 1 0 0 0 2 0 0
Office Worker 15 2 2 0 14 4 0
Vendor/Trader 2 0 0 1 1 2 2
Microenterprise 28 3 0 0 27 3 3
Rickshaw Driver 1 2 0 0 1 3 0
Capture Fishing 1 0 0 0 1 0 0
Working Abroad 2 0 0 0 0 0 0
Other Crops 0 14 0 0 0 8 23
Sharecropper 0 2 0 0 0 2 0
Livestock 0 12 0 0 1 6 10
None 0 6 0 3 0 0 0
Homemaker 1 0 95 2 0 0 0
Remittances 0 0 0 0 3 0 0
School Teacher 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
Others 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

n = number of respondents.

The participating people were only recently Table 3: Aquaculture Activities of Respondents in
formed into groups. They had relatively little prior Chandpur, Based on Gender
experience in fish farming; only 4% had more than
5 years of experience. None of them considered Activity Only Male Only Female Shared
that fish farming had ever placed their health at (%) (%) (%)
risk. Women and men shared many of the tasks Pond Preparation 28 2 70
associated with fish farming, although males did Fish Seed Procurement 10 3 87
nearly all the harvesting and marketing and most Feed Procurement 6 4 90
of the grading of fish (Table 3). Fertilizer Procurement 6 4 90
Fertilization 1 10 89
Feeding Fish 1 13 86
Natural Capital: Access to Land Harvesting Fish 87 3 10
and Ponds Grading Fish 44 10 46
Marketing Fish 92 1 7
Some respondents had no land; the maximum
landholding was 0.8 ha. Thus, the groups com-
prised landless and marginal farmers. The number area), which was the targeted lease size under the
of ponds leased by each group was 2–9 with a project. In general, the leased ponds had 1–18 own-
mean of 3.4 ponds. Only 10% owned a pond. All ers, with an average of 5 owners per pond. Lease
groups had access to 1 ha of ponds (water surface durations were 1–5 years with renewal
options. Almost all the ponds were more than
Washing 10-years old and had previously been used for fish
cooking utensils
in a multi-
farming, but mainly only by stocking without fer-
purpose pond tilization or supplementary feeding. Groundwater
was the main water source (84%), together with
water from an irrigation canal (40%) and rain-
water (16%). The ponds were perennial and the
groups reported no conflicts over water.
All the respondent households had a small plot
of homestead land; most had small ponds or
ditches (77%) and a small area of agricultural land
(76%). Few households had an orchard (12%) or
fallow land (6%), and many (35%) leased land.
The average area of owned land (excluding leased
land) was only 0.21 ha. All these households culti-
vated 2–3 crops of rice per year, with yields aver-
aging 4.5 t/ha/crop. Only 18% reported catching
wild fish from their own ponds. However, 79%
caught wild fish from elsewhere, although catches
have reportedly decreased over the last 10 years.

Social Capital
Leased pond
The respondents were almost entirely local people,
but only 21% of them were born in the village
where they now resided: 72% were born in a dif-
ferent union within their upazila, and 5% from a
different upazila within Chandpur. Only 2% came
from a different district. All of the 79% who had
moved to their present village had done so because
of marriage.
The interviewed groups all had 10 members.
Members of all groups met once per week, and also
met members of other groups occasionally. All
groups reported that other women in the area were
interested in setting up a group. There were no
major issues in the functioning of the groups and

only 4 identified specific problems in management. Table 4: Access to Facilities by Respondents in Chandpur (n=100)
All groups received training on fish farming from
VOSD for 3 days. In addition, 30% of the groups Very Difficult Neither Easy Very
received 2 days of training from DOF, and 2% re- Facility Difficult Difficult Easy
ceived a further 30 days of training from DOF. Nev- Nor Easy
ertheless, the groups perceived that the training Road 0 93 7 0 0
was inadequate. All groups reported that they met Transportation 0 99 1 0 0
VOSD staff weekly, suggesting that formal training Communication 97 3 0 0 0
had been complemented with advisory services Medical 8 83 9 0 0
through regular visits and meetings. The survey Electricity 16 74 10 0 0
Reliable Water Supply 0 27 73 0 0
indicated that 56% of the sampled groups received Toilet 1 22 76 1 0
handouts of training material. 21 Although the
extension workers were predominantly male, none n = number of respondents.
of the groups reported that it was as a problem to
be advised by a male extension worker. A few
women expressed reluctance to talk to male exten- members had access to a toilet of generally inadequate
sion workers, but this situation was overcome with sanitation.22 Fuels used for cooking included fuelwood
the help of women extension workers. Among the (100%), rice straw (54%), jute sticks (50%), cow ma-
interviewed group members, 47% indicated that nure (28%), leaf litter (26%), and kerosene (2%).
they would be willing to pay for good extension
advice if it could significantly increase their fish Financial Capital and Returns
harvest. Among those expressing a willingness to from Fish Farming
pay for extension, 74% indicated that they could
pay the equivalent of Tk12,350/ha, and they were With about 175 ha of fishponds, the 175 groups har-
willing to pay for the advice with a portion of their vested 756.7 t during November 2000–April 2003.
harvest. These harvests were valued at Tk34.3 million at an
average farm gate price of Tk45/kg. The cumulative
Physical Capital and total production , including estimated stocks remain-
Access to Facilities ing in the ponds as of April 2003, was 1,225 t val-
ued at Tk55.5 million (about $1 million).23 The
All of the interviewed group members owned their average annual yield was 3.7 t/ha, worth
homes, although none were well constructed. Two Tk170,000–180,000 at the farm gate. At 2002 con-
thirds (67%) were of wood and galvanized sheet stant prices, annual production costs would be
metal, and the others of light natural materials Tk83,000/ha, including lease payments, inputs,
(such as bamboo, rice straw, jute sticks, leaves, hired labor, and harvesting costs. Net incomes of not
earth, and wood) with galvanized sheet metal. less than Tk80,000/ha could be attained, providing
Major assets owned by group members were a ra- minimum net returns of Tk8,000 per person, de-
dio (37%), a cassette player (24%), a television pending on the group size. With minimum required
(15%), a fan (19%), and a sewing machine (8%) savings of Tk260/person/year, each member could
among household items; and a bicycle (39%), a gain a disposable income of up to Tk7,740/year, al-
boat (2%), and a rickshaw (2%) for transportation. lowing increased spending on basic needs.
Almost all had scavenging poultry (96%), a few All the surveyed groups harvested fish four
had goats (5%), and 66% had a cow used for plow- times per year, with increasing amounts harvested
ing and milk. Bullocks (9%) were not used for as the fish grew: the first harvest averaged 277 kg/
plowing, but for sale for meat during religious fes- ha, the second 492 kg/ha, third 683 kg/ha, and
tivals. Most group members reported some diffi- fourth 2,240 kg/ha (total 3,692 kg/ha/year).
culties in accessing facilities (Table 4).
21 These were probably of limited use to group members, many of
All of the interviewed group members had access whom had limited education. The two handouts were (i) a 30-page
to a tubewell as their main source of drinking water “Training Module on Fish Farming” with no illustrations; and (ii) a
32-page technical report “Fish Farming in Flood Control, Drainage and
(64% owned a tubewell, 12% partly owned one, and Irrigation Project Water Bodies, Command Area Development Project:
24% used a community tubewell). Probably all wells Part-C (Fisheries).”
had been arsenic tested—97% responded affirmatively 22 Among the respondents, 54% reported that they had access to a
and the others did not know if their wells had been kacha (made of bamboo with a thatched shelter and inadequate
drainage disposal), and 46% to a semi-pacca (made of wood/
tested—and 66% reported that their wells were arsenic galvanized metal with a squat plate over a pit latrine). None had
free, while 29% reported contamination, and 5% were access to a pacca (made of brick with a water seal squat plate).
not aware of the results of testing. All individual group 23 VOSD Quarterly Report, April 2003.

These yields are comparable to those achieved Vulnerability, Coping Strategies,
among the top performers in Bangladesh. Only 2% and Perceived Benefits
of the groups harvested fish on their own, with the
majority hiring a local harvesting team, and rely- The surveyed group members faced a variety of
ing to a small extent on fish buyers. None experi- crises (Table 5). The most serious were illnesses of
enced any major fish kill in the ponds. The vast household members, shortage of food, low produc-
majority of fish (94%) was sold; 4% were eaten by tion of rice, loss of livestock or poultry, and theft.
the household members, and the rest given away When a household member becomes ill, the time
and for other use. The surveyed groups reported and other resources required to care for this person
average gross earnings of Tk158,877, and net reduce the household’s capacity to earn and often
incomes of Tk82,818 per group, excluding the fish deplete their savings. The main coping strategies for
for their own consumption and other disposal. crisis situations were taking a loan from friends,
The major constraints to the groups were inad- neighbors or relatives (90%), adjustments to meals
equate technical knowledge (92%), lack of transport (68%), consumption of low-cost food (28%), and
facilities (93%), poor road quality (93%), and sale of livestock (24%). Sampled group members
inadequate credit (83%). The groups also per- reported that they faced food shortages for a certain
ceived that they could produce more fish through period each year: from 1 month (27%), 2 months
better management (39%), more inputs (32%), (57%), to 3–4 months (16%). Months with the larg-
and better fingerlings (29%). All groups intended est incidence of food insecurity were June–August
to continue to farm fish, with 96% indicating that and December–February. All members said that they
they would continue with their current operation, had consumed fish in the 7 days before being inter-
3% intending to produce more fish, and 1% viewed, as well as vegetables (98%), eggs (92%),
intending to increase the pond area. The groups fruit (82%), milk (51%), beef (34%), chicken (23%)
quoted profitability as their primary reason for and mutton (2%). However, the amounts consumed
continuing to farm fish. could not be easily determined.
Each group borrowed Tk50,000 per year from The surveyed groups felt that aquaculture had
VOSD for fish farming. Only 2% of the groups improved their welfare in the context of food con-
experienced difficulties in repaying the loan— sumption (100%), home improvement (99%),
because of lower than expected fish production children’s education (99%), clothes (87%), sani-
during the first 3 months of the growing cycle. tation (46%), and increased access to health ser-
Weekly savings among the surveyed groups vices (25%) and drinking water (12%). The same
reached a mean of Tk81, reflecting a savings rate pattern was seen when the groups ranked the three
of Tk5–10/person/week. Overall, the groups indi- most important benefits of fish farming (Table 6).
cated that the credit of Tk50,000 was not enough Asked to compare their present situation with
to cover all operating expenses, which included that 5 years ago, the surveyed group members
Tk25,000–30,000 spent annually for leasing
Table 5: Crises Faced by Respondents in Chandpur
None of the groups felt that they could manage (n=100)
their fish farms without credit. They needed an
average of Tk76,670/ha of working capital, which Types of Crisis %
would take an average of 87 months to save. How-
ever, if sufficient working capital were available to Illness of Household Members 89
Shortage of Food 61
the groups, all said they would be able to obtain their Poor Production of Rice 24
own fish seed, fertilizers, and feeds. This condition Loss of Livestock/Poultry 21
emphasizes the importance of access to credit, with- Theft 14
out which the groups would have stopped farming Excess Rain 9
fish. Financial resources among the groups were Accident of Household Members 9
Death of Household Members 7
generally minimal. Only 11% received remittances Dowry/Wedding 5
from family members, at a mean of Tk25,236 per Wind Damage 4
year. All had savings, but only 20% could save from Loss of Job 4
sources other than fish farming. Among the latter, Loss of Land 4
additional savings amounted to a mean of Tk5,593 Market Fluctuation of Farmed Produce 3
Loss of Assets to Powerful Person 2
per year. Savings from fish farming were used for Inter/Intra Community Conflict 1
various purposes, including for children’s education Loss of Business 1
(50%), food purchase (44%), house improvement
(40%), and health (39%). n = number of respondents.

Table 6: Group Ranking of the Three Most Important
various villages to the traders (wholesalers and re-
Benefits from Aquaculture by Respondents in Chandpur tailers) in market centers, and on occasions take
(n=100) small amounts of credit (dadon)24 from wholesal-
ers to ensure a steady supply of fish from farmers.
Groups (%) All 10 fish traders interviewed at Changerchar
First Second Third
market in Chandpur were male, 25–40 years old.
They had minimal education: 8 of them had less
Food Consumption 29 22 29 than 5 years of primary school and 2 had 6–10
Home Improvement 26 43 13 years of school. Although the religion in the area
Children Education 33 28 17 is predominantly Muslim, half of these fish traders
Health Services 2 1 15
Clothes 8 5 19
were Hindu. Their average family size was 6 per-
Sanitation 2 1 6 sons, ranging from 4 to 9 persons. Household assets
Drinking Water 0 0 1 included a radio (9 traders), a cassette player (4), a
television (3), and a fan (1). Fish trading was nei-
n = number of respondents.
ther a full-time nor a primary occupation for
most—only 2 said fish trading was their primary
overwhelmingly perceived that (i) their overall occupation—6 were farmers and 2 fish farmers.
food and fish consumption had improved, (ii) they Half had been trading fish for more than 7 years,
had gained from employment and cash incomes with a range of experience of 2–20 years. Although
from fish farming, (iii) the natural resource condi- fish trading is not usually a full-time job, it takes
tions for fish farming had improved, (iv) they had place all year with a peak in November–February.
acquired means to finance fish farming, (v) their Typically, fish traders sell their fish in the morning
housing conditions had improved, (vi) they had for about 4 hours, 7 days per week. The number of
gained access to fish farming technology, (vii) fish traders in the market ranged from 19 to
there had been an increase in the adoption of fish 27 people. Farmed fish came mainly from the vicin-
farming technology, and (viii) their access to credit ity: 98% from fish farms and 2% from capture fish-
had improved. They were also optimistic for the eries. Fish were transported by bicycle or rickshaw.
future on these aspects.
24Dadon is a system of tied credit through which fish traders advance

money to the agents in exchange for assured supply of fish.



The groups mostly sold fish locally at the village

markets (81%) or at the upazila market. They sold
fish mainly to local agents (57%) or wholesalers-
assemblers (41%), with only 2% selling fish
directly to a retailer. Because they sold relatively
large amounts of fish, the groups wanted to sell
directly to a wholesaler rather than to a local
agent. Their most important reason for choosing a
particular market outlet was convenience (76%),
with price a relatively minor consideration (22%),
as was cash payment (2%). Most of the groups
(79%) claimed that they set the sales price of their
fish, while buyers/traders determined the sales
price for 21% of the groups. None had significant
problems in selling fish; demand was high. The
groups reported that they were, however,
restricted from seeking other markets because of the
distance (45%), inadequate transportation (34%),
poor roads (17%), or time constraints (4%).
Fish Traders. At local markets, retail fish trad-
ing may be considered as a small business activity
that does not provide a full-time occupation. Mar-
ket agents and fish harvesters bring their fish from

little working capital, Tk2,000–5,000. They often
took short-term renewable loans of several days
from hatchery owners instead of paying cash each
time they obtained seed from the hatcheries. They
were all male, 32–45 years old, with little educa-
tion: half had less than 5 years of primary school-
ing, and the remainder had generally less than 10
years. One was Hindu, and the rest Muslim. Fam-
ily size was 4–10 people, with a mean of 5.2, and
their household assets included a radio (10 trad-
ers), a fan (9), a television (7), and a cassette
player (2). Only 1 sold fry as a primary occupation,
while 5 were farmers, 3 were fish farmers, and the
rest had other jobs. However, 9 reported fry trad-
ing as their secondary occupation.
Most traders had considerable experience
trading fry, and 4 of them had more than 7 years
experience. Their average length of experience was
7.1 years, with a range of 4–13 years. The peak
fry-trading season was March–July, extending up
to September and October because farmers prac-
tice multiple stocking. Fish seed mainly came from
Comilla, Chandpur, and Laxipur districts, and was
supplied by hatcheries and nurseries. Fry were
transported on foot, bicycle, rickshaw, and pickup
trucks. The volume of fry sold daily was 1,000–
2,000 pieces per trader (average 1,360), at prices
of Tk295–520 per 1,000 pieces depending on the
fish species. Daily net incomes of these traders
were Tk136–275. Fry traders reported two major
problems: poor road and transport, and fry mor-
tality due to elevated water temperature and from
Retail fish The fish traders handled 35–45 kg of fish a day, changing water. They reported fry mortality of
trader selling them to customers on the same day. In fact, all 2–10% during transportation. All fry traders
transactions, from harvests to fish traders and reported that seed trading had improved their so-
final consumers, normally took place within a day. cioeconomic conditions.
Depending on fish species, fish traders sold their fish Fish Harvesters. Fish farmers do not gener-
at average prices of Tk64/kg. Fish traders earned net ally harvest their own fishponds, but rely on fish
incomes of about Tk170/day; their main expenses harvesters. The 10 fish harvesters interviewed
were hired labor, transportation, ice, electricity, and were Muslim men, 25–40 years of age, with low
shop rental at the market. They typically operated levels of education: only 2 had more than 5 years
with little working capital, Tk10,000–20,000, and of schooling. Their family size was 3–5 members.
their sources of capital included informal loans from Nine of them had a radio, 6 had a fan, and 2 a cas-
friends or relatives, savings, and sales of personal sette player; none had a television. Seven reported
assets. All fish traders employed wage laborers, with harvesting fish as their primary occupation, and
an average of 2 laborers per trader. Major problems the other 3 as a secondary occupation.
reported by the fish traders included transportation The fish harvesters interviewed had an aver-
(6) and ice supply (4). However, they all felt that age length of experience of 5.2 years, range 3–10
trading fish had improved their welfare through years. They worked year round, with a peak in
increased food security, children’s education, cloth- October–January. Harvesting usually took place in
ing, and housing. the morning before noon. On average, the harvest-
Fish Seed Traders. Seed traders maintain a ers did 1–2 harvests per week. They employed 6–8
strong network and relations with client farmers laborers in a harvesting team. The gross income
and owners of hatcheries and nurseries, providing was 8–12% of the fish value per harvest. Daily net
a critical link between seed producers and fish income of fish harvesters, after paying for labor,
farmers. The 10 seed traders interviewed had very fishnet rental, repairs, and fishnet transport, was

Tk150–260. They reported two major constraints
to their activities: poor access to transportation
(6 traders) and a high fishnet rental cost (4). Nev-
ertheless, they all said that their occupation had
improved their socioeconomic conditions.

Fish farming brought profits, generated cash, and
significantly improved households’ incomes
among the 175 groups surveyed, at a scale of pro-
duction that represented a sizable contribution to
the local rural economy. Marketable fish could eas-
ily reach 650 t annually with farm gate value of
Tk29.3 million (more than $0.5 million), provid-
ing direct employment to 2,590 group members,
and spinning off employment benefits to seed trad-
ers, small-scale input suppliers, fish harvesters, and
market intermediaries. Fish marketing activities
through various intermediaries to final consumers
added 100% to the farm gate value of the fish and
provided significant self-employment opportunities
to market intermediaries and their wage laborers. Without credit and the NGO advisory services that Fish harvest in a
The project initiatives benefited the poor, pri- accompanied this credit, the poor would not have group’s pond
marily disadvantaged women who were not heads been able to start and sustain their fish farms.
of households. These spouses, nearly all homemak- Although the group members started saving a por-
ers, could not have earned their own incomes if tion of their incomes, their savings alone would not
they had not been assisted by the project. The ma- be able to replace their reliance on credit. The
jor barriers to women for seeking other employ- groups indicated that it would take them on average
ment included social barriers (45%), household more than 7 years to save enough working capital
work responsibilities (34%), and inability to work (an average of Tk76,670/ha). Thus, the continuation
physically as wage laborer (7%). of access to credit with affordable terms and condi-
Fish farming significantly empowered the tions is one of the key channels for enabling the poor
women group members, providing them with lucra- to engage in small-scale aquaculture.
tive opportunities in pursuing income-generating Access to markets, for input supplies and fish,
activities and allowing them to play a significant made fish farming feasible and profitable. Although
shared role with men in social and cultural contexts access to facilities and infrastructure (road, trans-
normally dominated by men. Group members portation, and water supply) was not optimal, the
gained skills and confidence in operating and main- existing facilities were sufficient to make fish farm-
taining fish farms, including skills in marketing. ing feasible. Rainfall, the use of wells, and water
The project helped the disadvantaged poor by retention in ponds enabled farmers to farm fish all
overcoming barriers and providing access to year round in Matlab Upazila. With high demand
opportunities. The key channels by which the poor for fish, the harvested fish were mostly sold in
benefited from fish farming were primarily local village and upazila markets. Thus, fish farm-
through accessing livelihood assets, extension/ ing contributed to local food security.
advisory services, and markets. Considerable project support was required and
The project developed human and social capi- mobilized to develop the requisite human and
tal in skill acquisition, promoting confidence build- social capital of the fish farming groups. The use of
ing, and establishing groups and motivating them. a local NGO familiar with the social dimensions of
The project also helped the groups in accessing land poverty affecting the area, was instrumental to the
and water (fishponds) by securing renewable lease positive outcomes to date. Coupled with
arrangements. Without these leases, the disadvan- microfinance services, capacity building with prac-
taged poor would not have had access to fishponds. tical training in aquaculture for the groups in the
Limited financial capital was another barrier context of feasible income-generating initiatives
for the poor. Microcredit helped them access work- provided a breakthrough in providing self-help
ing capital to complement their meager resources. employment opportunities for the disadvantaged.



Scope and Purpose Freshwater aquaculture plays an important role in

rural livelihoods in Bangladesh. Fish account for
This case study examined livelihood conditions of 60–80% of the animal protein consumed by the
fish farmers in Kishoreganj, a district in the Greater population and also provide essential vitamins,
Mymensingh area receiving Asian Development minerals, and fatty acids. Freshwater aquaculture,
Bank (ADB) support for aquaculture during 1988– primarily the farming of carps, provides more than
1997. The study used primary and secondary data one third of the total fisheries production in
and published information to document the human, Bangladesh. Traditionally, much farmed fish came
social, natural, physical, and financial capital avail- from ponds constructed as borrow pits, dug to
able to the poor involved in the production and con- raise the level of land for village homesteads and
sumption of freshwater farmed fish, and to identify roads. Most of the country is deltaic and a large
various channels through which the poor can ben- portion of the land is inundated in the monsoon
efit, such as through access to livelihood assets, mar- season. There has been a dramatic increase in
kets and prices, and services and facilities. This case freshwater aquaculture production from 123,800
study was designed to highlight the operating envi-
1 N. Ahmed led a survey of fish farmers in Kishoreganj. N. Ahmed, N.
ronment of small-scale fish farmers in rural Bestari, P. Edwards, B. Katon, and R. Pullin collaborated on the
Bangladesh and their livelihood profiles.1 methodology, information analyses, and preparation of this report.

Fishpond in

metric tons (t) in 1986 to 850,000 t in 2002. Of as demonstration farmers or as extension contact
present production, 80% come from the agents. The survey, including the preparation and
polyculture of Indian, Chinese, common, and other testing of questionnaires, took place in June–
carps in ponds.2 The population of Bangladesh is August 2003.
rapidly increasing and domestic demand for fish
is continuing to rise. With the growing importance
of freshwater aquaculture, ditches that were for- FISH FARM OPERATION
merly flooded seasonally have been converted into AND MANAGEMENT
perennial ponds through deepening and expansion
in area. Most households, including those of marginal and
Kishoreganj was one of the 22 districts tar- small-scale farmers, have ponds. The former sea-
geted by the Department of Fisheries (DOF) dur- sonal ditches have nearly all been converted into
ing 1988–1997 under the ADB-financed Second at least traditional extensive aquaculture by stock-
Aquaculture Development Project for the dissemi- ing them with the readily available fingerlings dis-
nation of improved fish culture practices, using tributed by itinerant seed traders. In extensive
semi-intensive carp polyculture pond technology, farming, little pond management is undertaken
through the establishment of demonstration fish- following the stocking of fingerlings. However, fer-
ponds and farmer-to-farmer contact.3 Kishoreganj tilizers and supplementary feeds for pond culture
District, in the Greater Mymensingh area, has a are readily available. As a result of widespread pro-
population of 2.5 million, with a land area of 2,689 motion of improved pond management practices,
square kilometers covering 13 upazilas, 105 fish farming has become generally semi-intensive
unions, 1,774 villages, and 4 towns.4 There were with provision of nutritional inputs for stocked fish
more than 254,000 farm households in 1996, com- through pond fertilization and provision of supple-
prising 61% of the total households in the district.5 mentary feed. Fertilization of fishponds with cattle
Of these farm households, 81% were categorized manure stimulates the growth of plankton in the
as small farms with landholding of less than 1 hect- water and of microorganisms and invertebrate ani-
are (ha). In 2000, fishponds in Kishoreganj had a mals on the bottom. The plankton and benthic
total area of 3,771 ha and an estimated produc- organisms serve as food for filter-feeding carps and
tion of 13,089 t.6 Kishoreganj has benefited from
the Mymensingh Aquaculture Extension Project 2 DOF. June 2003. The Future for Fisheries: Findings and
Recommendations from the Fisheries Sector Review and Future
(MAEP) financed by Danish International Devel- Development Study. Dhaka: Department of Fisheries.
opment Assistance.7 Small-scale freshwater pond 3 ADB. 2002. Project Performance Audit Report on the Second
aquaculture has also benefited from sustained ef- Aquaculture Development Project in Bangladesh. Manila.
forts of extension services through various devel- 4 Kishoreganj district is divided into 13 upazilas (subdistricts), namely:
opment projects funded by the Government, (i) Kishoreganj Sadar, (ii) Hossainpur, (iii) Pakundla, (iv) Katiadi,
(v) Tarail, (vi) Karimganj, (vii) Itna, (viii) Mithamoin, (ix) Astragram,
bilateral agencies, and multilateral organizations (x) Nikli, (xi) Bajitpur, (xii) Kuliarchar, and (xiii) Bhairab.
in collaboration with DOF. Aquaculture develop- 5 BBS. 1996. Bangladesh Census of Agriculture. Dhaka: Bangladesh
ment initiatives in the Greater Mymensingh area Bureau of Statistics.
have focused on the dissemination of technology 6BBS. 2000. Statistical Yearbook of Bangladesh. Dhaka: Bangladesh
for fish seed8 production and growout.9 Bureau of Statistics.
7 Danish International Development Assistance has provided support
METHODS AND SOURCES to the DOF since 1977, commencing with the establishment of the
Aquaculture Experiment Station, which was renamed the Freshwater
Aquaculture Research Station, currently known as the Bangladesh
The study was based on a survey of fish farming Fisheries Research Institute (BFRI). The MAEP Phase I began in 1989
with the main objective of disseminating the BFRI research results to
households, secondary data, and key informant the Greater Mymensingh area as a means of increasing fish production
interviews with farmers, fish traders, seed traders, and reducing poverty. MAEP Phase 2 started in July 1993, and a
consolidation phase was carried out during July 2000–December 2003.
and fish harvesters. The survey involved 100 fish
8 In Bangladesh, fish seed is categorized and named according to
farming households owning individually managed size. Fish fry are defined as juvenile fish, larger than newly hatched
ponds. Household respondents were selected ran- fish (locally known as hatchlings) but smaller than fingerlings, which
are defined as juvenile fish normally longer than 2.5 cm.
domly from 3 upazilas (Bajitpur, Nikli, and Katiadi)
where there had not been intensive extension sup- 9 The farming of fish seed to marketable size is called growout.
port and which were typical of the Greater 10 The rest of the upazilas were excluded from the survey for the
following reasons: (i) Itna, Mithamoin, and Astragram were in
Mymensingh area where small-scale pond fish floodplain areas with significant populations of wild fish and where
farming was practiced.10 In order to avoid bias due pond fish culture was not common, and Kuliarchar was not promising
for pond aquaculture because of its sandy soil; and (ii) the remaining
to direct assistance, the respondents were selected 6 upazilas had been receiving intensive extension and assistance from
among those who had not been appointed by DOF the MAEP since 1993.

Table 1: Reasons of Respondents in Kishoreganj for
Farming Fish (n=100)

Influence Respondents (%)

Profitability 87
Household Consumption of Fish 48
Availability of Fish Seed 3
Availability of Pond 1
No Other Income Source 1

n = number of respondents.

Table 2: Stocking Densities of Species by Respondents

in Kishoreganj (number of fingerlings per hectare)

Species Mean

Catla (Catla catla) 692

Mrigal (Cirrhinus mrigala) 2,124
Rohu (Labeo rohita) 2,690
Calbasu (Labeo calbasu) 2,470
Grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) 1,383
Silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) 3,384
Fish seed trader bottom-feeding carps, respectively. Although
Common carp (Cyprinus carpio) 1,778
manure has alternative uses as a fuel and a crop Sarputi (Barbodes gonionotus) 2,149
fertilizer, many villagers use it as a pond fertilizer Pangas (Pangasius hypophthalmus) 3,112
because of the profitability of fish farming. House- Total 14,130
holds generally own livestock that are fed on way-
side vegetation, rice straw obtained from
sharecropping, and other agricultural wastes. The villages, providing employment to owners and
most common supplementary feeds used in fish- hired labor. Seed traders carry a few thousand fin-
ponds are rice bran and mustard oil cake, which gerlings each in aluminum containers, traveling
are readily available on-farm or in local markets. on foot, bicycle, bus, and train to reach their cus-
In addition, grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella), tomers.11
a common component of polycultures of indig- Popularity of Carp Polyculture. Of the 100
enous and alien carps, is commonly fed with on- fish farming households included in this study, 98
farm vegetation such as grass, banana leaves, and (98%) were involved in carp polyculture, and 2%
duckweed. in the culture of a single species, the catfish pangas
In this study, extensive fishponds were found (Pangasius hypophthalmus). Only 11% said they
to produce 1.0–1.5 t/ha and semi-intensive ponds, were involved in other aquaculture activities and
3–5 t/ha. Yields of 6–10 t/ha were achieved from 7% nursed fry. Most (87%) were attracted to fish
semi-intensive culture with multiple stocking of farming because of its profitability and almost half
fingerlings and multiple harvesting of fish through- (48%) because it provided fish for household con-
out the year. With such high yields of fish produc- sumption (Table 1).
tion, farmers have increasingly sold fish as a cash Stocking Rates. Fingerlings of up to 9 fish
crop, over and above their household consump- species were stocked at varying densities with a
tion. The majority of fish farmers stocked their mean of 14,130 fingerlings/ha (Table 2).12
ponds from April to June and began harvesting The size of fingerlings stocked varied. Only
some fish after 3 months, with subsequent harvests 17% of respondents stocked fingerlings shorter than
at intervals until the end of the year, thereby pro- 5 centimeters (cm). The majority (58%) stocked 5–
viding food and cash for the households for much 7 cm fingerlings, and the others (25%) stocked fin-
of the year. gerlings of 8–10 cm or larger. Most commonly
Seed Supply. At present, there is abundant
carp seed supply in many parts of Bangladesh, in- 11 In the Greater Mymensingh area, carp seed prices at nurseries in
cluding Kishoreganj, from a large number of hatch- 2003 were Tk0.10–0.15 per fingerling (4–5 cm long); seed traders
sold these fingerlings to farmers at Tk0.20–0.25 each.
eries, and carp seed prices have declined in recent 12 The unit of account for land in Bangladesh is commonly expressed
years. Nursing fish larvae to fingerlings is commonly in decimals. 1 acre of land = 100 decimals; and 1 hectare (ha) =
carried out in small-scale household nurseries in 2.47 acres.

(62%), ponds were stocked once per year, 15% of Table 3: Disposal of Fish by Respondents in
respondents stocked twice per year, 22% stocked Kishoreganj
three times per year, and 1% stocked five times
per year. The length of the culture period was Disposal Mean
9–12 months. (kg)
Fertilizers and Feeds. Nearly all the respon-
Annual Amount Sold as Reported by
dents (98%) used fertilizers in pond culture, mainly Respondents (n=100) 243.7
cow manure (87%) and urea (88%), but also poul- Annual Amount Consumed as Reported by
try manure (15%) and triple superphosphate (59%) Respondents (n=99) 56.0
at varying frequencies.13 Supplementary feeds were
kg = kilogram, n = number of respondents.
used by 99% of the respondents, rice bran by all
100%, oil cake by 91%, banana leaves by 22%, grass
by 21%, and wheat bran by 5%.14 Most of the surveyed farmers (70%) did not sell
Frequency of Harvest. Frequent partial har- directly to consumers, but dealt with market inter-
vests were practiced by 42% of the households. mediaries. None of the surveyed farmers sold fish
Three partial harvests per year were made by 34% beyond their upazila because of distances, incon-
of the respondents. Less common were harvesting venience, and transportation constraints.
once per year (6%), twice per year (15%), and four Alternative Uses of On-Farm Resources. An
times per year (3%). Almost half of the respon- important feature of the use of on-farm resources
dents did not harvest fish by themselves. They is their alternative uses. For example, farmers use
hired local laborers specialized in harvesting. A few cow manure for both aquaculture and agricultural
(8%) respondents reported that traders arranged crops. Two thirds of the respondents (69%) reported
fish harvesting for them and 2% had help from that they had enough cow manure for aquaculture,
relatives. but only 4% purchased manure. Rice bran also has
Perennial Ponds. Although fishponds in alternative competing uses. Nearly all the respon-
Kishoreganj are popularly referred to as perennial dents (90%) milled their own rice and used the bran
ponds, 42% of the respondents reported that their to feed fish as a primary use (89%); 11% used rice
ponds were either drained or dried up on some bran to feed their livestock as a primary use.
occasions. Among those who reported dry ponds,
74% said their ponds dried up during winter; the 13 On average, annual fertilization rates were 2.5 t of cow manure/
others (26%) pumped water out of their ponds. In ha, 570 kg/ha of poultry manure, 495 kg/ha of urea, and 320 kg/ha
terms of frequency of drying, only 5% experienced of triple superphosphate. Fishpond
dry ponds every year for a limited period, 67% for 14 Annual feeding rates per ha were on average using 474 kg of rice harvest for the
a limited period every 2–3 years, and 28% every 4 bran, 536 kg wheat bran, and 665 kg of oil cake. local market
years or more. 15 Winrock International. January 2004. Mymensingh Aquaculture and household
Extension Component, Impact Evaluation Study. Dhaka. consumption
Fish Yields and Incomes. The productivity
of fishponds of the surveyed farmers was high. The
average extrapolated annual fishpond yield in this
study was 3.1 t/ha. This is comparable to yields of
fishponds in the Greater Mymensingh area, which
averaged 3.3 t/ha in 2001.15 Almost all respon-
dents practiced good pond management with high
stocking rates because fingerlings, feeds, and fer-
tilizers were readily available and accessible by the
majority of farmers. The respondent farmers ben-
efited from sales and consumption of fish (Table
3). In 2002, they received an average farm gate
price of Tk39 per kilogram (kg), gross revenues of
Tk9,500/household, and net incomes of Tk5,400/
household from fish farming.
Marketing. The marketing chain for fish is
short, with most of the farmers selling their fish
locally, either in their own village or at an upazila
market. Farmers sold their fish at the farm gate to
collectors, wholesalers, and local agents, and at the
village or upazila markets directly to consumers.

Constraints and Risks. About half (54%)
of the respondents believed that they could pro-
duce more fish mainly by improving pond manage-
ment, using more inputs and better seed, and
acquiring further knowledge of fish farming. One
constraint was that they felt they had inadequate
technical knowledge, despite the generally good
performance of their fishponds (Table 4). There
were no serious problems in feed supply, labor
availability, water quality and supply, fish diseases,
fish predation and mortality, or marketing. How-
ever, farmers faced constraints related to access to
credit, transportation, access to ponds, and prices
of inorganic fertilizers. The major risks were
floods, cyclones, and theft. None of the respon-
dents considered that fish farming posed any
health risks.

Fishpond close Multipurpose Ponds. All of the surveyed

to homestead households used their fishponds for several other FISH FARMERS
purposes: washing clothes (94%), bathing (87%),
washing dishes (62%), livestock (21%), cooking Human Capital
(18%), and drinking water after filtering (1%).
None used pond water for irrigating crops. There Nearly all (97%) the respondents were born in the
were few water-use conflicts. village in which they currently resided, and most
were Muslim (83%), the others being Hindu.
Households were large, comprising an average of
Table 4: Constraints and Risks Reported by Respondent
7.1 family members with males and females in
Fish Farming Households in Kishoreganj (n=100)
equal proportions. An average of 40% of family
Constraints and Risks Respondents (%) members were below 18-years old but only 19%
of family members were in school. Although pri-
Inadequate Technical Knowledge 96 mary education is compulsory, not all children
Inadequate or Lack of Access to Credit 61
attend school. They often have to work in the
Lack of Transport 57
Poor Road Condition 36 home; for some households, schooling and its
Lack of Access to Ponds 34 associated costs are unaffordable.
Floods 24 All the respondent household heads were
High Price of Inorganic Fertilizers 21 male. Most (76%) were 31–50 years old; a few
Inadequate Supply of Fish Seed 20
were younger (9%) or older (15%). Of the
Rainstorms or Cyclones 17
Fish Theft 14 spouses, 42% were less than 30-years old, half
(53%) were 31–50 years old, and 5% more than
n = number of respondents. 50-years old. Overall, the educational status of the
households was low, with a quarter of the house-
Table 5: Educational Status of Respondent Male Household Heads and
hold heads and fully two thirds of the spouses hav-
Their Spouses in Kishoreganj ing no education (Table 5).
The most important primary occupations of
Educational Status Household Heads Spouses the household heads, in terms of time spent, were
(%, n=100) (%, n=99) rice farming16 and microenterprise; only a few
No Education 27 67
respondents said that fish farming was their main
Primary (class1–5) 37 21 occupation (Table 6). However, fish farming and
Secondary (class 6–10) 24 9 rice farming were their two most important sec-
SSC (class 10 pass) 9 1 ondary occupations. Nearly all the spouses (94%)
HSC (class 12 pass) 0 2
Undergraduate, University/College 3 0
16 Nearly all respondents (93%) cultivated rice, with an average
production of 4.4 t (unmilled) per crop per ha; 42% of these
n = number of respondents, HSC = higher secondary certificate, SSC = secondary school
households grew one crop annually, and 58% grew two crops per

Table 6: Occupations of Respondent Household Heads and Their Spouses, and Household Income Sources in

Household Head Spouse Household Income Source

(n=100) (n=99) (n=100)
Primary Secondary Primary Secondary First Second Third
(%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%)

Fish Farming 6 25 0 5 6 12 66
Rice Farming 38 26 0 0 38 27 10
Sharecropper 2 9 0 0 4 10 1
Livestock 0 1 3 0 0 4 10
Wage Labor 7 3 1 1 7 4 0
Carpentry 1 0 0 0 1 0 0
Office Worker 7 1 2 0 8 2 2
Vendor/Trader 4 6 0 0 2 9 1
Microenterprise 21 3 0 0 21 6 0
Rickshaw Driver 1 2 0 0 2 1 0
Capture Fishing 8 14 0 0 8 13 1
School Teacher 3 0 0 0 1 0 0
Boat operator 2 0 0 0 2 0 0
Other Crops 0 10 0 0 0 12 9
Homemaker 0 0 94 6 0 0 0
None 0 0 0 88 0 0 0

n = number of respondents.

were homemakers and most (88%) had no other Table 7: Gender Roles of Respondents in Kishoreganj in Fish Farming
job; 5% were engaged in fish farming as a second- Activities (n=100)
ary occupation. The majority (66%) of respon-
dents reported fish farming as the third most Activity Only Male Only Female Shared No Response
(%) (%) (%) (%)
important source of household income.
Respondents had an average of 6.3 years of Pond Preparation 90 0 1 9
experience in fish farming: 14% reported up to Fingerling Procurement 100 0 0 0
2 years of experience and 43% reported 3–5 years. Feed Procurement 88 0 12 0
Fish farming activities were almost entirely male Fertilizer Procurement 90 0 10 0
Fertilization 85 0 15 0
dominated (Table 7), with women significantly
Feeding Fish 61 2 37 0
involved in feeding the fish only. Harvesting Fish 99 0 1 0
Grading Fish 93 0 3 4
Natural Capital Marketing Fish 100 0 0 0

n = number of respondents.
Access to homestead land and water is critical. The
surveyed households were either marginal farm-
ers or small landholders with an average of 0.06 and 6% had use rights under lease arrangements.
ha of homestead land and 0.11 ha of ponds or Annual leasing rates averaged about Tk25,700/ha,
ditches. Most (88%) had agricultural land with an for periods of 1–5 years.
average area of 0.31 ha. Almost none (2%) had Respondent fish farmers relied on groundwater
fallow land, and 12% of the households leased part and rainfall. Although most of them did not report
of their land to others. significant constraints related to water quality or
The majority of households (88%) had a single supply, 40% said that seasonality influenced the
pond, and the remainder had 2 or 3 ponds. Most availability of water for fish farming. The majority
of the households acquired their ponds through of respondents caught wild fish from their own
inheritance (67%) or land reform (24%); other ponds (69%) and elsewhere near their farm (79%).
means were leasing (6%), purchase (2%), and
dowry (1%). The average pond water surface area Social Capital
was 0.1 ha. The ponds were generally more than
10 years old (82%). While 68% of the respondents The surveyed farmers had not received help from
reported single ownership of ponds, 26% were co- DOF directly and all used local knowledge in their
owners under a multiple ownership arrangement, current fish farming practices, usually from other

Table 8: Sources of Information on Aquaculture of
wood and galvanized metal. The major assets
Repondents in Kishoreganj (n=100) owned by respondents were a radio (38%), bicycle
(33%), boat (26%), television (14%), and fishing
Source of Information Respondents (%) net (10%). Most (85%) had scavenging poultry,
70% had a cow for milk, and 22% had a bullock.
Other Farmers 90
Friends or Neighbors 40
Most respondents reported some difficulties in
Radio 20 accessing various facilities (Table 9), although a
Government Sources 9 large number did not; however, none of them
Hatcheries 8 claimed that they had easy access to these facilities.
Printed Materials 7 For drinking water, virtually all (97%) had access to
Nongovernment Organizations 2
Seed Traders 2
a tubewell as the main source of drinking water; the
others depended on filtered water from ponds or riv-
n = number of respondents. ers. All respondents had access to a toilet.18
Various sources of fuel were used for cooking,
farmers and also from friends and neighbors (Table mainly wood (91%), rice straw (72%), and jute
8). However, the technology had been introduced sticks (80%); and to a lesser extent, cow manure
into the area initially through projects, such as the (35%) and leaf litter (22%). Only 3% used kero-
MAEP and the ADB-financed Second Aquaculture sene and 2% had electricity.
Development Project. Diffusion of the information
was clearly effective and this was because it was Financial Capital
based on feasible, simple, low-cost ways to improve
fish farming. Two thirds of the respondents (69%) relied on
However, some (22%) of the respondent farm- their own financial resources for operating fish-
ers had received training for up to 30 days on ponds. The others obtained an average of Tk6,000
aquaculture, integrated farming, or livestock. Only credit from various sources including moneylend-
13% of the respondents were members of a village ers, relatives, friends, nongovernment organizations,
association, a government-sponsored association, banks, cooperatives, and government-sponsored
or a nongovernment organization, but few of these programs. Respondents quoted several reasons for
associations were directly involved in the dissemi- not accessing financial assistance: some did not need
nation of fish farming technology. Thus, the it, while complex procedures was the main reason
demand for advice and information on fish farm- that others did not avail of credit (Table 10). Farm-
ing technology was high. More than half (55%) of ers frequently used credit obtained for fish farming
the respondents indicated their willingness to pay for other purposes, including farming other crops
a modest amount in cash or in kind (a portion of and personal needs. This reflects the need for credit
their harvest), for advice that could increase their flexibility and fungibility. Among farmers who have
fish harvest.17 used credit, 90% claimed that they had no problem
in repaying their loans.
Physical Capital Less than half (42%) of the respondents
reported accumulating savings; of those who did,
All respondents reported owning their house or the average savings were Tk1,750 per year from
dwelling unit. The houses were basic and most fish farming and Tk2,500 from other sources. Sav-
were built with light materials, such as bamboo, ings were used for vaarious purposes, with many
rice straw, jute sticks, leaves, or earth, and usually respondents spending their savings on basic needs
(Table 11).
Table 9: Access to Facilities by Repondents in Kishoreganj (n=100)
17 Fish farming households clearly appreciated the benefits that
Facility Very Difficult Neither Difficult Easy Very aquaculture had brought to their welfare. Privatization of extension
Difficult nor Easy Easy services appears to be a feasible strategy to reach a large number of
farmers and potential new entrant farmers in aquaculture. The MAEP
recruited extension trainers locally with the intention that they would
Communication 51 41 8 0 0 become private extension agents. A number of them operated privately,
Medical 31 50 19 0 0 received payment in cash or in kind for their advisory services, shared
Transportation 27 48 25 0 0 crops with pond owners, or facilitated input supply and marketing of
Electricity 17 59 24 0 0
Reliable Water Supply 18 Access to toilet facilities comprised 46% to a kacha (made of
for Households 5 32 63 0 0 bamboo with a thatched shelter and inadequate drainage disposal),
52% to a semi-pacca (made of wood/galvanized metal with a squat
Toilet 1 39 60 0 0 plate over a pit latrine) and 2% to a pacca (made of brick with a
water seal squat plate). In rural Bangladesh, these sanitary features
n = number of respondents. are often used as features in household wealth ranking.

Table 10: Major Reasons of Repondents in Kishoreganj
(16%), 2 months (54%), 3 months (24%), and
for Not Acquiring Credit 4 months (6%). Months with the greatest food
deficit were June–August and November–January
Respondents (n=69) (Table 13), coinciding with crop-growing periods
Reason as well as social and religious events when house-
n %
holds had major expenses.
Complex Procedures 33 48 The main coping strategies (Table 14) for
Do Not Require Credit 15 22 overcoming crisis situations were loans from
Credit is Unavailable 8 12 friends, neighbors, or relatives, adjustment to
Unfavorable Interest Rates meals or reduced food intake, and sale of livestock.
and Other Conditions 8 12
Do Not Know How to Acquire
Credit 4 5 Benefits from Fish Farming
Fear of Misusing Credit 1 1
Total 69 100 Overall, the perceptions among the respondents of
the benefits of fish farming were very optimistic.
n = number of respondents.

Table 13: Months with Inadequate Food of Repondents

Table 11: Utilization of Savings by Repondents in in Kishoreganj (n=100)
Kishoreganj (n=100)
Month Respondents (%)
Purpose Respondents (%)
January 18
Children’s Education 34 February 9
Health Expenditures 31 March 1
Housing 26 April 1
Clothes 19 May 9
Land Purchase and Rental 19 June 41
Festivals and Social Obligations 5 July 34
Purchase of Livestock 3 August 28
Other Reasons 6 September 11
October 6
n = number of respondents. November 34
December 30

n = number of respondents.
Vulnerability and Coping Strategies

Many respondents were exposed to one or more cri- Table 14: Crisis Coping Strategies of Repondents in
sis situations to which they were vulnerable (Table Kishoreganj (n=100)
12). The most serious were illnesses of household
members, shortage of food, and damage due to Strategy Respondents (%)
floods, erosion, excess rain, and cyclones. Loans from Various Sources 79
All of the surveyed households reported food Loans from Friends, Neighbors, and
shortages for varying periods each year: 1 month Relatives 64
Loans from Money Lenders 9
Loans from Nongovernment
Table 12: Crises of Repondents in Kishoreganj (n=100) Organizations 1
Loans from Banks 5
Crisis Households (%)
Adjustment to Meals 62
Illness of Household Members 82 Sold Poultry, Cows/Bullocks, and
Shortage of Food 48 Small Livestock 32
Flood Damage 32 Sold Crops before Harvest 16
Poor Production of Rice 29 Change of Occupation 13
River Bank Erosion 24 Sold Trees 9
Cyclone or Wind Damage 21 Sold Agricultural Produce at Reduced
Excess Rain 16 or Low Prices 7
Loss of Employment 5 Sold or Rented Out Farmland 6
Theft 5 Sold Household Assets 4
Loss of Land 5 Seasonal Migration 2
Dowry 5 Pledged Labor 1

n = number of respondents. n = number of respondents.

of natural resources for fish farming had not de-
clined, (iv) access to aquaculture technology had
improved, and (v) the adoption of fish farming
technology had increased. The respondents were
optimistic about their future in fish farming and
anticipated that they would continue to benefit
from aquaculture.
The vast majority (90%) of the respondents
said they would continue to farm fish; the others
were undecided. Primary reasons for continuing to
farm fish were profitability, household consump-
tion, and employment generation. Household con-
sumption of fish among farm households was high.
All respondents reported consuming fish an aver-
age of 5 times per week, far exceeding the fre-
quency of consumption of other animal protein of
Fishponds Asked about their situation relative to that 5 years less than once per week. Those who were unde-
provide ago, the surveyed households overwhelmingly con- cided about continuing to farm fish were con-
nutrition to firmed that (i) their food and fish consumption had cerned about potential conflict related to multiple
increased, (ii) they had benefited from employment pond ownership, inadequate knowledge, low prof-
and cash incomes from fish farming, (iii) conditions itability, and insufficient time for fish farming.


This case study was undertaken to provide an over-
view of freshwater aquaculture of tilapia in the
context of production, consumption, markets,
prices, marketing channels, access to inputs, sup-
port services, and relevant lessons.1
The Philippines is an archipelago of 7,100 is-
lands covering 299,735 square kilometers (km2),
with a total coastline of approximately 17,460 km.
The inland waters comprise brackish- and fresh-
water swamplands (3,384 km2), fishponds (2,538
km2), lakes (2,000 km2), rivers, and reservoirs
(500 km2).2
Valued at P107 billion in 2001, the fisheries
sector accounted for 2.3% of the Philippine gross
domestic product (GDP) in that year. The sector
employs directly or indirectly, at least one million
Filipinos.3 Net exports of fish and fishery products farmed in the Philippines and throughout tropical Figure 1:
in 2001 were valued at $443.5 million. In 2002, Asia and the Pacific and has been called an “aquatic Aquaculture,
and commercial
artisanal capture fisheries,4 commercial capture chicken,” suitable for farming in diverse systems,
and artisanal
fisheries, and aquaculture contributed 29%, 31%, from backyard ponds to large commercial ponds and fisheries
and 40%, respectively, to total fish production of cages.6 production
3.37 million metric tons (t). From 1991 to 2002, in the
total fisheries production grew by 2.4% annually. 1 N. Bestari and A. Morales undertook this country case study in Philippines,
collaboration with B. Katon and R. Pullin. 1991–2002
Artisanal fisheries production declined during this
2Philippine Fisheries Profile 2001. Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic
period by 1.3% because of overfishing and envi- Resources (BFAR). Philippines: Quezon City.
ronmental degradation, while commercial fisher- 3Rivera-Guieb, Rebecca, Alexander Boyd-Hagart, Jocel Pangilinan,
ies production grew by 2.9% from the opening of and Ronet Santos. 2002. Aquatic Resources in the Philippines and the
new fishing areas and new technologies. Over the Extent of Poverty in the Sector. Quezon City, Philippines: Voluntary
Service Overseas (Philippines). These figures are probably
same period, aquaculture grew by 6.2%, playing underestimates because of the difficulties of collecting comprehensive
an increasing role in food security and livelihoods data.
(Figure 1). Tilapia has gained wide acceptance 4 Artisanalfisheries in the Philippines are subsistence and small-scale
fishing operations including the use of a boat of up to 3 gross tons
among consumers, and dominates farmed fresh- displacement.
water fish production in the country, particularly 5 In common with all other stocks of this species that were then being
in Region III (Central Luzon) and Region IV tried for aquaculture in Asia and the Pacific, its origin was a population
(Southern Tagalog). of only two females and three males, discovered in 1938 in an
Indonesian coastal pond, probably introduced from East Africa by
Tilapias are native only to Africa and the traders. All of these Asia-Pacific stocks of O. mossambicus subsequently
Levant. There are no native species with comparable performed poorly in aquaculture, probably in part because of this
genetic history.
characteristics for aquaculture in the Philippines.
6 (i) The history of tilapia farming and introductions was described
The first tilapia introduced to the Philippines was the by Guerrero, Rafael D. III, and Melchor M. Tayamen. 1988. Philippines.
Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus), In Tilapia Genetic Resources for Aquaculture, edited by Roger S.V. Pullin.
ICLARM Conference Proceedings 16. p. 42–44. Manila. (ii) The name
imported from Thailand in 1950.5 The Nile tilapia “aquatic chicken” has its origin in the paper Maclean, Jay L. 1984.
(O. niloticus) was first introduced to the Philippines Tilapia: The Aquatic Chicken. ICLARM Newsletter 7 (1): 17. (iii) Tilapia
farming in the Philippines was described by: Guerrero, Rafael D. III.
in 1972 and rapidly gained popularity with farmers 1997. A Guide to Tilapia Farming. Bay, Laguna, Philippines: Aquatic
and consumers. It is now the main species of tilapia Biosystems. 70 p.

revolution areas, not CDR areas. Freshwater aqua-
culture has demonstrated its importance in the
former mainly for urban and rural fish supply, but
has considerable underdeveloped potential for
rural livelihoods and fish supply.
By the mid-1980s, more than 20 generations
of Nile tilapia breeding in the Philippines had gone
by with no systematic application of genetics to
improve performance. Moreover, some stocks had
interbred with the less desirable O. mossambicus.13
The International Center for Living Aquatic
Resources Management (ICLARM), Manila, then
incorporated the application of genetics in aquac-
ulture as a major thrust of its strategic research

7 This work was undertaken principally by the National Freshwater

Fisheries Technology Center (NFTTC) of the Philippine Bureau of
Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), the Freshwater Aquaculture
Center (FAC) of Central Luzon State University (CLSU), and the
Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC). Their
programs laid the foundations of Philippine freshwater aquaculture
Loading cage- and continue to support its expansion.
farmed tilapia HISTORY 8 More than 20 years ago, small-scale integrated farming was
onto a boat considered to have potential in the Philippines and on-station research
Substantial and continuous programs of fresh- was carried out to determine guidelines and economics. None of the
technologies developed was adopted to any significant extent, largely
water aquaculture research and extension have because of the high costs of keeping and feeding poultry and livestock
been undertaken in the Philippines since 1972.7 in sufficient quantities to manure the ponds. Small-scale farmers also
face difficulties in rearing poultry profitably in small numbers due to
Tilapia farming in fishponds and small-scale res- their inadequate economy of scale, the specialized nature of the
ervoirs developed mainly on irrigated and rainfed business, constraints in accessing financial resources, and the
competitiveness of the market. Some integrated farming of chickens,
rice lands. Cage farming has been practiced since ducks, and pigs with tilapia is practiced in the Philippines (Guerrero
the 1970s in large and small lakes. Other fishponds 1997; footnote 6 [iii]), but is rare compared to intensive pond and
cage farming with pelleted feeds.
(mostly for tilapia) have long been part of small- 9 Rice-fish integrated farming systems research and development have
scale, mixed enterprise farms in the uplands and been pursued for decades by FAC/CLSU. Rice-fish farming in the
other remote areas. However, most freshwater narrow sense (i.e., raising fish and rice concurrently in ricefields to
marketable or consumable size) has very limited prospects in green
aquaculture in the Philippines has developed as a revolution areas, where even the nursing of tilapia fry to advanced
specialized enterprise: with fish as a cash crop fingerlings faces problems. A major thrust in current rice research is
to reduce the amount and depth of water needed.
and not as a component of the kinds of integrated
agriculture-aquaculture farming systems that have Yap, Wilfredo G. 1999. Rural Aquaculture in the Philippines. RAP
Publication 1999/20. Bangkok: Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific,
typified its history in much of Asia.8 Similarly, rice- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 102 p.
fish integrated farming has not prospered in the 11 Chambers, Robert, Arnold Pacey, and Lori Ann Thrupp, Editors.
Philippines and its future prospects seem limited.9 1989. Farmer First, Farmer Innovation and Agricultural Research.
London, Intermediate Technology Publications. 218 p.
Tilapia farming in the Philippines has been and re-
mains a specialized enterprise, regardless of scale, Integration of aquaculture has potential for small-scale farmers in
resource-poor areas in the Philippines. Upland farmers in Quirino
while it retains an artisanal character.10 Province have derived ecological as well as economic benefits from
The course of Philippine freshwater aquacul- using on-farm materials, such as rice bran, straw, and hulls; spoiled
fruit and vegetables; and chopped leaves and livestock manure in
ture history has followed that of Philippine agri- pond culture. See: Prein, Mark, Roberto Oficial, Mary Anne Bimbao,
culture. Developing-country agriculture can be and Teresita Lopez. 2002. Aquaculture for Diversification of Small
Farms within Forest Buffer Zone Management: an Example from the
classified into two types: green revolution and Uplands of Quirino Province, Philippines. In Rural Aquaculture, edited
resource poor.11 The former is found in fertile “ag- by Peter Edwards, David C. Little, and Harvey Demaine. Wallingford,
UK: CABI Publishing. p. 97–109.
ricultural heartlands,” which are usually either 13 The genetics of tilapias farmed in the Philippines up to the late
irrigated or rainfed lowlands near major urban 1980s were reviewed by Pullin, Roger S.V., and Josephine B. Capili.
areas; for example, much of Central Luzon in the 1988. Genetic Improvement of Tilapias: Problems and Prospects. In
the Second International Symposium on Tilapia in Aquaculture, edited
Philippines. The latter, usually abbreviated to CDR by Roger S.V. Pullin, Thirapan Bhukasawan, Kamonporn Tonguthai,
(complex, diverse, risk prone) agriculture, is found and Jay L. Maclean. ICLARM Conference Proceedings 15. p. 259–266.
Manila. The interbreeding of O. niloticus and O. mossambicus in the
where farming systems are much more fragile; for Philippines was reported by Macaranas, Julie M., Nobuhiku Taniguchi,
example, much of the Philippine uplands.12 Phil- Maria Josepha R. Pante, Josephine B. Capili, and Roger S.V. Pullin.
1986. Electrophoretic Evidence for Extensive Hybrid Gene
ippine freshwater aquaculture and most tilapia Introgression into Commercial Oreochromis niloticus (L.) Stocks in
pond farming have developed mainly in green the Philippines. Aquaculture and Fisheries Management 17: 249–258.

with national partners in the Philippines and in
other tropical developing countries. From the late
1980s, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and
other donors contributed funds for this research on
genetic improvement of farmed tilapias and dis-
semination of improved breeds.14 Many farmers in
the Philippines gained rapid access to improved
tilapia strains. Farmed tilapia production increased
more than five-fold from 1981 to 2001, largely
because of improved breeds, increased access to
and availability of input supply and commercial
feed, sustained technical support and extension,
and cooperation among the government, the pri-
vate sector, and regional and international organi-
zations. 15 The rapid rise in farmed tilapia
production has been enabled by an increasing
demand for a relatively cheap fish for national food
security, partly due to the decline in artisanal cap- and cages accounted for 91.2% of the total tilapia Figure 2:
ture fisheries production over the last decade. aquaculture production of 106,618 t.18 The total Production of
farmed tilapia
farm gate value of all Philippine tilapia production
in the
in 2001 was P5.13 billion ($102 million) and tilapia
PRODUCTION AND ranked second among the major fish species farmed.
CONSUMPTION Regions III (Central Luzon) and IV (Southern Taga-
log)19 have been consistently the major production
The Philippines Department of Agriculture has pre-
pared a tilapia master plan; proposed directions for 14 The development of genetically improved farmed tilapias (GIFT)
tilapia farming up to 2010; and identified through selective breeding was partly financed by ADB under TA 5279-
REG: Genetic Improvement of Tilapia Species in Asia, for $475,000,
strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and approved on 8 March 1988. ADB also supported dissemination of
threats.16 This master plan addresses strategic tar- GIFT through TA 5558-REG: Dissemination and Evaluation of
Genetically Improved Tilapia Species in Asia (DEGITA), for $600,000,
gets to meet projected long-term growth, identify- approved on 14 December 1993. The institutional impacts of the GIFT
ing strategic actions to encourage stakeholder project included the establishment in 1993 of the ICLARM (now the
WorldFish Center)-coordinated International Network on Genetics in
participation, and identifying and establishing Aquaculture (INGA:, now
mechanisms that optimize stakeholder coopera- comprising 13 developing country and 12 advanced research
institutional members. In 1997, ICLARM, CLSU, and BFAR established
tion, coordination, communications, and monitor- the GIFT Foundation International Incorporated, a nonstock, nonprofit
ing. By 2010, the Philippines aims to increase corporation that continues breeding research and seed supply with
GIFT strains. In 1999, the GIFT Foundation International Incorporated
production of farmed tilapia to 250,000 t (from assigned to Genomar ASA ( the commercial rights
122,000 t in 2002), reduce production costs, export and brand name of the GIFT Super Tilapia through a public-private
partnership. The DEGITA project distributed GIFT strain tilapias to
tilapia, increase consumption of tilapia, and expand Bangladesh, People’s Republic of China, Philippines, Thailand, and
employment opportunities. While the Government’s Viet Nam, with on-station and on-farm evaluation of their
program for fisheries and the master plan for tila-
15 Guerrero, Rafael D. III. 1994., cited in Paclibare, Jose. Development
pia have charted the development of tilapia farm-
of Commercial Aquaculture in the Philippines: A Policy Perspective.
ing in the Philippines, major challenges lie ahead Paper prepared as part of the FAO/NACA/SEAFDEC Regional Study
to fulfilling these targets and increasing the rel- on Commercial Aquaculture Development in Southeast Asia. Quezon
City, Philippines. (In press)
evance of tilapia farming for small-scale farmers
16 The Tilapia Masterplan was prepared by the Philippines Department
and the poor. of Agriculture. January 2002. This master plan is featured in the
Production. Based on production data of objectives of a new trade association, Philippine Tilapia, Inc., founded
in 2003.
1985–2001, the supply of tilapia in the Philippines
is all produced domestically, about 79% from In 1996, the average landholding of tilapia pond farmers in the
country was 3.53 ha. Source: Regaspi, Priscilla 1997, cited by Olalo,
aquaculture and the remainder from inland fish- Celestino. 2001.Production, Accessibility and Consumption Patterns
eries. Total tilapia production in this period grew of Aquaculture Products in the Philippines. In Production, Accessibility
and Consumption Patterns of Aquaculture Products in Asia: A Cross-
on average by 6% per annum while total tilapia Country Comparison. FAO Fisheries Circular 973. 275 p. Rome.
aquaculture and total tilapia freshwater aquacul- 18 Available:
ture production grew by 8.5% and 8.8%, respec- 19 Region III (Central Luzon) comprises the provinces of Aurora,
tively (Figure 2), the difference in total amounts Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac, and Zambales.
being due to a small component of brackishwater Region IV (Southern Tagalog) comprises the provinces of Batangas,
Cavite, Laguna, Marinduque, Mindoro, Palawan, Quezon, Rizal, and
tilapia aquaculture. In 2001, freshwater fishponds17 Romblon.

areas, contributing 48.4% (51,595 t) and 31.2% consumption increased by 24.9% and milkfish
(33,297 t) of total farmed tilapia production, re- (Chanos chanos) consumption declined by
spectively, in 2001. 12.5%. 21 Consumer acceptance of tilapia has
Tilapia production is characterized by lean and increased its share of total fish consumption.
peak production periods. Production is highest dur-
ing the second quarter of the year because farmers
time their harvests to coincide with local fiestas PRICES, MARGINS,
and religious events (especially Lent and Holy
Week). During Lent and Holy Week most Filipinos
abstain from eating meat and demand for fish is INCOMES
high. Production is lowest in the third quarter
when there is greatest risk of typhoons in areas Prices. The average nominal wholesale price of
within the typhoon belt. These include the main tilapia during 1985–2001 was P34.16/kg. Prices
tilapia farming areas, regions III and IV. grew on average by 8.3%/year and more than
Seasonality of production has an impact on doubled (2.5 times) over the period. The average
tilapia market price. Generally, prices are higher retail price for tilapia during 1985-2001 was
during lean months and lower during peak P45.47/kg, an average annual growth of 6.9%.
months. However, an analysis of the production While tilapia prices have increased in nominal terms,
trends and price variations indicates that tilapia they have declined in real terms.22 Wholesale and
prices in nominal terms have increased in times of retail real prices annually declined by 2.8% and
increasing total supply, partly because of rising 4.3%, respectively, in constant 2001 prices (Figure
costs of feed, which represents 70–80% of total 3). This means that wholesale and retail prices of
variable production costs. Tilapia prices also tilapia fell 44% and 69%, respectively, over the
depend on the seasonality of demand for tilapia. 17-year period. Tilapia has become more affordable
For instance, a high demand for tilapia and fish for the poor. In 1997–2001, the average wholesale
products during the second quarter of the year price/kg of tilapia (P45.4) was lower than that of
leads to higher tilapia prices for farmers.20 milkfish (P63.4) but higher than that of round scad
Consumption. Fish is an important compo- (P38.5). Average retail prices of tilapia, milkfish, and
nent of the Filipino diet and a valuable source of round scad were P60.9, P71.5, and P52.0,
animal protein and other nutrients. The per capita respectively, during the same period.
consumption of fish and fish products amounted Margins. The average nominal (nominal and
to 36 kg/year in 1993, based on data from the Food real prices) marketing margin between wholesale
Figure 3: and Nutrition Research Institute of the Philippines. and retail for tilapia in 1985–2001 was P11.3/
Wholesale and Most consumption is of marine fish. Among the kg.23 In terms of 2001 constant prices, the average
retail prices of freshwater fish, tilapia is dominant and its per marketing margin was P13.7/kg. The high margin
tilapia in the capita consumption increased from an average of for the period is attributed to abundant supply that
0.66 kg/year (1979–1988) to an average of 1.61 drove down wholesale prices in some years but did
(nominal and kg/year (1989–1997), an increase of 144.5%. Dur- not dampen retail prices as much. The high mar-
real prices) ing the same period, round scad (Decapterus spp.) gins obtained from tilapia trading, especially dur-
ing the late 1980s, attracted the free entry of

20 For example, average tilapia prices were highest (P41.74/kg)

during the 2nd quarter in 1993–1997, relative to the other 3 quarters.
During the same period, average tilapia prices were lowest in the 3rd
quarter, despite that quarter having the lowest quarterly production
(16.45%). The same relationships are reflected using seasonal indexes
of production and prices (see Olalo 2001, footnote 17).
21 The milkfish, locally called bangus, has been traditionally the most
popular and widely farmed fresh- and brackishwater fish in the
Philippines. Round scads (Decapterus spp.), locally called galunggong,
have been traditionally the most popular and affordable marine fish
for the poor.
22 Realor constant prices are determined after the effects of inflation
have been eliminated. Nominal prices refer to the current value of a
good or commodity during a particular period or year.
23 The marketing margin is the difference between wholesale and
retail prices. The scarcity of ex-farm price data precluded computations
on grower-wholesaler margins. Nonetheless, interviews with tilapia
wholesalers indicated an average margin of P2–5/kg between
wholesale and farm gate prices in 2001.

additional tilapia traders and producers, making
the market more competitive. However, during
1997–2001, marketing margins declined annually
by 1% and 7% in nominal and real terms, respec-
tively. Market competitiveness led to the exit of inef-
ficient traders as margins fell. The decline in
marketing margins in real terms in 1997–2001 was
also attributable to improved access to facilities and
competitive marketing practices, which reduced
marketing costs. Low-income consumers are
expected to benefit more as increased market com-
petition leads to lower market prices for tilapia.
Elasticity. Demand and supply elasticities of
fishery products, including tilapia,24 indicate the
responsiveness of supply or demand to price
changes. Tilapia has a supply elasticity of 0.5–0.6,
which indicates that a 10% increase in the price of
tilapia translates into a 5–6% increase in market
supply. For demand elasticities, latest estimates
range from 1.24 for the lowest-income group to
0.99 for high-income groups.25 This implies that
lower-income groups tend to respond dispropor-
tionately to price changes. For example, a 10%
decrease in tilapia prices should increase its con-
sumption by low-income groups by 12.4%. The
demand for tilapia also responds to income
changes. Income elasticity estimates indicate a
shift from elastic for low- to middle-income groups
to inelastic for higher-income groups. This implies
that increases in incomes of low- to middle-income
consumers would trigger higher rates of change in
tilapia consumption than would similar increases
in income of high-income consumers. ponds and cages in 2002 were 4.5 tons per hectare Roadside tilapia
Price changes of other products that can either (t/ha) and 15.8 t/ha, respectively.28 Surveys con- retailer
be complements or substitutes also affect tilapia ducted for the present study indicated that a 1-ha
consumption. Two products are considered as
complements if the consumption of one product 24 For example: Dey, Madan M. 2000. The impact of genetically
will not lead to a reduction in the consumption of improved farmed tilapia. Aquaculture Economics and Management 4(1–
the other product. In contrast, substitute goods 2): 109–126. See also Estrada, J., and Cynthia Bantilan. 1991. Supply
and Demand Elasticities of Major Agricultural Commodities in the
exhibit an inverse relationship. Tilapia prices are Philippines: National and Regional Estimates. ACIAR/ISNAR Project
generally lower if there is an abundant supply of Paper No. 36. 29p., as cited by Olalo 2001 (see footnote 17).

popular low-priced marine fish in the market, par- 25 The study “Analysis of Fish Demand in the Philippines” was
conducted by Dr. Yolanda T. Garcia, Dr. Madan Dey, and Ms. Sheryl
ticularly of those species considered as its substi- M. Navarez as part of the Philippine Component of ADB TA 5945:
tutes. Likewise, if the prices of meat and poultry Study on Strategies and Options for Increasing and Sustaining Fisheries
and Aquaculture Production to Benefit Poor Households in Asia, for
products change, tilapia prices will adjust depend- $1.1 million, approved on 17 October 2000. Using results of the
ing on their price relationships with meat prod- Family Income and Expenditure Survey (2000), the study utilized
quintiles to classify income groups. The first 2 quintiles refer to low-
ucts.26 Available data indicate that round scad, income households, the next 2 quintiles refer to middle-income
milkfish, pork, beef, and poultry are tilapia substi- households, and the fifth quintile refers to high-income households.
tutes. The demand for tilapia responds more to 26 Based on regression results, a positive coefficient implies that the

price changes of round scad (2.24) than to price two products are substitutes. A negative coefficient means that they
are complements.
changes of beef (1.13) and poultry (1.07), respec- 27 Results were obtained from the study of Gomez, C.E. 1986. An Analysis
tively.27 For example, a 10% increase in beef prices of Household Demand for Selected Seafoods in the Philippines.
should result in an increase in demand or con- Unpublished Masters Thesis, University of the Philippines, Los Baños,
Laguna, Philippines, as cited by Olalo 2001 (see footnote 17).
sumption of tilapia of 11.3%.
28 Guerrero, Rafael D. III. 2003. The Philippine Tilapia Industry: An
Farm Yields and Incomes. The national
Overview. 2nd Philippine Tilapia Congress. 13–14 November 2003.
average annual yields of tilapia in freshwater San Fernando, Pampanga, Philippines.

pond in Central Luzon can generate an average technology and management.36 This increased
annual net income of P235,000 over 2 crops; a fish supply has created keen competition among pri-
cage (measuring 10 meters [m] x 10 m x 6–8 m vate hatcheries and also between some private and
deep) can generate an average annual net income government hatcheries.
of P58,000 (based on 2 crop cycles and yields of 3 Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources
t/crop). Average operating expenses per crop cycle (BFAR) staff estimated total tilapia seed produc-
were P213,000/ha for freshwater ponds and tion in 2003 at about 1.02 billion: 900 million from
P121,000/cage. private sources and 120 million from BFAR.37
Estimated potential demand is 2–3 billion seed, of
which BFAR plans to supply about one third
ACCESSING INPUTS FOR through affiliated and accredited private hatcher-
TILAPIA FARMING ies. Government hatcheries are expected to remain
important sources of seed amid the growing num-
Seed Supply. Tilapia seed, i.e., fry and fingerlings,29 ber of private and corporate hatcheries. The Gov-
is raised from captive broodstock in hatcheries and ernment aims to improve food security through
nurseries, respectively, often on the same premises. better technologies and increasing the entry of
Seed supply is critical for the continuity of the pro- small-scale farmers to tilapia farming. Through
duction cycle, normally 2 or 3 crops each year. Tila- BFAR, the Government will likely remain an
pia hatcheries and nurseries can be land- or adjunct supplier and a competitor to private seed
lake-based.30 The former use ponds, tanks, and producers to some extent. The continued presence
hapas (fine mesh net cages) in ponds, and the latter of BFAR in the seed market will benefit small
use hapas and cages in open waters. Seed suppliers
can be categorized in various ways depending on the 29 The Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR)
criteria used: size (small/backyard, medium, large) uses a nationwide system of size (and, therefore, price) categories
for its tilapia seed. Fry and fingerling sizes range from size 38 (up to
based on monthly seed production, and operator 1-week old) to size 12 (about 7-weeks old). The code numbers used
type (public, private, and private-public).31 Seed are actually based on the mesh sizes of the nets used to grade the
fish. For example, “size 24” fry (individual weight 0.045–0.096 g)
accounts for 11% and 18% of total operating costs and “size 22” fry (0.129–0.145 g) cost P0.15–0.25, respectively, in
for pond and cage operations, respectively.32 Based 2000. “Size 17” fingerlings (0.468–1.200 g) and “size 14” fingerlings
(1.30–2.96 g) cost P0.35–0.45. The prices apply to all BFAR strains
on latest estimates, there are more than released in 2000.
2,000 hatcheries and nurseries in the country.33 The 30Guerrero, Rafael D. III. 1985. Tilapia farming in the Philippines:
Government’s program for fisheries for 2002–2004 Practices, Problems and Prospects. In Philippine Tilapia Economics,
emphasizes the importance of producing quality edited by I. Smith, E. Torres, and E. Tan. ICLARM Conference
Proceedings 12. Manila. p. 3–14.
tilapia broodstock and fingerlings, including their
31 Sizes are either based on (i) the size of land: small, less than 3 ha;
genetic improvement, for improving and sustaining medium, 3–5 ha; and large, greater than 5 ha; or (ii) on monthly
fish farming productivity.34 seed production: small, less than 1 million; medium, 1–5 million;
and large, greater than 5 million.
Small-scale hatcheries and nurseries are usu-
ally located near the operator’s homestead. This 32 Based on the results of the survey for this study.
enables close monitoring and the use of family la- 33Information gathered from the 2nd Philippine Tilapia Congress.
13–14 November 2003. San Fernando, Pampanga, Philippines.
bor. Broodstock are usually obtained from govern-
ment or private hatcheries, although some small 34 Ginintuang Masaganang Ani for the Fisheries as cited in University
of Asia and the Pacific. Food and Agribusiness Monitor 18(6), June
and medium-scale operators keep their own 2002.
broodstock. Broodstock are replaced after 1–2 35 Nile tilapias are sexually mature when they are 6-months old and
years. On average, hatcheries achieve 9–12 breed- are easy to breed in ponds, tanks, and hapas (fine mesh cages). After
spawning, the fertilized eggs are immediately taken into the female’s
ing cycles in a year. More advanced commercial mouth and incubated there until they hatch, and thereafter until they
operators achieve continuous and higher seed pro- become yolksac larvae and then swim-up fry that eventually feed
independently, no longer taking refuge in her mouth. All the tilapia
duction by collecting eggs from female broodstock species in genus Oreochromis exhibit this behavior. Artificial incubators
and rearing them in artificial incubators before the enable mass production of fry of similar age and size.
fry start to feed.35 36 See, for example: Bimbao, Gaspar, Ferdinand J. Paraguas, Madan
Tilapia seed production is year-round but has M. Dey, and Ambar Eknath 2000. Socioeconomics and Production
Efficiency of Tilapia Hatchery Operations in the Philippines.
seasonal variations. In the typhoon belt, supply and Aquaculture Economics and Management 4(1–2): 33–48. These authors
demand for seed are low when there is high risk from considered the average production of fry or fingerlings from land-
based operations to be P748,000 per ha per breeding cycle in 1996,
typhoons. The productivity of the different sizes and yielding a net income of P119,288.
types of hatchery and nursery operations is very vari- 37 In 2002, the published production for farmed tilapia was 122,316
able and there are few reliable comparative data. t. With 40% seed mortality and an average market size of 5–6 fish
per kg, the tilapia production required at least 942 million tilapia
Tilapia seed production has increased rapidly and seeds. This tilapia production does not include fish given away by
continuously from area expansion and improved farmers or used for their home consumption.

farmers by promoting hatchery development in Philippines Commission on Audit reviews pro-
various parts of the country. Although seed supply posed price increases, ensuring that any price
in remote areas is still problematic, efforts by BFAR change is based on cost recovery.44 Prices of mixed-
have contributed to increased access and choices sex seed from BFAR-accredited and other private
of seed supply among small-scale farmers. Govern- hatcheries are usually P0.05–0.10 higher than gov-
ment seed prices are competitive vis-à-vis other ernment prices. Prices of SRT seed are higher due
seed suppliers and do not undercut private seed to added costs arising from the sex-reversal treat-
suppliers. ment.45 Some private hatcheries impose additional
Tilapia genetic improvement has become a mark-up to cover the costs of delivery or transport,
highly dynamic and competitive field of research particularly for distant clients. Market competition
and private enterprise in the Philippines. Conse- and the increasing choice of strains are beneficial
quently, farmers now have access to a wide range for small-scale operators in the long run because
of tilapia strains. Increasingly, the breeders of a they receive competitive prices and technical ser-
given strain are entering into agreements with vices. However, small-scale farmers put a premium
other hatcheries and farmers to become accredited on the growth characteristics of strains, and sea-
seed suppliers and/or growers.38 In Central Luzon sonal price influences are secondary in the choice
and Lake Taal, agreements are often accompanied of tilapia strain.
by credit and technical advice as sales pitches to
attract customer loyalty. During interviews, BFAR 38 Licensing and accreditation arrangements vary. BFAR distributes
staff indicated that most Nile tilapia farmed in the its GET EXCEL strain seed and broodstock to BFAR multiplier stations
and to private hatcheries that are encouraged to breed their own fish
Philippines now have genes that originated from and to feedback information and superior breeding material. Genomar
the genetically improved farmed tilapia (GIFT), Supreme Philippines, however, holds the eight current members of
its Preferred Partner Hatchery Network to contracts that preclude the
either as GIFT strains or as hybrids developed with unauthorized breeding of strains other than its Genomar Supreme
some GIFT material (footnote 14).39 There is no Tilapia (GST) strain. In practice, restrictions on what recipient farmers
or hatcheries do with any strain are almost impossible to enforce
standard strain nomenclature and no independent because most Nile tilapia strains are not distinguishable except by
strain certification. The result is a confusing mix- DNA or other biochemical markers.
ture of marketing claims. Small-scale farmers, 39 The Genomar Supreme Tilapia (GST) was developed from the GIFT
Foundation’s strain G9. The BFAR strain (GET 2002 EXCEL) was
however, are risk averse and hesitate to try new developed by crossbreeding other farm stocks with BFAR GET 2000
strains based solely on suppliers’ claims about per- (i.e., GIFT renamed by BFAR). FAC sells its own strain known variously
as FAC-selected, FAST, and IDRC strain (acknowledging support from
formance. the International Development Research Centre of Canada).
Tilapia seed prices vary according to size, 40 Tilapias breed prolifically and males grow faster than females. These
strain, and whether they are mixed sex (males and factors encourage use of monosex, all-male tilapia seed. Feeding
females) or sex-reversed tilapia (SRT) comprising sexually undifferentiated fry with feed containing methyltestosterone
is the main method to produce “sex reversed” tilapia (SRT) seed.
95–100% males.40 BFAR applies mandated prices This is safe because there are no detectable hormone residues in the
for its accredited hatcheries and private hatcher- fish long before they reach harvestable size. An alternative approach,
pioneered at the University of Wales Swansea, United Kingdom, with
ies have their own set of prices. Higher prices are FAC/CLSU collaboration in 1991–1994, is called the “YY technology,”
charged for SRT seed.41 The case studies of Cen- yielding “genetically male tilapia” (GMT) from broodstock that have
YY sex chromosomes. Hormonal sex reversal is needed to develop
tral Luzon and Lake Taal (Philippines) suggest that the YY broodstock, but no hormone treatment is involved in the seed
the market share of SRT seed is significant: 45% production phase. GMT have given mixed results on-farm, sometimes
containing unacceptable numbers of females. GMT research and
of cage farmers and 62% of pond farmers inter- development are continuing. SRT and GMT describe seed production
viewed have been using SRT. The BFAR GET strain methods and are not strain names.
and GST are the most popular strains.42 Aside from 41 Based on interviews with government and private hatchery
operators in the Central Luzon study area, sex reversal increases cost
their performance, the popularity of these strains by at least P0.10–0.15 per fingerling. A size 22 fingerling that sells
is attributed to the proximity of the suppliers of for P0.25 sells at P0.35–0.45 if it is sex reversed.
these strains to farms, the number of accredited 42 Based on the case studies of Central Luzon and Lake Taal

suppliers of these strains, and the aggressive mar- (Philippines), BFAR GET (64%) and GST (28%) are the most popular
strains used in Central Luzon. GST (42%) and “Nilotica” (a term for
keting and technical assistance provided by their a local breed of unknown provenance) (19%) are the most popular
respective accredited hatcheries. in Lake Taal, Batangas.
Seed prices depend on supply and demand 43 Mortality allowances refer to the 10–15% additional fingerlings
provided by seed suppliers to their buyers on top of the total volume
conditions. When seed production is high or purchased. The allowance is to cover seed mortality losses resulting
demand is low, prices are lower and mortality from various factors, especially transport and handling.
allowances higher.43 This occurs mainly in private 44 The latest increase in government tilapia seed prices was in 2000,
hatcheries attempting to dispose of their produce mandating a P0.05 increase across all sizes. In the 1980s, a size 22
fingerling cost P0.10. Its current price is P0.25.
quickly because of space constraints and main-
45 The price of methyltestosterone, the hormone used for SRT, is
tenance costs. Seed prices from government P2,100–2,700 per 10 g, and 1 g treats about 66,000 fry. Sex reversal
hatcheries have remained relatively stable. The also incurs additional labor costs.

Marketing of fry and fingerlings is lucrative seed sales is usually by word of mouth and small
because there is high demand for seed. The major business signs, particularly for small- and
sources of seed are the hatcheries and nurseries in medium-scale operators. Among large-scale seed
Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Pampanga, and Laguna. These suppliers, printed materials, such as brochures and
areas are also the final market destinations of seed, leaflets, signboards, and the maintenance of Internet
in addition to Batangas, Isabela, Bataan, and sites are utilized for market promotion.
Camarines Sur. However, the archipelagic nature of Feeds for Tilapia Farms. The case studies of
the country poses a challenge for the seed market to Central Luzon and Lake Taal indicate that feeds ac-
expand nationwide, unless more hatcheries are counted for 72% and 79% of total operating costs
established in remote islands and coastal provinces. for pond and cage operations, respectively. The
The availability of and preference for marine fish increasing share of feeds to total operating costs is
over farmed fish among the population in coastal attributed to feed price changes resulting from the
communities are also major factors constraining the escalating costs of feed ingredients. Feed prices are
expansion of freshwater tilapia farming. highly dependent on the costs of imported ingredi-
The market channels for tilapia seed, although ents (especially fishmeal) and the availability of
unorganized, are relatively short and simple, due local ingredients (e.g., rice bran, copra).48 Reducing
to the high risks involved in selling the product. feed costs through better feed conversion ratios
Normally, a hatchery operator sells directly to (FCR) is the key to increasing returns and staying
growout farmers, either through delivery or pick- competitive in tilapia farming. Better FCRs may be
up. Product delivery facilitates and strengthens achieved by increasing reliance on pond fertilization
seed supplier-farmer relationships.46 Seed quality to generate natural feed for fish. As the amount of
is judged by growth rate, survival, uniformity of nutrition derived from natural food organisms in the
size at harvest and, for SRT seed, whether there is pond increases, there is a corresponding reduction
any breeding in the production stock from un- in the amount of artificial feed required.49
wanted females. These factors largely determine Recognizing the high costs of feed inputs,
seed suppliers’ reputations and business positions. farmers look for alternative ways of reducing feed
The main problems affecting the tilapia seed busi- costs. An alternative is the use of home-made
ness are high seed and broodstock mortality, sea- feeds.50 Homemade feeds are rarely a feature of
sonality of markets, low seed prices, unfavorable Philippine tilapia farming, except in resource-poor
weather conditions, collection of arrears, and non- areas. On-farm feed manufacturing has not devel-
payment among seed buyers. oped significantly because of the high cost and
A few hatchery and nursery operators use erratic supplies of raw materials, high capital
agents to increase sales, especially in remote requirements, and lack of equipment specifically
areas.47 Others sell directly and employ agents at designed for small-scale farmers. Moreover, feed
the same time. This practice is quite common
among nursery operators in Batangas, who resort
to intermediaries to buy fry from Laguna, which Delivery is sometimes priced higher than pick-up, but in Central
Luzon prices for delivery and pick-up sales are similar because
they nurse to fingerlings for sale to cage growout suppliers usually pay for delivery costs. Most seed suppliers monitor
farmers in Lake Taal. Generally, agents obtain their their performance by ensuring that their clients’ farms and husbandry
are suitable. This lessens the risk of claims for mortality replacements.
Feeding tilapia incomes by a mark-up of P0.01–0.02 per fingerling Moreover, after-sales support is a good marketing strategy to enhance
in a fishpond or through pre-agreed commissions. Promotion of or maintain hatchery-farmer relationships and hatchery reputations.
This is a common practice among medium- to large-scale hatcheries
in Central Luzon.
47 For example, Central Luzon hatcheries use agents for seed sales to
more distant areas in Luzon (e.g., Isabela and Zambales) that have
good potential for tilapia farming because of increasing demand and
suitability of the areas for tilapia production.
48 During 1997–2001, the share of fishmeal imports to total fish imports
was 35% both by volume and value and the average cost of fishmeal was
P17,362/t. Source of basic data: BAS 2002. Fisheries Statistics of the
Philippines, 1997–2001. Quezon City, Philippines. 74 p.
49 For pond and cage farming systems where tilapia growth is almost
totally dependent on pelleted feeds, a typical FCR for current feeds, strains,
and husbandry methods is about 1.5 (weight of feed given to unit weight
of fish harvested). For well-fertilized ponds and for less intensive systems
that use home-made feeds, FCRs vary and are about 1.2 or less.
50 See for example, Guerrero, Rafael D. III. 1994. Evaluation of
Homemade Feeds Used for Commercial Tilapia Production in the
Philippines. Paper presented at the 7th International Conference of
International Institute of Fisheries Economics and Trade, 18–21 July
1994. Taipei,China.

mills receive 20–30% discounts for bulk purchase farmers. Some major feed companies have their
of ingredients. Because they pay cash, they get pref- own distribution warehouses in key areas. In such
erential treatment from traders when raw cases, the company deals directly with large cus-
materials are in short supply.51 tomers. Feed manufacturers provide sales incen-
The average costs of producing tilapia feed in tives to wholesalers or dealers depending on the
2003 were P13,000–17,000/t, of which 70–90% volume of their total sales. Promotional activities
of costs were for imported feed ingredients, such to boost feed sales are usually undertaken by the
as fishmeal, wheat, soya, vitamins, and minerals.52 technical and sales agents of feed manufacturers,
Theoretically, the large share of imported compo- through sponsorship of community and industry
nents is the primary reason why feed prices fluc- activities, feed trials, and the distribution of pro-
tuate—the depreciating value of the Philippine motional items like shirts, bags, pens, caps, and
peso against foreign currencies53 has increased the calendars.
domestic costs of imported ingredients of feeds. Fertilizers for Fishponds. Organic and in-
The distance and isolation of many small-scale organic fertilizers are used as inputs for freshwater
farms also contributes to higher feed prices. Access fishponds and play a critical role in enhancing pro-
to inputs is one of the major problems confronting duction of natural food. The case study of Central
small-scale farms. Luzon indicated that fertilizers were frequently
Major feed mills produce feeds for livestock, used only as a basal fertilizer during pond prepa-
poultry, fish, and shrimp. The growth of Philippine ration, and were not routinely used during
aquaculture has contributed to the expansion of growout to continue production of natural food.
the feed industry. By 1995, tilapia feeds comprised This practice has not fully captured the potential
47.3% (70,000 t) of the total national production of reducing feed costs through routine pond fer-
of aquaculture feeds for aquaculture (148,000 t).54 tilization; fertilizers accounted for only about 4%
These tilapia feeds were used mainly in Luzon of total variable costs. The most widely used organic
(87%), with Mindanao and Visayas accounting for fertilizer for ponds was chicken manure at P30–40
10% and 3%, respectively. for a 50-kg bag. Livestock manure, mudpress (agri-
Tilapia feeds are usually sold in standard 25-kg cultural waste from sugar mills), and rice bran are
polypropylene bags and have various forms and also used but to a much lesser extent. Collection
composition appropriate to the production cycle: of manure from poultry and livestock on small-
starter mash and crumble for fry, and pellets (starter, scale farms is seldom feasible because the animals
grower, and finisher) for growout. Tilapia feed prices scavenge to feed or they are not held in sufficient
in 2003 were P15–23/kg.55 Feed prices depend on numbers to provide adequate manure. However,
the type of feed and the manufacturer. Distributors chicken manure is collected by large-scale, feedlot
and dealers generally impose a price margin of broiler and layer farms and is sold as a commer-
4–6% for fish feeds. In general, because of differ- cial product. The demand for chicken manure as an
ences in protein content, the prices of feeds used organic fertilizer for tilapia fishponds is relatively
during the early stages of tilapia rearing (30–48%
crude protein) are higher than those for subsequent 51 Cruz, Philip S. 1997. Aquaculture Feed and Fertilizer Resource Atlas
stages of the crop cycle (25–44%). These crude pro- of the Philippines. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper 366.Rome. 259 p.
tein levels may be higher than necessary and lower- 52 Information provided by 5 major feed companies engaged in
ing them may lead to reduced feed prices.56 aquaculture feed production in the Philippines.
Tilapia feeds are distributed and sold together 53 Two major feed companies reported a 25–29% increase in feed
with feeds for livestock and poultry by agricultural prices during 2001–2003 because of increasing costs of imported feed
supply stores. Some large feed manufacturers have
54 As of 2002, there were 55 feed mills producing feeds for aquaculture
agreements with farmers and with those who
with a rated capacity of 8,114 t over an 8-hour operation. Aquaculture
finance tilapia farming for exclusive use of feeds, feedmills are concentrated in Region III (22), Region IV (7) and the
with favorable purchase and credit terms. Some feed National Capital Region (7). Collectively, these mills have a rated
capacity of 7,140 t over an 8-hour operation.
companies are also involved in seed supply and 55 Based on interviews with selected feed manufacturers and surveys
growout in vertically integrated arrangements. in Batangas, Nueva Ecija, and Pampanga for the case studies on Central
The marketing chain of aquaculture feeds is Luzon and Lake Taal. See also, Merican, Zuridah, and Chakrit
Ridmontri. 2003. Pressure for Lower Costs and Better Quality Feeds.
well organized. It starts with the feed manufac- Asian Aquaculture Magazine May/June: 12–15.
turer who distributes products either to a whole- 56 Jauncey, K. 2000. Nutritional Requirements. In Tilapias: Biology
saler or to an authorized area distributor. and Exploitation, edited by M.C.M. Beveridge and B.J. McAndrew.
Wholesalers pass the products to dealers who have Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. p. 327–375. According to
Jauncey, recommended optimum dietary protein contents for tilapia
their own set of retailers for final distribution to are 30–35% for fish weighing 0.5–10.0 g and 25–30% for fish of
end-users. Authorized dealers deal directly with 30.0 g to market size.

high in Central Luzon because of the proximity of deregulation of the fertilizer industry in 1986
ponds to large poultry farms. There are only a few encouraged the entry of more traders, allowing
firms that process organic fertilizers and most farm- increased competition that reduced marketing
ers in Central Luzon prefer low-cost unprocessed margins and dampened retail prices.
organic fertilizers.57 While organic fertilizers are usually sold in the
The supply of inorganic fertilizers, including area where they are produced, the market chan-
those used for tilapia farming, is usually adequate, nel for inorganic fertilizers originates with produc-
and government support for the fertilizer industry ers or importers who distribute them to their area
is historically strong. 58 Data from 2000–2001 distributors (wholesalers) through their regional
reveal that at least half (51%) of the total annual or provincial sales offices. The distributors trans-
inorganic fertilizer supply (2.32 million t) then fer the products to local dealers and retailers who
used in the Philippines was imported. The most sell directly to farmers. Hence, the presence of
widely used inorganic fertilizers in tilapia produc- local dealers is important, particularly in isolated
tion are urea (45–0–0), ammonium phosphate areas, to increase the access of farmers to fertilizer
(16–20–0), and to some extent ammonium sulfate inputs. Akin to the feed industry, fertilizer compa-
(21–0–0) and complete fertilizer/NPK (nitrogen- nies advertise their products through sponsorship
phosphorus-potassium; 14–14–14). In 1997– of related activities and the distribution of promo-
2001, the average shares59 of imported chemicals tional items. However, there are intricacies in fer-
for the supply60 of fertilizers were 100% of urea, tilizer marketing. A few importers are also
7% of ammonium phosphate, 57% of ammonium distributors, giving them an added advantage in
sulfate, and 0.9% of NPK. terms of direct access to retailers. At the wholesale
Inorganic fertilizer retail prices increased annu- level, some distributors are authorized dealers
ally by 4.0–5.5% in 1985–2001. However, in real themselves and sell directly to plantations and/or
terms at 2001 constant prices, their retail prices farmers in areas where local dealers are absent,
declined by 6.7– 7.6%, indicating that these fertil- few, or relatively weak. In some cases, traders ac-
izers have become more affordable and accessible cess cooperatives to distribute fertilizers to their
to small-scale and poor farmers (Figure 4). Pro- farmer-members. However, the geographical iso-
gressive farmers have used a combination of organic lation of most Philippine islands adds to market-
and inorganic fertilizer in tilapia pond farming to ing and distribution costs, although transportation
reduce feed costs. Pond fertilization with reduced through the use of inter-island vessels is widely
use of commercial pelleted feed could reduce feed available.
costs, but lengthen the time taken for the fish to Access to Land and Water. Access to land is
reach marketable size. Domestic prices of inor- a prerequisite for hatcheries and pond farming.
Figure 4: ganic fertilizers are influenced by world prices and Small-scale fish farms have gained access to land
Nominal and currency exchange rates; prices of organic fertiliz- either through private ownership or lease arrange-
real prices of ers are more stable because they are locally pro- ments. Private lands are acquired either through
urea and duced. In 2003, prices for a 50-kg bag of inorganic direct purchase or inheritance. However, issues
sulfate in the
fertilizer used for aquaculture were as follows: related to land-use rights and landownership are
Philippines, P551 for urea, P316 for ammonium sulfate, P466 very complex and access to land is frequently made
1985–2001 for ammonium phosphate, and P477 for NPK. The possible through lease arrangements or other
schemes involving transfers of land-use rights
under various terms and conditions. Under lease
arrangements, farmers may either pay an annual
rent or share net profits with landowners. In some
cases, land-use rights are acquired in exchange for

57 Processed organic fertilizers are products of composting mixtures

of animal manures, agricultural wastes, and limestone and other
nutrients. The selling price is usually 2–3 times that of chicken manure.
58 Government support was manifested through price controls and
other cash and noncash incentives. This also explains why nominal
price increases were limited.
59 Percentage shares were derived from production and import data
60The average annual quantities of fertilizer supplies in 1997–2001
were 610,073 t (urea), 405,941 t (21–0–0), 96,089 t (16–20–0), and
337,168 t (NPK).

an interest-free loan for a specific or indefinite water bodies, unless partnership arrangements are Constructing
period. In Central Luzon, annual land rental rates are made between outsiders and local inhabitants. a fishpond
P10,000–25,000/ha. The period of leased rights may Labor and Employment. Freshwater tilapia
be several years, depending on the agreement between farming, including hatchery and nursery opera-
the two parties. Land rentals are influenced by pre- tions, provides opportunities for self-employment
vailing land prices and the opportunity costs of land. for operators and cage caretakers and their fami-
Access to land by small-scale landless farmers may lies. Backyard/small-scale pond and cage farms
severely decline as land prices and rental rates con- rely mainly on family labor. Larger farms employ
tinue to rise. Rising land prices can also regular full-time workers and seasonal or casual
affect tilapia production if landowners sell their workers for pond preparation, stocking, and har-
farms when faced with more lucrative options, in- vesting. Exchange labor from members of the
stead of making their land available for rent. local community is also used. Neighbors and other
In terms of water access, fishpond operators members of the community provide labor
rely on deep wells, irrigation, rain, rivers and exchange (e.g., for pond preparation or harvest-
streams, and small water impoundments. For tila- ing) without financial payment. The pond or cage
pia cage farming in lakes and reservoirs, the only owner is expected to reciprocate the initiative by
requirements for access to land are the lakeshore helping fellow farmers when needed. If the activ-
and marginal lands from which services for the fish ity is harvesting, fish are normally given to reward
farms can be provided. There is also limited use of those who participate. In rural areas, with limited
land for nursery ponds. In the Philippines, lake employment opportunities and high unemploy-
waters are state property, and cage operators gain ment, labor supply is abundant. Men, women, and
access to these waters by leasing or obtaining a even children assist in hatchery/nursery, pond, and
permit. However, certain conditions and restric- cage operations. However, heavy physical tasks,
tions may apply in accessing public or open water such as pond construction, preparation, and har-
bodies, including preferences for people residing vesting remain male-dominated.
in certain locations in the vicinity of the designated The total number of Filipinos directly or indi-
water bodies. Such restrictions can exclude people rectly involved in freshwater aquaculture and spe-
who do not reside in the immediate vicinity of the cifically in tilapia farming is debatable because

there are no disaggregated statistics. Field observa- both parties on agreed terms; caretakers absorb
tions indicate that much of the hired labor require- some of the operating risks because they receive
ments are seasonal. The abundance of labor supply no wages. In contrast, trader-operator arrange-
in rural areas means that workers often receive less ments are usually based on forward sales, charac-
than the legislated minimum wages. Work opportu- terized by loans extended by the trader to the
nities in aquaculture include full- and part-time operator on condition that the final produce will
employment in pond excavation, cage and net mak- be sold to the trader exclusively. In the case of con-
ing, boat operation, services for cage farms, fish sort- tract farming, farmers receive all inputs in advance
ing and grading, marketing, transport, and except land and the final produce is sold to the
miscellaneous activities. The employment impact is contractor. Under suppliers’ credit schemes, input
clearly seen in the local economies where tilapia is suppliers (usually feed suppliers) provide credit
farmed. At least 280,000 people, including their lines to farmers who pay for the inputs at harvest.
families, directly and indirectly benefit from employ- Depending on pre-agreed conditions, input prices
ment generated by the freshwater tilapia industry are usually higher than prevailing prices of the spe-
alone. This does not include additional full-time, cific inputs to cover the cost of capital and the risks
part-time, and seasonal labor required by associated involved. Overall, these nonbank financial arrange-
industries, such as tilapia feed processing and fertil- ments have benefited and enabled small-scale
izer and other supplies and their respective process- farmers to take advantage of the economic oppor-
ing and distribution. tunities of tilapia farming.
The Philippine Government operates low-
interest credit and financing programs for the fish-
ACCESSING SUPPORT eries sector, particularly aquaculture, to meet
SERVICES national food requirements and to improve farm-
ers’ welfare.61 These credit programs have been
Credit, Financial Services, and Incentives. channeled through commercial private and gov-
Small-scale operators usually rely on their limited ernment-controlled financial institutions as well as
household savings to finance tilapia operations. nongovernment organizations. However, credit
However, the long growing period before harvest delivery along these channels mostly fails to reach
and sales can strain household finance. Access to the intended beneficiaries. Municipal agricultural
financial capital is generally a major constraint. officers62 and agricultural technicians find that
Farmers usually avoid formal credit from commer- many farmers are hesitant to apply for these credit
cial banks and private lending institutions because schemes because of the paperwork required. The
of high interest rates, paper work, and require- difficulties of forming groups to seek group credit
ments for collateral. In addition, the risks of tila- and unawareness of available credit schemes, par-
pia farming have often deterred small-scale ticularly among small-scale farmers, have also con-
farmers from attempting to obtain formal credit, tributed to their low use of government credit
fearing loss of property or collateral in the event schemes. Where farmers have enjoyed free or
of harvest failure. Many farmers resort to informal heavily subsidized farm inputs through govern-
credit, which incurs high interest but is usually ment programs, they tend to develop dependency
collateral free, readily available, and has flexible and expect to continue to receive government aid.
repayment terms. Informal loans may carry inter- The Quedan Rural Credit and Guarantee Cor-
est rates of 2.5–20.0% per month. poration (QUEDANCOR) is currently the execut-
The dominance of informal credit over formal ing agency for a government credit program for
credit in tilapia farming is further emphasized by aquaculture that provides loans to farmers’ groups
the emergence of informal credit schemes and at an annual interest of 12%, including a 3% ser-
other financial arrangements to overcome financial vice fee. The system involves the creation of self-re-
barriers facing tilapia production. These include fin- liant teams, whose members are collectively
ancier-caretaker arrangements, trader-operator responsible for loan repayment. Government fishery
agreements (usually forward sales), contract farm-
ing, and various suppliers’ credit schemes. Finan-
cier-caretaker arrangements are prevalent in cage 61 Past credit programs for fisheries and aquaculture were
culture in Batangas, where the financier pays all comprehensively discussed by Yap 1999. See footnote 10.

operating expenses of the fish farms regardless of 62 Under the Local Government Code of 1991, the responsibilities of
facilitating national and local government programs were devolved
whether the financier owns or rents the cage. Under to local/municipal agriculture staff, which include local agricultural
these arrangements, net profits are shared between officers and technicians.

loan programs implemented by QUEDANCOR
have helped tilapia farming teams by providing
loans in the form of farm inputs in kind. Report-
edly, the repayment rate is higher than 98%.63
QUEDANCOR has also formulated special loan
arrangements for tilapia contract growers target-
ing future exports. The Philippines’ investment
policy embodied in Executive Order 226, the
Omnibus Investment Code of 1996, provides incen-
tives for investments in the form of tax holidays, tax
and duty exemptions on imported inputs and equip-
ment, and tax credits for domestic inputs. The Code
applies to tilapia production in the form of tax
exemption, an incentive that has already been
granted to a potential tilapia exporter in Region III.
Extension Services. Advisory services are criti-
cal to the success of tilapia operations, particularly
tilapia from a
for small-scale tilapia farmers who lack the neces- Market Structure and Conduct. Farmed tilapia fish cage at
Lake Taal
sary training and education. Fortunately, extension is sold live, fresh, and, to a lesser extent, chilled or
services for tilapia operations are virtually free. Most frozen.66 In practice, the nature of the product has
input suppliers, particularly seed and feed suppliers, shielded the domestic market from imports
provide such services as part of their marketing because of transportation and other transaction
schemes. Furthermore, strong social networks facili- cost barriers. Tilapia harvesting is normally timed
tate technical information exchange and dissemina- according to the preferred mode of sale and its
tion of knowledge among farmers. Government marketing channel. For example, in Batangas, har-
agencies also remain important sources of technical vesting of tilapia from cages in Lake Taal for the
advice to small-scale farmers. BFAR, fishery-related Manila markets is done late in the morning or early
agencies, and the agricultural officers and techni- afternoon, for fish delivery to coincide with the
cians of local government units provide free exten- opening of urban wholesale markets in the early
sion and advisory technical services to tilapia evening. Elsewhere, for fish intended for the mar-
farmers—including small-scale farmers—comple- kets of neighboring towns, pond and cage harvests
menting the advisory services provided by input sup- start as early as midnight to reach final market des-
pliers. However, government budgetary constraints tinations before dawn. Harvest time is crucial to
have limited the number of agricultural extension pricing for two reasons. First, early arrival in the
workers in rural areas. market provides better opportunities of ready sales
Fish Health Services. BFAR provides fish and better prices, given a large number of custom-
health services and maintains a fish health division ers and intermediaries who want to be assured of
that addresses drug use in aquaculture and related an early supply of fish. Second, the entry of more
concerns under existing national legislation.64 An suppliers in the course of the day will tend to satu-
ongoing but under-resourced national program on rate supply, leading to lower prices. Some traders,
the use of drugs in aquaculture comprises the fol- particularly wholesalers, finance small-scale farm-
lowing: (i) monitoring the efficacy of drugs in ers in order to be assured of a steady supply of fish.
treatment and prevention of diseases of farmed Under this arrangement, the farmer is mandated
fish; (ii) testing fish feeds and produce for the pres-
ence and concentrations of prohibited65 and regu- 63Based on the presentation of QUEDANCOR officers during the 2nd
lated drugs in the fish and human food chains; and Philippine Tilapia Congress, 13–14 November 2003. San Fernando,
(iii) monitoring the impacts of drugs on the envi- Pampanga, Philippines.

ronment. Irresponsible use of drugs in fish farm- 64 Republic Act 8550 (The Fisheries Code of 1998) is the main legal
framework. More recent instruments include fisheries administrative
ing can lead to environmental contamination and orders 213 and 214, Series of 2001: Operation of the Fish Health
the evolution of drug-resistant strains, not only of laboratories and the Code of Practice for Aquaculture, respectively.
fish pathogens but also of human pathogens, 65Examples are nitrofuran and chloramphenicol prohibited by the
because the same drugs are used in medicine and Department of Health and Department of Agriculture Joint
Administrative Orders Nos. 2 and 60, respectively, series of 2001.
drug resistance may be transferred. Technically, 66 Tilapia is also sold in value-added forms, such as filleted and
the presence of prohibited drug residues in farmed smoked. Tilapia fillets have potential for export, with one large
fish disqualifies the fish from being exported. commercial farm targeting an initial shipment of 5,000 t in 2003.

to sell exclusively to the trader at a pre-agreed Channels 2 and 3 are typical for small pond farms
price. Major marketing issues for tilapia include and for some small cage farms, selling by delivery
fluctuating prices, irregular supply, nonpayment of to or pick-up by ambulant vendors, who sell fish
debts by traders, informal levies (particularly when around the locality or deliver to various market
transporting the product), and seasonal off-flavors sites within the community or in neighboring
that render the fish less marketable. towns and municipalities. In Central Luzon, ambu-
Buyer and seller concentration is high, particu- lant vendors (wholesaler-retailers or retailers)
larly in Luzon. With the increasing popularity of with tricycles or jeeps buy tilapia from ponds. They
tilapia, the number of tilapia traders has increased usually pick up tilapia from early morning harvests
substantially. This is beneficial for small-scale farm- and transport them as live fish to prolong product
ers because it provides more market outlets for freshness, selling around town from aerated plas-
their produce. Entry and exit of traders to the tila- tic or metal barrels and tanks that hold 30–150 kg
pia market have been relatively easy, especially at of fish. Iced tilapia are delivered to wet markets in
the retail level. However, traders’ knowledge of the the community or in neighboring municipalities of
market is often poor. Some new entrants leave Lake Taal from some of the cages there. Channel 4
quickly after incurring losses, indicative of an involves brokers who initiate sales between the
unorganized but highly competitive market. For producers and clients. Brokers do not own the
example, traders may trigger tilapia harvesting from products that they handle. With many active trad-
many farms at the same time, causing seasonal ers and abundant tilapia supply, brokers make
excess supply and driving market prices down. P0.5–1.0 per kg of fish sold, representing
Figure 5 illustrates different marketing chan- “viajeros,” i.e., wholesalers who transport tilapia
nels for tilapia in the Philippines. The most direct in bulk to major market destinations. Brokering is
channel (1)—producer to consumer—is prevalent typical in Central Luzon, particularly with traders
among small-scale or backyard farms where buy- who want an assured daily supply of fish.
ers, usually neighbors and community members, Large fish markets (channel 5) facilitate trade
consume most farm produce at home. Here, mar- among various entrepreneurs by offering physical
keting cost is almost nil when the buyer collects the facilities for product handling and negotiations.
fish at the farm, and minimal if the farmer is the For tilapia, the large fish market serves as the
ambulant vendor. Sales are for cash or on credit. venue where wholesaler-retailers and retailers

Figure 5:
Marketing (1)
channels for
Philippine (2)
tilapia (3)

Producer Broker

Fish Market Consumer

Wholesaler Wholesaler/ Retailer
(Viajero) Retailer

(7) Grower Export
(Processor) Marker

procure their fish for resale. Large markets usually
operate on a consignment basis because they earn a
fixed commission of 5% of gross sales in exchange
for the use of their facilities. Wholesalers or produc-
ers who use these market facilities are directly paid
in cash. Small-scale farmers usually receive cash
payments from wholesalers. Channel 6 is the most
popular among tilapia farmers in the main produc-
tion areas of Central Luzon and Batangas. Selling
to wholesalers reduces farmers’ transaction costs
and minimizes the risks of selling a perishable com-
modity. Wholesalers buy in bulk and usually pay
in cash. A wholesaler’s choice of its own market-
ing channel greatly depends on marketing costs,
distance, prevailing supply, and prices.67 Generally,
for channels 4, 5 and 6, the wholesalers pay for
harvesting costs, with pick-up at the farm gate as
the preferred mode of sale.
An emerging channel (7) centers on the immi-
nent entry of Philippine tilapia in the world market
in fillet form. The channel is relatively simple: farm
production goes directly to the exporter/processor
who maintains contract schemes with a number of
small-scale farmers to ensure a sufficient volume of
tilapia for processing and export. The addition of this generally apply a mark-up of P10–15/kg. A recent Roving retailer
marketing channel can benefit small-scale farmers shift in consumer preference for live tilapia has led of live tilapia
to the development of sales from aerated contain- on his
in two respects. First, they can group themselves and
make contract agreements with a processor who is ers in markets and at the roadside.
able to provide financing arrangements, including Marketing Investments. Based on interviews
from government sources.68 Second, the prospect of with wholesalers and retailers in the provinces of
entry to the export markets for tilapia can improve Batangas, Pampanga, and Nueva Ecija, invest-
marketing opportunities for small-scale farmers. ments among wholesalers total P650,000 to P1.5
Pricing Strategies. In tilapia marketing, the million. Tilapia traders’ investments include ve-
point of first sale is the farm gate where the pro- hicles (tricycles, jeeps, or trucks) and equipment
ducer and buyer agree on a certain price. The usual (containers, weighing scales, and sorting trays).
practice for tilapia marketing at the farm gate is to Wholesalers’ operating expenses are mainly labor
provide a price discount to bulk buyers.69 Whole- for harvests and delivery, fuel, ice, toll and park-
salers in Central Luzon and Batangas usually im- ing fees, commissions, maintenance and repairs,
pose margins of P2–5/kg before the fish reach the and vehicle rental. Daily operating expenses, spe-
next intermediary.70 Product differentiation and cifically for marketing tilapia intended for large
pricing are based on fish size. For example, in fish markets in Metro Manila, are usually P4,000–
Batangas, there is an 8-level pricing scheme. The
highest price (1st tier) is for tilapia of 0.5–1.0 kg 67 Usually, a wholesaler has an established contact person at a specific

each, and the lowest (8th tier) is for fish of about market destination. Wholesalers prefer to deal with just a few
individuals. For large wholesalers, the wholesaler-retailers are usually
100 grams each. After harvest, Batangas tilapia are the next channels in bigger markets. Small wholesalers deal directly
sorted and graded into 40-kg containers. In Cen- with retailers, especially if the destination market is small.

tral Luzon, there are 4–5 pricing levels at retail 68 The QUEDANCOR program has agreed to provide a higher loan
limit (P170,000/ha/crop cycle) for farmers who are engaged in
markets. However, farm gate sales in Central contract programs with the fillet exporter.
Luzon usually have a uniform price for a single 69 This practice, prevalent in Batangas and Central Luzon, involves
harvest given the difficulty of sorting fish into aer- the reduction of total purchase price by 5–10%, depending on market
ated tanks. Further price differentiation occurs conditions.

when the fish reach retail outlets. At retail markets, 70 Wholesalers are sometimes forced to sell tilapia at low prices
because of excess supply and/or competitively priced marine fish.
retailers resort to price reduction before the end The main destination markets of tilapia from Central Luzon and
of the day if tilapia remain unsold. In Central Batangas include Metropolitan Manila, Laguna, Rizal, Cavite,
Pangasinan, and other provinces in Central Luzon. On average,
Luzon, a price premium of about P5/kg is applied wholesalers in Batangas alone handle 3– 6 t of tilapia daily during
to live tilapia over iced or chilled fish. Retailers peak seasons, and 1–2 t daily during low seasons.

5,000 per trip. Retailers invest in vehicles and Accessing Credit. One of the enabling condi-
equipment and their operating costs include fuel, tions for small-scale farmers to enter tilapia farm-
stall fees, packaging materials (plastics), and ice. ing is the provision of appropriate credit schemes.
Daily operating expenses of ambulant fish vendors Small-scale farmers are often ineligible or reluc-
may be P80–250, depending on the area covered. tant to apply for bank loans because of stringent
requirements for loan application. Some bank
LESSONS LEARNED loans require insurance and invariably require col-
lateral. Aquaculture insurance has almost no his-
Rising Costs of Feeds. Concerted efforts are tory or current market in the Philippines. The
needed to reduce the dependence of tilapia farm- emergence and increasing dominance of informal
ers on commercially formulated feeds by finding credit schemes from nonbank sources has ben-
viable alternatives. A shift from intensive to semi- efited small-scale tilapia farmers directly and indi-
intensive fish culture can reduce feed costs by rectly, although some of these schemes carry
increasing reliance on natural food produced in higher costs than bank commercial loans. These
fishponds through fertilization, with supplementa- nonbank financing arrangements include finan-
tion of rather than total reliance on commercial cier-caretaker arrangements, trader-operator
feed. The Philippines is a net importer of fishmeal agreements (usually forward sales), contract farm-
for making fish feeds. Developing and testing tech- ing, and suppliers’ credit schemes.
nologies to reduce the fishmeal component of com- Accessing Technology and Related Ser-
mercial feeds is a key challenge. There is also scope vices. Small-scale tilapia farmers need access to
for reducing the protein content of commercial technology and support services from a network of
feed as a way of reducing feed costs. Without providers, both public and private. Public institu-
viable alternatives, small-scale farmers will be vul- tions and agencies in the Philippines provide sub-
nerable to rising production costs and narrowing stantial support to freshwater aquaculture,
profit margins. Feed costs account for more than particularly tilapia farming, through collaborative
70% of total operating costs for producing tilapia research, technology development, and extension.
in ponds and in cages. Domestic fishmeal prices The private sector continues to invest in aquacul-
have increased largely because of the continuing ture education, extension, facilities, and equip-
depreciation of the peso. The reduction of tariffs ment. 72 Nongovernment organizations and
on imported fishmeal from 50% in 1997 to 20% cooperatives also contribute as conduits of support
by 2004 is expected to dampen this trend.71 services. The result is a broad network, including
The Importance of Seed Supply. In Philip- public-private partnerships that have benefited the
pine tilapia seed production and distribution, there tilapia industry to date. However, numerous local
are strategic linkages between breeders and pri- government agricultural officers have noted that
vate hatcheries/nurseries, enabling farmers in one immediate impact of the devolution of respon-
major production areas to gain access to a range sibilities to local government units has been the
of tilapia strains. Farmed tilapia production in the deterioration of extension services in terms of qual-
country increased more than five-fold in 1981– ity and frequency, particularly during the transition
2001, largely because of improved seed quality period. Local governments are confronted with
through selective breeding, increased access to and financial constraints and inadequate technical
availability of input supply, sustained advisory ser- skills on aquaculture among their agricultural
vices, declining catches of marine fish, expanding extension workers. Favorable market conditions
consumer markets, and development of marketing have expanded opportunities for accessing farm
channels in response to the market-driven demand inputs and services, and small-scale tilapia produc-
for tilapia. Also, tilapia genetic improvement has ers have benefited from demand-led and market-
become a highly dynamic and competitive field of based extension services provided by farm input
research and development. Access to a reliable suppliers, particularly seed and feed suppliers.
seed supply has become the backbone of tilapia
farming, which is characterized by vibrant compe- 71 Tariff reform programs began in the Philippines in 1981 in order
tition and promotional initiatives. This highlights to reduce and simplify tariff rates on imports over a given period of
the importance of continued efforts to ensure a re- time. See Morales, Alvin C. 2001. An Analysis of the Philippine Decision-
Making Process on Trade and Tariff-Related Matters. Proceedings of
liable seed supply to support an expanding indus- the Scoping Workshop on the Sustainability Assessments of Trade in
try that has benefited small, medium, and large the Philippines. Manila: World Wide Fund for Nature. April.
fish farm operators, and consequently generated 72 Paclibare, Jose. Development of Commercial Aquaculture in the
Philippines: A Policy Perspective. Paper prepared as part of the FAO/
rural employment and incomes for a large num- NACA Regional Study on Commercial Aquaculture Development in
ber of people. Southeast Asia. Quezon City, Philippines. (In press)

Social networks among small-scale farmers delivery. It also recognizes the active participation of
have helped information exchange and farmer-to- local fishers and coastal communities in policy for-
farmer dissemination of knowledge. mulation, planning, and program implementation.
Legal Framework. Various laws that affect However, the overall management of fisheries and
freshwater aquaculture and can benefit small-scale aquatic resources has been partly dependent on the
farmers, have been enacted in the Philippines. If priority accorded by local government units to this
properly implemented, appropriate legal provi- sector and on the presence of strong fisheries and
sions may enable these farmers to overcome bind- aquatic resource management councils (FARMCs).
ing constraints confronting them. However, Not all FARMCs are functional. Thus, improving
inadequate funding and institutional capacities resource management capacity and consensus build-
have restricted their effective implementation. The ing are required for addressing the needs of stake-
Local Government Code of 1991 (Republic Act holders, together with monitoring impacts on poor
7160) devolved many of the functions of central and small-scale farmers. In some areas, fishers have
government offices to local government units, organized themselves to create FARMCs and have
including extension services, regulation and licens- been able to influence policymaking and benefit
ing, and law enforcement in municipal waters. In- from aquaculture operations.
creased capacity-building efforts at the local level
are required if local governments are to fulfill their
new mandates. The Agriculture and Fisheries Mod-
73 The Fisheries Code of 1998 has many provisions for small-scale
ernization Act of 1997 (Republic Act 8435) pro- fish farmers, leading to the formulation of various fisheries
vides a blueprint for modernizing the agriculture administrative orders (FAOs) pursuant to the Fisheries Code. FAOs of
significance to tilapia production include the recognition and
sector in the context of global competitiveness and empowerment of small fishers in resource management (FAO 196),
is concerned with the allocation of appropriate bud- provision of incentives for aquaculture workers (FAO 197),
stabilization of input prices, particularly seed (FAO 205), proper
getary and technical resources, but actual funding conduct of aquaculture operations (FAO 214), insurance for
has generally fallen short of planned levels. aquaculture stocks (FAO 215), ensuring the absence of obstructions
to navigation (FAO 217), and defined fish migration paths (FAO 218).
The Fisheries Code of 1998 (Republic Act Although there are no recorded reports regarding the implementation
8550)73 aims to ensure sustainable resource man- of FAO 215, its purpose is to increase the participation of formal
financing institutions to lend and allocate funds for small tilapia
agement, food security, and development, including farmers. Lending risks are minimized through insurance guarantees
the reconstitution of BFAR for improved service for loans.


BACKGROUND and traders; (iii) a survey of 248 households—124

adopters (tilapia farmers) and an equal number of
Scope and Purpose nonadopters, i.e., small-scale rice farmers; and (iv)
triangulation. Survey sites were selected using the
This case study provides details of pond farming following criteria: (i) existence of tilapia farming in
of tilapia in a major production area of the Philip- ponds; (ii) being representative of small-scale opera-
pines. The study used primary and secondary data tions;2 (iii) stable peace and order conditions that
and published information to document the allow unhindered and authorized access; and (iv)
human, social, natural, physical, and financial inclusion of agroecological zones that typify
capital available to households involved in the pro- irrigated and nonirrigated areas, to account for
duction and consumption of freshwater farmed resource variations.3
fish and to identify ways in which the poor can Presurvey activities covered site reconnaissance
benefit.1 The history, biophysical, socioeconomic, and rapid appraisal, pretesting and revision of the
and institutional characteristics of Central Luzon household survey instrument, preparation of the
are described, followed by accounts of the technol- sampling frame, training of field enumerators, and
ogy and management of tilapia farming, with a survey dry run and its feedback. The survey took
detailed profiles of fish farmers and other benefi- place in Nueva Ecija and Pampanga provinces on 13
ciaries. Transforming processes are then discussed July–23 August 2003. The tilapia farmers were se-
with respect to markets, institutions, support ser- lected randomly from a list of tilapia farms in Cen-
vices, policy and legal instruments, natural tral Luzon from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic
resources management, and environmental issues. Resources (BFAR).4 The nonadopters were drawn
randomly from the most recent lists of rice farmers
Methods and Sources provided by the Municipal Agriculturist Office in
various municipalities.5 Differences between the two
The following methods were used: (i) review of sec- 1 B. Katon led a survey of farm households in Central Luzon. N. Bestari,
ondary documents; (ii) semi-structured interviews P. Edwards, B. Katon, A. Morales, and R. Pullin collaborated on the
Large tilapia
with key informants from government agencies, methodology, information analyses, and preparation of the report.

ponds in nongovernment organizations, academic personnel, 2 Tilapia farming has hatchery/nursery operations for supplying seed

small- and large-scale tilapia farmers, input suppliers, (fry and fingerlings) and growout operations in which fish are raised
to market size. For this study, small-scale operations were defined as
those using ponds of 1 ha or less for tilapia growout; and for
nonadopters, rice farms of 3 ha or less.
3 The study provinces were Pampanga and Nueva Ecija, major producers
of freshwater tilapia in Central Luzon. The survey sites included 10
municipalities with small-scale operations. In Nueva Ecija, these
included (i) Aliaga, (ii) Guimba, (iii) Muñoz, (iv) Quezon, (v)
Talavera, and (vi) Cabiao. In Pampanga, the sites were (i) Porac, (ii)
Sta. Rita, (iii) Guagua, and (iv) Floridablanca. Half of all these sites
were predominantly rainfed and half were largely irrigated. The sample
size of 124 tilapia farmers was based on a reliability/confidence level
of 95% and a sampling error of 10%. Likewise, 124 nonadopters from
Nueva Ecija and Pampanga were interviewed to facilitate a comparative
analysis of tilapia farmers and nonadopters, making a total of 248
respondents from both groups. The sampling method used was
proportional stratified random sampling.
4 Source: BFAR, Region 3 Office.
5 The choice of rice farmers as nonadopters was based on the finding,
during the reconnaissance, that many tilapia farmers were formerly
rice farmers who had converted their rice lands into tilapia ponds.
Thus, those rice farmers who had continued to plant rice, but had not
grown tilapia, were considered nonadopters for survey purposes and
were selected randomly from the same villages from which the tilapia
farmers were drawn.

groups and between time periods were tested for sta- (i) public water supply; (ii) recreational; (iii) fish-
tistical significance.6 ery water (including aquaculture); and (iv) agri-
culture, irrigation, livestock watering, etc. Note the
History overlap (iii and iv) here with respect to pond farm-
ing, if irrigation water is used. Many of the rivers
Central Luzon, known as Region III, comprises the and streams of Central Luzon dry up or have low
seven provinces of Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva flow rates in the dry season. They are not well
Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac, and Zambales. Pond farm- monitored for water quality and their classification
ing of tilapia began here in the 1950s, following depends largely upon sporadic and out-of-date
introduction of the Mozambique tilapia measurements. The limited data available9 suggest
(Oreochromis mossambicus), which did not per- that most rivers (25) are “nonpolluted,” others
form well. Nile tilapia (O. niloticus) was first intro- (12) “slightly polluted,” and 5 “dead,” but these
duced in the early 1970s and hailed by farmers and data are out of date and probably optimistic.
consumers as a much better fish for farming. Sup- Central Luzon has no large lakes and only two
ported by national and international research and large reservoirs: the Angat dam in Bulacan and the
technology development, tilapia farming in the Pantabangan dam in Nueva Ecija. The latter irri-
Philippines expanded rapidly, with Central Luzon gates about 94,300 ha of farmlands and the Angat
ponds (especially those in Pampanga, Bulacan, and dam, 31,485 ha. The Candaba swamp, Pampanga
Nueva Ecija) the main source of production since (5,040 ha), is an important wetland for fisheries
the 1980s. National tilapia production from fresh- and aquaculture in Central Luzon. Its annual flood-
water ponds increased from 13,874 metric tons (t) ing restricts some of fishpond operations there to
in 1985 to 65,968 t in 2002, with Central Luzon one crop per year. The Candaba swamp is also
expanding its share from 75% to 87% over this largely used for rice farming in the dry season.
period.7 Annual rainfall in Central Luzon is close to 2
meters (m) and run-off exceeds 1 m. Central Luzon
is classed as a “favorable” groundwater area.10 It
BIOPHYSICAL has large “lowland” groundwater resources and
CHARACTERISTICS 6 The Statistical Package for Social Sciences was used to generate
descriptive statistics (frequency counts, percentages, and means) as
General Characteristics of well as inferential statistics (t-test and chi-square for analyzing survey
Central Luzon data. The paired t-test was used for testing the significance of
differences between two time periods (e.g., 5 years ago versus
present); the independent sample t-test was used for testing the
Central Luzon is an agricultural region of 21,366 significance of differences between two independent samples (e.g.,
adopters versus nonadopters). For qualitative variables, chi-square
square kilometers (km2). In 2002, it contributed was used for testing the hypothesis of independence between samples
about 17% of the Philippines’ total production of of respondents. Statistically significant differences existed if the level
of significance was less than 5% or 1% (p<0.05 and p<0.01).
rice. Its rice lands comprise 13.7% of the country’s 7 In 2002, freshwater tilapia ponds in Pampanga produced 43,411 t.
total of 4.05 million hectares (ha).8 It contributes This was a 48% increase over 2001 and comprised 66% of total
significantly to maize, fish, and vegetable produc- national tilapia production from freshwater ponds (65,968 t) and
36% of all national tilapia production from aquaculture (122,316 t).
tion. Central Luzon contains the Philippines’ larg- The corresponding 2002 harvests from ponds in the other Central
est areas of contiguous lowlands, bordered by the Luzon provinces were: Bulacan, 5,900 t; Nueva Ecija, 5,241 t; Tarlac,
2,217 t; Aurora, 465 t; Bataan, 315 t, and Zambales, 77 t. This gives
Sierra Madre to the east and the Zambales moun- a total of 57,626 t for Central Luzon. Bureau of Agricultural Statistics,
tains (including Mount Pinatubo) to the west. For- Department of Agriculture. 2003. Fisheries Situation. Vol. 7, No. 10.
January–December 2002. Quezon City.
est cover is low (<16%). Conversion of agricultural
8 In 2002, Nueva Ecija was the province with the largest rice area
land for human settlements, recreational, and
harvested (239,127 ha) and the largest production in Central Luzon
industrial purposes is increasing. In the south of and in the country (968,754 t). Philippine Rice Research Institute.
the region (Bataan and Bulacan), industrialization 2003. Rice Statistics.

has increased, with expansion of Metropolitan 9 Current literature includes

(i) Pinlac, Estelito M., and Cesar S. Siado, Jr. 1998. Status of Philippine
Manila into these provinces. Rivers and Water Quality Standards. In Riverine Resources in the
Philippines, edited by Rolando B. Eda, Eduardo V. Manalili, and
Loureeda C. Darvin. Los Baños, Laguna: Philippine Council for Aquatic
Waters and Marine Research and Development. p. 15–44.
(ii) Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). 1997.
The Philippine Environmental Quality Report 1990–1995. Quezon City:
Central Luzon contains one major river basin, that Environmental Management Bureau, DENR.
of the Pampanga River (9,579 km2; annual run-off, 10 Torres, Aniano D., and Hernando P. Quiazon. 1997. Groundwater
more than 10,000 million cubic meters [m3]). in the Philippines. In Groundwater Resources, Utilization and
There are about 40 other significant rivers. Surface Management in the Philippines, edited by Eduardo B. Manalili, Adelaida
T. Calpe, and Loureeda C. Darwin. Los Baños, Laguna: Philippine
waters in the Philippines are broadly classified as Council for Aquatic and Marine Research and Development. p. 1–15.

volcanic groundwater basins in Bataan and lessened some of the profligate use of pesticides
Zambales. Alluvial deposits cover about and herbicides. The extent to which these pollute
35,000 km2 and the river valleys are covered with surface waters will vary according to future pest
dense, irregular deposits up to 200 m deep. Annual and disease challenges and chosen control mea-
recharge to unconsolidated lowland aquifers is sures. The water quality in fishponds, small farm
from 0.3 to more than 1 m. They provide season- reservoirs, and other waters used for tilapia farm-
ally abundant, high-quality groundwater at a rate ing varies greatly with the intensity of operations
of 10–260 m3/hour. There are more than 2,000 (fish stocking density, feed, and fertilizer inputs)
small farm reservoirs in Central Luzon, with aver- and local sources of pollution.
age size of about 1,000 m2. They have potential for
tilapia farming,11 but their main function is supple-
mentary irrigation of ricefields in the dry season. SOCIOECONOMIC AND
Published regional and provincial data on the
distribution of fishponds by size are not available.
An indicative estimate derived from BFAR’s list of PERSPECTIVES
tilapia farms in 2002 revealed that freshwater
ponds of 1 ha and less accounted for about 34% of Poverty
the total water surface area of 4,745 ha at the
present study sites in Pampanga and Nueva Ecija.12 The annual per capita poverty line in Central
Small-scale pond farmers outnumbered large-scale Luzon in 2000 was P13,843 ($314 at $1=P44.10
pond farmers (79% versus 21%). Larger ponds are in 2000), requiring a family of 6 to have a mini-
found in parts of Pampanga, particularly in mum annual income of P83,058 to meet food and
Candaba, Macabebe, San Luis, Bacolor, and Sta. nonfood needs. The proportion of families living
Ana, among other municipalities. below the poverty line in Central Luzon increased
The surface water and groundwater of Central from 14% to 17% in 1997–2000.13 These income-
Luzon are of generally good quality for tilapia based poverty measures do not reveal the circum-
farming. Most are moderately hard (average total stances faced by poor farmers or the operating
hardness, 81.41 milligrams per liter [mg.l-1]). environment of their livelihood. In general, the
Live tilapia
being Heavy metal contamination is well within safe lim- rural poor are dependent on agriculture, have low
transported to its for fish and consumers. During the last decade, educational levels, and have poor access to credit.
the market the promotion of integrated pest management has Smallholders, leaseholders, and tenants are
included among the rural poor. Those whose
incomes are precariously above the poverty line
are vulnerable to economic shocks.
The samples of small-scale farmers in the
present survey contained higher proportions of poor
households than the regional average. Roughly 43%
of the tilapia farmers and 71% of nonadopters were
below the provincial poverty line (Table 1).

Demographic and Social Attributes

The 2000 Philippine Census of Population and

Housing indicated that Central Luzon was the third
most populated region in the Philippines in 2000,
with 8.0 million people. Its population grew at
11 Current literature includes
(i) Torres, Lillia D., Janet O. Saturno, and Redel Gutierrez. 2002.
Tilapia Culture in Small Farm Reservoirs. Muñoz, Nueva Ecija: Central
Luzon State University.
(ii) Gutierrez, Redel L., Janet O. Saturno, and Lilia D. Torres. 2002.
Water Quality Analysis and Utilization of Small Farm Reservoirs (SFRs)
for Aquaculture in Region III. Muñoz, Nueva Ecija: Central Luzon State
University. 75p.
12 The Bureau of Agricultural Statistics estimated the total tilapia
farm area in Central Luzon in 2002 at 6,500 ha.
13 National Statistical Coordination Board. 2003. Poverty Statistics.

Table 1: Distribution of Poor and Nonpoor Household Respondents in Central Luzon, Based on Income from All
Sources in 2002

Annual Household Income Tilapia Farmers Nonadopters All

From All Sources (P)
No. % No. % No. %

Less than P83,058 49 39.5 85 68.5 134 54.0

83,058–88,530a 4 3.2 3 2.4 7 2.8
88,531–90,000 6 4.8 1 0.8 7 2.8
90,001–100,000 9 7.3 4 3.2 13 5.2
100,001–150,000 13 10.5 10 8.1 23 9.3
150,001–200,000 2 1.6 8 6.5 10 4.0
200,001–250,000 6 4.8 8 6.5 14 5.7
250,001–300,000 16 12.9 1 0.8 17 6.9
300,001–500,000+ 19 15.4 4 3.2 23 9.3
Total 124 100.0 124 100.0 248 100.0

The annual poverty line in Nueva Ecija and Pampanga is P88,530 for a family of six. For Central Luzon as a whole, it is P83,058.

2.6% annually (1995–2000), surpassing the na- perception of a healthy alternative to meat. Given
tional rate of 2.1%. Population density was 422 the proportion of poor, small-scale farm households
people per km2, up from 340 people per km2 a (Table 1), the survey shows that tilapia farming pro-
decade earlier. Males (50.4%) slightly outnum- vided nutritional benefits to poor households. Food
bered females (49.6%) in 2000. The 15–59 years accounts for roughly 52% of the total household
age bracket comprised 59% of the population, the expenditures of the poor;16 thus, these poor people
0–14 age bracket 35%, and the 60 years and older have gained from the availability of tilapia as an af-
group only 6%. Literacy was generally high at 95%. fordable food fish.
Most households (87%) depended on electricity for Consumption of Tilapia and Nonfish Items.
lighting and had access to piped water (96%) for In 2002, the most frequent average consumption of
drinking and cooking. About 76% of households tilapia by respondent households was 3 days a week,
owned their housing units. and the least frequent consumption was 2 days a
week. Given these frequencies and the mean size of
Human Health and Nutrition 5 fish per kg (200 grams per fish), annual tilapia con-
sumption would be 21–31 kg per person at tilapia
Fish are not only an important source of animal producing sites, if tilapia were eaten every week. In
protein in human diets, but also of micronutrients 2003, about 85% of all respondent households ate
(vitamins and minerals) and healthy lipids. In Cen- tilapia 1–4 days a week (the reference period was
tral Luzon, the average annual intake of fish in the 7 days before interview). The mean consump-
1993 (latest statistics available) was about 28 kg tion frequency was 3 days a week. Almost half of the
per person,14 but regional data did not reflect the households preferred a size of 5–6 fish per kg largely
types of fish consumed. Cereals (124 kg) and veg- due to equity considerations (one fish per household
etables/fruits (78 kg) dominated food intake. Milk member). Others chose larger sizes because these
products and meat accounted for 27 kg and 16 kg had more flesh and were easier to clean. Only 10%
per person per year, respectively. On average, the of the households preferred smaller tilapia (7–8 fish
daily energy intake (1,758 calories) and the daily per kg). The correlation between fish size and poor
protein intake (51 g) per person were close to the
national averages.
14 Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.
Consumption of Tilapia: Tilapia Farming 2001. Nutrition Country Profiles: Philippines. Rome. The profile drew
Households versus Nonadopters. The survey of its consumption statistics from the 1993 National Nutrition Survey
of the Philippines.
124 tilapia farming households and 124 nonadopter
households for this study indicated that tilapia is an 15Tilapias belong to the fish family Cichlidae, the species of which
(unlike carps, milkfish, and other widely farmed freshwater species)
important fish in the diets of tilapia farming house- have no intramuscular bones in the somatic muscles used for fillets,
holds and nonadopters alike. The main reasons given which are, therefore, completely bone free.
for eating tilapia were taste, freshness, availability, 16In the absence of official data, the indicative share of food in the
household expenditures of the poor can be inferred from the
and low price. Other reasons included the presence percentage spent on food by households in poor Philippine provinces.
of few fish bones,15 familiarity with the fish, and See

households was weak (p>0.05), implying that quire a surface upon which the female deposits
poor households did not necessarily opt for smaller eggs. The eggs are fertilized externally by release
fish. Tilapia farmers and nonadopters shared simi- of sperm from the male and immediately taken
lar preferences. The survey indicated that in 2003, into the female’s mouth and incubated there until
households consumed vegetables more frequently they hatch, and thereafter until they become
(5 days a week) than milk, eggs, and meat. On yolksac larvae and then swim-up fry that eventu-
average, they consumed milk and eggs on 3.0 days ally feed independently, no longer taking refuge in
a week, and meat on 2.6 days a week. The frequent her mouth. All the tilapia species in genus
consumption of vegetables is not surprising; farm- Oreochromis show this behavior.
ers at the study sites also grow vegetables. There are two other basic characteristics of
Months with Inadequate Food. Two thirds tilapias that are of great importance for seed sup-
(67%) of the respondents experienced food deficits ply and growout. First, their prolific breeding in
in 2002. The most difficult months were August ponds can lead to unpredictable harvests, includ-
(43%) and September (38%). These months coin- ing significant quantities of undersized fish. Sec-
cided with the completion of major farming activi- ond, the males grow faster than females. These
ties (pond preparation, rice planting, etc.), marked two factors led to decades of research on how best
by an absence of income and a slackening of on-farm to produce all-male tilapia seed. From a wide range
employment. They also coincided with the occur- of possible methods,20 so-called “sex reversal” is by
rence of typhoons in this area. Food deficits were sig- far the most widely practiced. It requires that the
nificantly longer for nonadopters than for tilapia
farmers (2 months versus 1 month).
17 Through selective breeding, the development of genetically
improved farmed tilapias (GIFT) was partly financed by ADB under
TECHNOLOGY AND TA 5279-REG: Genetic Improvement of Tilapia Species in Asia, for
$475,000, approved on 8 March 1988. ADB also supported

MANAGEMENT dissemination of GIFT through TA 5558-REG: Dissemination and

Evaluation of Genetically Improved Tilapia Species in Asia (DEGITA),
for $600,000, approved on 14 December 1993. The initiatives on
research, development, and dissemination of GIFT (1988–1997) were
Genetic Improvement of Tilapia supported by ADB and UNDP, and implemented by the International
Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management (ICLARM, Manila)
in partnership with Philippine agencies and institutes (BFAR, CLSU,
Since the late 1980s, substantial research and tech- and the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute) and
nology development for genetic improvement of with other partners, principally AKVAFORSK of Norway (http:// Development of new strains of tilapia continues,
farmed tilapia have been undertaken on the cam- with extensive use of genetic material derived from these projects; for
pus of Central Luzon State University (CLSU) at its example, the Genomar Supreme Tilapia (GST) and the BFAR strain
(GET 2002 EXCEL). FAC sells its own strain, known variously as FAC-
Freshwater Aquaculture Center (FAC) and at the selected, FAST, and IDRC strain (acknowledging support from the
adjacent National Freshwater Fisheries Technology International Development Research Centre of Canada). To date, there
is no standard strain nomenclature and no independent strain
Center (NFFTC) of BFAR. 17 Tilapia genetic certification. The result is a confusing mixture of marketing claims.
improvement has become a highly dynamic and BFAR distributes its seed and broodstock to BFAR multiplier stations
and to affiliated private hatcheries that are encouraged to breed their
competitive field of research and private enter- own fish and to feedback information and superior breeding material.
prise. Central Luzon tilapia farmers now have Genomar Supreme Philippines (
supreme.asp) holds eight current members of its preferred partner
access to a wide range of tilapia strains, produced hatchery network (six hatcheries in Central Luzon) to contracts that
by public agencies, public-private partnerships, preclude the unauthorized breeding of strains other than its GST
strain. These Genomar partner hatcheries distribute only all-male,
private corporations, and small-scale hatcheries. sex-reversed tilapia seed to farmers.
Increasingly, the developers of tilapia strains are 18 Technical services include training, performance monitoring, on-
entering into agreements with other hatcheries to site consultation, and sharing of good practices.
become accredited suppliers. These agreements 19 BFAR uses a nationwide system of size (and price) categories for
are often accompanied by technical support ser- its tilapia seed. The code numbers used are based upon the mesh
sizes of the nets used to grade the fish. For example, “size 24” fry
vices to encourage customer loyalty.18 (individual weight 0.045–0.096 grams [g]) and “size 22” fry (0.129–
0.145 g) cost P0.15–0.25, respectively, in 2000. “Size 17” fingerlings
(0.468–1.200 g) and “size 14” fingerlings (1.30–2.96 g) cost P0.35–
Seed Supply 0.45. These prices pertain to the GET 2000 fingerlings of BFAR,
effective 14 August 2000.
Tilapia seed (fry and fingerlings)19 is raised from 20 The possible methods include hand sexing and discarding females
captive broodstock in hatcheries and nurseries, (laborious and wasteful), stocking predatory fish species to eat the
unwanted fry produced during growout (difficult to manage and
which may be on the same premises. In Central forfeits the male growth advantage); and interspecific hybrid crosses
Luzon, hatcheries nurse fry to fingerlings and there that produce skewed sex ratios, sometimes 99–100% male (difficult
to manage). These methods were compared by the Filipino developer
is no significant nursery subsector. Nile tilapia are of SRT—Guerrero, Rafael D. III. 1982. Control of Tilapia Reproduction.
sexually mature within 6 months and are easy to In The Biology and Culture of Tilapias, edited by Roger S. V. Pullin
and Rosemary H. Lowe-McConnell. ICLARM Conference Proceedings
breed. Their courtship behavior and spawning re- 7. Manila. p. 309–316.

feed given to swim-up fry in the first 25–30 days members and observation of other tilapia farms Above, left:
contain an androgenic hormone (usually methylt- also influenced decision making. Small tilapia
hatchery using
estosterone) and results in 95–100% male seed, Barriers to Starting Tilapia Farming. Both
hapas (net
called sex-reversed tilapia (SRT). Buyers expect tilapia farmers and nonadopters considered that enclosures)
SRT seed to be at least 98% male, in order to avoid the most formidable barrier to starting tilapia
significant and unwanted breeding during farming was the lack of capital (57%) for financ- Above, right:
growout. Hatchery reputations depend upon ing pond construction and operating expenses. Large tilapia
hatchery using
achieving the highest possible percentage of male Seen as further deterrents were high input prices,
concrete tanks
seed. The SRT technique works with all tilapia particularly of feeds (16%); unsuitable farm loca-
strains and is safe for the fish and for consumers.21 tion, i.e., flood prone and no access road (9%); fear
Another approach to mass production of all-male of bankruptcy (6%); lack of technical expertise
tilapia seed was pioneered at the University of (4%); unreliable water supply (4%); limited land
Wales Swansea, United Kingdom, and further de- (2%); and low farm gate price of tilapia (2%).
veloped in collaboration with FAC/CLSU in 1991– Tilapia Farming Practices. Nearly all re-
1994 22 and subsequently with the commercial spondent small-scale tilapia farmers (96%) raised
company FishGen.23 at least one crop of tilapia in 2002. Fewer farmers
There are at least 142 tilapia hatcheries in (72%) had a second cycle of tilapia, due largely to
Central Luzon, of which 53 are in Pampanga and inadequate water supply during the dry season.
45 in Nueva Ecija. Official statistics are not avail- (Even if tilapia farmers had water pumps, the
able on the seed production of these hatcheries
but, based on key informant interviews, monthly
21 According to a Joint FAO/NACA/WHO Study Group: “Hormones
production per hatchery ranges from 100,000 fin-
are employed principally in hatcheries to induce spawning (e.g., carps)
gerlings for smaller hatcheries to more than 5 mil- and to control sex of offspring, especially for tilapias. In view of the
lion fingerlings for larger hatcheries.24 In 2003, the stages in the production cycle in which the hormones are used and
the rates at which they are excreted by fish, there is no risk to
eight Genomar-accredited hatcheries jointly pro- consumers of the products of aquaculture.” Source: World Health
duced 20–40 million fingerlings per month. The Organization (WHO). 1999. Food Safety Issues Associated with
Products from Aquaculture. WHO Technical Report Series 883. Geneva.
NFFTC hatchery in Central Luzon produces about 55 p.
96 million fingerlings per year.25 22 Mair, Graham C., and David O. F. Skibinski. 1994. Genetic Means
for the Production of Monosex Tilapia. Final Report. Muñoz, Nueva
Ecija, Philippines; Freshwater Aquaculture Center, Central Luzon State
Growout University and Swansea, U.K., School of Biological Sciences, University
of Wales Swansea. Using an Egyptian strain of Nile Tilapia developed
at the University of Wales Swansea, this project successfully produced
Reasons for Engaging in Tilapia Farming. For YY males and females.
the majority (71%) of tilapia farmers surveyed, 23 Available:
profitability was the main driving force, highlight- 24 The estimated demand for tilapia fingerlings in Central Luzon is
ing the role of tilapia in generating cash income 227–455 million fingerlings per cycle, derived by multiplying a mean
for the household rather than food for home con- stocking density of 70,000 fingerlings per hectare (based on survey
results) by the total fishpond area (low assumption of 50% and high
sumption. Other motivating factors cited were the assumption of 100% utilization of 6,500 ha). The annual demand for
influence of other farmers (31%) and extension fingerlings in Central Luzon could be 454–910 million.
workers (20%). To some extent, advice from family 25 Source: National Freshwater Fisheries Technology Center, BFAR.

sell SRT, but BFAR-registered hatcheries may pro-
duce SRT as an option. For the BFAR GET strain,
sex reversal increases the retail cost by at least
P0.10 per fingerling, according to some hatchery
The most popular tilapia strains at the sites
surveyed were the BFAR GET strain (64% of
responses) and Genomar Supreme Tilapia (28%).
Genetically male tilapia and other strains accounted
for the balance (8%).27 On the choice of strain, most
tilapia farmers (91%) placed a premium on fast
growth. The price of fingerlings was secondary.
Other factors that influenced the choice of strain
were proximity of the hatchery, advice from the sup-
plier of fingerlings, and advice from other farmers.
Having a choice of strain was seen as important
(50%) to very important (45%). About half indi-
cated that they would purchase tilapia seed based
only on claims about its performance whereas about
half would not, suggesting differences in level of risk
Backyard tilapia amount of water that could be drawn was less dur- aversion among farmers.
pond and rice ing the dry season than during the rainy season). The majority of tilapia farmers (68%) pre-
farm ferred to feed their fish with commercial feeds
The most common fingerling size used for stock-
ing was size 22 (footnote 19). These cycles typi- (intensive tilapia farming). The extent of depen-
cally last about 4 months. A third cycle was dence on commercial feeds was more pronounced
possible in Pampanga as reported by 6% of the in Pampanga than in Nueva Ecija (79% versus
respondents, but the growing period was relatively 58%) due, in part, to existing credit lines with feed
short (3.0–3.5 months). Some farmers used rela- suppliers. Only a quarter of the farmers (27%)
tively large fingerlings (sizes 17 and 14) during the combined the use of commercial feeds, pond fer-
third cycle to reduce mortality and shorten the tilization, and feeding with rice bran, and very few
growing period. In Pampanga, farmers procured (2%) relied solely on natural production of pond
their fingerlings from local hatcheries (70%) as plankton to feed their fish. Overall, the mean feed
well as from Nueva Ecija and Bulacan. In Nueva conversion ratio28 for semi-intensive ponds was
Ecija, almost all farmers purchased their finger- 1.1, and for intensive ponds, 1.3. Farmers fed their
lings locally. The months for raising tilapia varied, tilapia twice (31%) or three times a day (62%).
but most farmers stocked their ponds in January/ Feeds comprised the main cost component—about
February as well as in August/September so their 72% of the total variable cost of production for in-
harvest would coincide with religious events (par- tensive tilapia farming—and comprised mainly
ticularly Holy Week in March or April), town fies- imported ingredients, especially fishmeal. Lower-
tas, and other festivities. ing tilapia feed costs and improving feeds are ma-
Freshwater tilapia ponds can be conveniently jor issues, together with the search for suitable
divided into three size groups: ponds of less than substitutes for fishmeal.
1,000 m2, 23% of all ponds surveyed;26 ponds of Most tilapia farmers (92%) reported that they
1,000–5,000 m2, 43%; and those of 5,001–10,000 used fertilizers largely for basal application to their
m2, 34%. Ponds had a mean water surface area of ponds, and 76% used inorganic fertilizers, such as
0.50 ha and a depth of 1.5–2.0 m. The stocking urea and ammonium phosphate, which could be
density was 6–7 fingerlings per m2, close to the purchased at the town centers more readily than
BFAR-recommended stocking densities of 9–15 fin- the organic fertilizers (mainly chicken manure)
gerlings per m2 for intensive aquaculture (total used by some (22%). A few tilapia farmers (2%)
reliance on commercial feeds) and 4–8 fingerlings
per m2 for semi-intensive aquaculture (fertilization 26 These backyard ponds were more common in Nueva Ecija than in
Pampanga (37% versus 8%) and usually provided secondary income
plus supplemental feeding). The survival rates to rice farmers.
were 71–82%. Most farmers (62%) used SRT, 27 This survey finding applies to small-scale tilapia farms. Key
which generally had better growth and feed con- informants from large-scale farms outside the study sites reported
the use of FAST, Genomar Supreme Tilapia, and other tilapia strains.
version, and often came with advisory services
from better-organized hatcheries. BFAR does not 28 FCR = weight of feed given: weight of fish harvested.

did not use any fertilizers at all, believing that their Table 2: Comparative Net Incomes per Hectare in 2002 from Tilapia Ponds
pond soil was fertile enough and relying on com- and Rice Farms in Central Luzon (P)
mercial feeds. They also perceived that fertilization
could lead to off-flavors in harvested fish. Mean Gross Mean Production Net Income
Complete harvesting of a pond was the most Cycle/Crop Incomea Cost
common practice (72%) for tilapia destined for
sale. Partial harvesting, where harvesting is done Tilapia Pond
more than once regardless of fish size, accounted First 336,582 212,729 123,853
for the remainder of tilapia farmers. Selective har- Second 320,152 208,617 111,535
vesting, where size selection matters and where Total 656,734 421,346 235,388
harvesting takes place more than once, was the Rice Farm
least common practice (10%) among farmers. First 39,205 17,107 22,098
Unwanted Tilapia Breeding in Growout Second 47,875 12,104 35,771
Ponds. About half (52%) of the surveyed tilapia Total 87,080 29,211 57,869
farmers had not experienced tilapia breeding in P = Philippine peso.
their growout fishponds, but for the remainder a
Includes both cash and noncash income. Noncash income, or the monetary equivalent of
(48%) the extent of unwanted breeding was sub- fish that were either consumed or given away, accounted for 9%. In the case of rice farmers,
the mean cash income from the sale of paddy accounted for 60%, and noncash income or
stantial. This resulted in slower fish growth and monetary equivalent of rice consumed, given away, and saved as seed, 40%.
smaller fish, attributed largely to overcrowding in Source: Special evaluation study survey of 248 farms.

the pond and the presence of slower-growing

female tilapia. on average 60% of their rice, with 21% consumed
Yields, Sales, Production Cost, and Net in their households, 6% given away, and 13%
Income. The average tilapia yields recorded were saved as seed for the next crop.
7.8 t and 8.8 t per hectare (ha) for the first and Farmers’ Problems and Future Plans. The
second crop cycle, respectively. For a two-crop most common problems of tilapia farmers were:
cycle in 2002, the average gross income per ha was (i) high feed prices (88%); (ii) high fertilizer prices
approximately P656,734 (Table 2), at a mean farm (73%); (iii) declining net profits (72%); (iv) high
gate price of P42.45 per kg. Expenses per ha for a cost of pond construction (65%); and (v) presence
two-crop cycle were P421,346: 72% on feeds; 11% of tilapia predators, such as Channa striata
for fingerlings; 7% labor; diesel, water, and other (snakehead), Clarias spp. (catfish), and bullfrogs
expenses, 6%; and fertilizer and chemicals, 4%. (54%). Nonadopters cited high fertilizer prices,
Total net income was about P235,388 per ha, insufficient water supply, pests and diseases, dwin-
much higher than the average P57,869 per ha from dling profits, destructive typhoons, and floods as
two-crop rice farming. constraining their rice farming operations. Most
The annual net income (P56,619—108,505) tilapia farmers were optimistic about their future
from tilapia farming, however, was lower than that operations: 59% planned to continue and 15% to
on a per-ha basis because farmers’ ponds had an expand operations due to attractive financial
average water area of 0.5 ha per crop and only returns; however, 16% were uncertain about the
about 70% had a second crop. The others had in- future and 10% planned either to discontinue or
adequate water supply in the dry season due to to reduce their operations because of fish kills and
weak water pressure. Inadequate water for a sec- financial losses. Most nonadopters (52%) did not
ond crop was also an issue for small-scale rice see themselves engaging in tilapia aquaculture in
farmers. The annual net income of rice farmers in view of perceived risks and their limited financial
2002 was P29,499—77,524. The farm gate price resources. About 20% of them were undecided but
of paddy rice per kg was P8.50–8.92. On average, the remainder were open to venturing into tilapia
rice yields were 4.0 t and 4.7 t per ha for the first farming.
and second crop, respectively. Tilapia farmers perceived the following as
Tilapia farming contributed an average of 39% being the principal threats to tilapia farming:
of the total income of farmers’ households. Small- (i) declining farm gate prices of tilapia29 amid ris-
scale tilapia farmers sold about 91% of their har- ing feed costs (43%); (ii) increasing number of
vests, confirming tilapia as a cash crop. The rest tilapia growers (9%); (iii) water pollution (4%);
was given away (5%) or consumed (4%). Respon-
dents felt that sharing part of the tilapia harvest
and fostering good community relations were 29 The farm gate price per kg of tilapia at the special evaluation study
sites declined from P51 to P42 in 1998–2002. Feed prices increased
important. Rice contributed 66% of total house- from P15 to P17.2 per kg over the same period, i.e., from P375 to
hold income of nonadopters. These farmers sold P430 per 25-kg bag.

(iv) lack of unity among small operators (4%); and (15% versus 2%). Nonadopters were also pre-
(v) climatic change (2%). Financial losses and dominantly owner-operators (79%). The rest were
price monopoly by traders were mentioned by 1% lessees (16%), caretakers (3%), and sharecroppers
each. In Nueva Ecija, poisoning of tilapia by un- (2%). Tilapia farmers and nonadopters differed
friendly people was an issue. The rest did not per- significantly in many attributes, except household
ceive any threats. Nonadopters shared broadly the size, for which both groups had on average slightly
same views on threats. more than 5 members (Table 3). Tilapia farmers
were younger, had completed more years of high
Fish Health school education, and had shorter years of resi-
dence in the village than nonadopters. Their aver-
Tilapia farming in the tropics is relatively free from age length of experience in tilapia farming was
serious disease problems and the hatchery and pond relatively short (4.7 years).30 Nonadopters, by con-
growout operations of Central Luzon fit this general trast, had almost 30 years of rice farming experi-
pattern. Most fish mortalities are caused by adverse ence. Among farmers who own land, tilapia farmers
environmental conditions and poor husbandry and had on average larger landholdings than
not by parasites or pathogens. Among the tilapia nonadopters (2.5 ha versus 1.3 ha). About 39% of
farmers, 32% reported fish kills, which occurred tilapia farmers were previously rice farmers. In
more frequently in the hot months of March, April, general, most respondents (74%) were born in
and May. Fish kills were higher in Pampanga than in their villages.
Nueva Ecija (50% versus 13%). The Pampanga Occupations and Related Risks. Most (89%)
farmers attributed fish kills to the lack of dissolved of the heads of tilapia farming households reported
oxygen (33%), water pollution (30%), and high more than one occupation, indicating occupational
water temperature (20%). The only notable fish dis- diversification as a survival strategy among small-
ease reported was fungal infection (20%). scale farmers as well as a means of spreading risk in
case of crop failure. Overall, tilapia farming was the
primary occupation of nearly half (46%), with sec-
PROFILE OF TILAPIA ondary and other occupations as follows: rice farm-
FARMERS ing (21%), vegetable farming (12%), and livestock
raising (12%). Other occupations included driving,
The study illustrates that access to water and land, vending/trading, office employment, and carpentry.
along with linkages with input suppliers and service Some tilapia farmers (36%) have continued to plant
providers, opens up opportunities for farming tila-
pia. Nonownership of land does not always deter
30 Based on key informant interviews with eight large-scale tilapia
entry to tilapia farming. Owner-operators have farmers, their mean length of experience in tilapia farming was 9.2
secure tenure to their land but others, such as care- years, almost double that of small-scale farmers.
takers and lessees, can nonetheless farm tilapia as a
source of livelihood if adequate tenure rights can be
obtained and if constraints on access to input and Table 3: Characteristics of Tilapia Farmers and
Nonadopters in Central Luzon
output markets do not discourage investment. The
ability to purchase the required inputs depends on Variable Tilapia Nonadopter p
access to funds, whether from one’s own savings or (Mean Values) Farmer
from external sources. Most small-scale tilapia farm-
ers (66%) use their own resources to finance their Age (years) 51.0 56.9 0.001a
Education (years) 9.6 7.3 0.000 a
operations. For those who have inadequate family
Length of Residence
resources, the financial barrier can be overcome by (years) 40.4 50.8 0.000 a
credit lines with feed suppliers, friends, relatives, or Household Size
financiers. (number) 5.3 5.5 0.502
Length of Experience
in Present Occupation
Human Capital (years) 4.7 29.7 0.000 a
Length of Experience in
Type of Operators. Most respondent small-scale Previous Occupation
tilapia farmers in Nueva Ecija and Pampanga were (years) 16.8 8.0 0.000 a
owner-operators (86%). Lessees and caretakers Land Ownership
(hectares) 2.5 1.3 0.003 a
accounted for 8% and 4%, respectively, and labor-
ers with a fixed salary made up 2%. Pampanga had p = probability.
a higher proportion of lessees than did Nueva Ecija a
Significant, p < 0.01.

rice in separate plots. This practice is more com- pumps. Other water sources noted by respondents
mon in Nueva Ecija, where rice farming is tradi- were irrigation (18%), rain (8%), rivers/streams
tionally dominant, with home farm production (3%), and small water impoundments (1%). For
considered important. Most tilapia farmers (82%) most tilapia farmers, neither water availability nor
reported no associated health problems. Those the cost of good quality water limited their tilapia
who did mention health problems gave, as the farming. However, 19% reported water problems,
most common complaints: fatigue, hypertension mainly unreliable water supply (half those with
(aggravated by heat), arthritis, and gastric ulcers. problems), together with seasonality of water sup-
Among heads of nonadopter households, 61% re- ply (one third) and weak water pressure (10%)
ported having more than one occupation. Their during the relatively drier months of March to
secondary and other occupations included live- April. More nonadopters than tilapia farmers (51%
stock raising (23%), vegetable farming (20%), versus 19%) regarded insufficient water supply as
driving (6%), carpentry (6%), and vending/trad- a serious problem and discouraged them from
ing (5%). tilapia pond farming. For nonadopters, water-
Gender Participation. Tilapia pond farming related problems included seasonality (67%),
in Central Luzon is predominantly male-oriented, unreliability (27%), poor water quality (3%), and
particularly in relation to pond preparation, input climate change (3%). Nonadopters depended on
procurement (fingerlings, fertilizer, and feeds), various sources of water for their rice farms as fol-
and application of basal fertilizer. Much (80%) of lows: irrigation (21%), rain (46%), and rivers/
these activities is done exclusively by males. How- streams (5%). Some nonadopters, particularly in
ever, males and females share responsibilities for Pampanga, have begun to use water from deep
feeding the fish (18%), contacting harvesters wells for a more predictable water supply.
(14%), harvesting (22%), marketing (29%), and
record keeping (19%). Social Capital

Natural Capital Access to social capital hastens the acquisition of

information, training, and advisory services for
Access to Land and Water. Access and tenure tilapia farming. Most tilapia farmers (82%) traced
rights to land and water are fundamental for tila- the origin of their tilapia farming practices to their
pia farming. The survey showed that tilapia farm- own province, disseminated through an informal
ers had access to land either through ownership or network of farmers, government agencies, and pri-
lease arrangements. On average, they devoted 0.5 vate sector groups (hatcheries, feed suppliers,
ha of their owned land to fish growout and about etc.). Through these links, more than two thirds of
2 ha to other uses (rice, vegetables, etc.). Their them have received training, specifically in pond
lands were generally acquired through inheritance preparation (65%), tilapia husbandry (43%), tila-
and purchase. For those who leased land from oth- pia nutrition (6%), and tilapia seed production
ers for tilapia growout, the mean area leased was (2%). The length of training reported was 1–6
0.7 ha. 31 For tilapia farmers who did not own days, with a mean of 2 days. The key players in the
ponds (12%), access was acquired through guar- provision of training were feed suppliers, hatcher-
anteed user rights, lasting 1–5 years. Some lessors ies, and government, including FAC/CLSU.
even allowed indefinite use, for as long as the user Most tilapia farmers (82%) were not affiliated
needed the pond. In lease arrangements, the pond with any livelihood association. However, for those
user paid about P10,000–25,000 per ha per year. who were members (18%), multipurpose coopera-
For relatives of pond owners, lease payments were tives were the most popular choice (43% of the
not required, but the net profit was often divided responses). Tilapia growers’ associations accounted
equally between the owner and the tilapia opera- for 26% and the rest were rice farmers’ groups
tor. Pond caretakers shared at least 10% of the net (13%), women’s groups (13%), and irrigation as-
profit, in addition to their monthly salary from the sociations (13%). The associations’ role in technol-
pond owner or financier. ogy dissemination was that of coordination with
Sources of Water. Most tilapia farmers (89%)
obtained a reliable water supply through deep 31For small-scale tilapia farms, land leased from others was 0.2–1.2
wells. This lessened water-related conflicts with ha. For large-scale tilapia farms, the range was 3–7 ha.
rice farmers, who depended heavily on irrigation. 32 About 60% of the provincial area is estimated to be high yielding
Such water-use conflicts were rare (3%). in terms of groundwater. Pampanga’s deep groundwater areas are
generally sedimentary formations, 90% of which are aquifers.
Pampanga, in particular, has substantial ground- Provincial Planning and Development Office. 2001. Socioeconomic
water reserves32 that can be extracted through Profile of Pampanga. San Fernando, Pampanga, Philippines.

government and nongovernment organizations on (57%) did not receive external financial assistance
the provision of training and technical assistance. for their rice farms, for the same reasons; for those
Tilapia growers’ associations imparted technical who did borrow, the more common sources were
information directly to their members. Most relatives and friends, input suppliers, cooperatives,
nonadopters (85%) lacked affiliation with any live- and traders. The mean amount of external finan-
lihood association, but reported links to other cial assistance sought was lower for nonadopters
farmers, friends, and input suppliers. Fewer than for tilapia farmers (P29,289 versus P128,000)
nonadopters (47%) than tilapia farmers (68%) because of the lower production cost of rice farms.
have received formal training. Tilapia farmers received loans of P10,000–220,000
per cycle.
Physical Capital Household Income. The mean contribution
from tilapia farming to total household income was
Ownership of Assets and Access to Facilities. 55% in Pampanga and 22% in Nueva Ecija (aver-
Nearly all (94%) respondents owned their dwell- age 39%). This difference was due, in part, to the
ing units. However, significantly more tilapia more commercial nature of tilapia farming in
farmers than nonadopters had sturdy housing Pampanga. Apart from tilapia, farmers in the two
materials (cement for walls and galvanized iron provinces drew 29% of their income from rice and
sheets for roofs) (74% versus 59%) and owned 6% from vegetables. Office employment, carpen-
water pumps (82% versus 63%). Almost all tila- try, trading, trucking operations, and driving were
pia farmers and nonadopters owned television the other income sources. For nonadopters, the
sets, electric fans, and water-sealed toilets. How- main income sources were rice farming, vegetable
ever, tilapia farmers had significantly more assets farming, and wages/salaries. The mean contribu-
than nonadopters in terms of refrigerators (77% tion from rice farming to total income was 66%
versus 58%), telephones/cellular phones (73% and from vegetable farming, 9%. Wages contrib-
versus 52%), gold jewelry (71% versus 56%), and uted around 10%.
vehicles (39% versus 17%). 33 Overall, tilapia Remittances. Remittances 34 accounted for
farmers were relatively better off than 5% of the total household income of tilapia farme-
nonadopters in terms of ownership of physical rs and nonadopters. More tilapia farmers than
capital. Both tilapia farmers and nonadopters nonadopters (31% versus 26%) received remit-
enjoyed easy access to roads and transport facili- tances from family members and relatives.
ties, but tilapia farmers had better access than Nonadopters received a significantly higher aver-
nonadopters to reliable water supply (73% versus age amount per month (P9,023 versus P6,351).
49%), markets (63% versus 54%), and communi- About half (54%) of the respondents who had
cation facilities (63% versus 54%). remittances received them every month, while
21% received them every 2–6 months.
Financial Capital

Access to Funds for Farm Operations. Two

thirds of the respondent small-scale tilapia farmers Output Markets
(66%) were self-reliant, drawing on their own
funds. The absence of financial assistance from Tilapia production from freshwater ponds is
external sources was attributed to the lack of largely market driven. The marketing of tilapia was
access to formal credit, high interest rates, lack of relatively easy for most respondent tilapia farmers
financial assistance from the government, and (89%); traders normally picked up their harvested
adequacy of family resources. Among the 34% who tilapia at the farms. Most tilapia farmers (77%)
received financial assistance, funds mainly came sold to wholesalers-assemblers. The rest sold to
from feed suppliers (51%) and relatives/friends retailers, consumers, and brokers. The wholesal-
(20%). The rest borrowed from moneylenders, fin- ers-assemblers transport live tilapia in aerated
anciers, banks, cooperatives, and feed dealers. tanks to various markets within and beyond the
Because feeds comprised nearly three quarters of borders of the study sites. In this way, harvests
the cost of tilapia production, some tilapia farm- from small-scale tilapia farms enter larger con-
ers borrowed feeds to reduce their cash outlay. The sumer markets, allowing the farmers to participate
feed costs were payable upon harvest, with a mark-
up of P10–20 per bag of feed. For those who bor- 33 All these differences were statistically significant.
rowed in cash, the interest rate was 5–10% per 34 Funds sent by overseas workers to their families and relatives in
cycle of 4 months. More than half the nonadopters the Philippines.

in opportunities generated by the growth and dyna-
mism of tilapia farming, enhanced by good physical
infrastructure (roads, transport, and communica-
tions) and by expanded market linkages.
Choice of tilapia market outlets is a function
of preference for cash as the mode of payment,
existence of a buyer-seller relationship, best price
offered, and convenience. About half (52%) the
respondent tilapia farmers felt that the buyer was
the final decision maker on price; fewer (32%)
believed that they were the decision makers on
pricing. Not many (16%) felt that the buyer and
the tilapia producer determined the price jointly.
A deterrent to seeking alternative market outlets,
as reported by 25% of the surveyed tilapia farm-
ers, was the premium on trust that had been built
with their buyers. There were cases in the past
when buyers took the fish but failed to pay the
farmers. This experience made producers more
cautious and insistent on cash transactions. Other
deterrents, as mentioned by a few (less than 10%)
of the respondents, were the convenience of cur-
rent marketing arrangements, satisfaction with the
farm gate prices offered by current buyers, lack of
alternative market contacts, and the expenses
entailed in searching for other tilapia buyers. Nev-
ertheless, 28% of the respondents saw no barrier to depend directly on tilapia farming.35 Signboard of a
at all to seeking other market outlets, while 15% Caretakers and salaried workers on small tila- tilapia dealer
were not interested in finding other buyers. pia farms earned P2,000–3,000 per month. In ad-
dition, they sometimes received free food and 10%
Labor and Employment of net profits. Some large-scale tilapia farmers
hired caretakers at P3,000 per month and gave
Tilapia growout at the study sites provided self- them 15–20% of net profits. Thus, tilapia pond
employment for farmers and their family members farming provided both employment benefits and
as well as outside employment for caretakers and income benefits to poorer workers who were not
laborers. Based on this survey, the working hours in a position to establish their own ponds. Tilapia
per worker on small ponds were 4–7 hours daily, farmers also hired seasonal labor during pond
generally spent on feeding the fish, cleaning the preparation and harvesting at P150–250 per day
farm surroundings, and guarding the fish from for at least 10 days per cycle. The actual number
poachers. Overall, the mean estimate was 2.4 per- of seasonal workers is difficult to estimate.
sons per ha, which is relatively high because Tilapia growout operations have backward
unpaid family labor is included. Small ponds com- linkages (hatchery/nurseries and suppliers of feeds
prised about 34% of ponds in the study area of and other inputs) and forward linkages (harvest-
4,745 ha. This suggests direct employment of ing, postharvest handling, processing, and market-
about 3,872 people. For large ponds, which occu- ing), all of which also absorb labor. Such indirect
pied the remainder of the study area, the average employment could be substantial, but is difficult
employment generated was only 1.1 persons per to quantify in the absence of accurate data.
ha—large farms had to optimize their resource use Among tilapia farmers, the perceived con-
in order to stay profitable, given high operating straints to finding employment elsewhere included
costs and declining farm gate prices of tilapia, such old age (31%), uncertainty of finding an alterna-
that their direct employment was approximately tive job (23%), and limited skills for another job
3,445 people. Thus, the ponds in the study area (3%). Others were simply not interested in consid-
generated a combined employment of about ering other job options or abandoning their farms.
7,300 people. Roughly 24,000 people in
Pampanga and Nueva Ecija, inclusive of tilapia
workers and their household members, are likely 35 Based on 7,300 tilapia workers and 3.3 dependents per worker.

Public and Private Institutions improved tilapia seed include research (on-station
and on-farm trials), extension, farmer financing,
The Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management risk-sharing arrangements with feed suppliers and
Councils (FARMCs), policymaking bodies for fish- financiers, and collaboration with the public sector.38
eries and aquatic resources in the Philippines, have The rapid commercialization of tilapia farming has
national and local roles. The national FARMC been accelerated by development and distribution
assists in formulating policies for the protection, of new tilapia breeds, government support for
sustainable development, and management of fish- research and extension, collaboration between the
ery and aquatic resources.36 The municipal FARMC government and private sector, support from inter-
assists in preparing 5-year municipal fishery devel- national organizations, favorable market conditions,
opment plans; recommends the enactment of fish- and availability of pelleted feed.
ery ordinances to the local legislative council; and
assists in enforcing fishery laws, rules, and regula- Support Services, Facilities, and
tions in municipal waters. The creation of FARMCs Infrastructure
is mandatory at the municipal and village levels or
as an integrated council when dealing with a lake, Collection and publication of statistics for fresh-
dam, river, bay, or gulf shared by two or more water pond aquaculture are the responsibility of the
municipalities or cities. There are as yet no Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) and BFAR.39
FARMCs in the tilapia freshwater pond farming Comprehensive collection of rural aquaculture sta-
areas of Central Luzon.37 FARMCs are not manda- tistics is difficult and costly. Those published for tila-
tory in these areas, but efforts to organize them pia production in freshwater ponds are probably
have begun in Pampanga. underestimates, especially with regard to small-scale
Local government units have complete juris- producers in Central Luzon and elsewhere.
diction over municipal waters and are responsible As mentioned, tilapia farming in Central
for the management, conservation, development, Luzon ponds has benefited enormously from sub-
protection, and utilization of fishery and aquatic stantial and continuous research, technology
resources within their respective waters. They are development, training, and extension, especially
tasked with institutionalizing the participation of those undertaken at CLSU (FAC and College of
stakeholders in determining the direction and Fisheries) and NFFTC/BFAR. 40 In 2002, these
extent of fisheries development and resolving con-
flicting usage of common resources. Outside National FARMC members come from the Department of
Agriculture; Department of Interior and Local Government; small-
municipal waters, BFAR has jurisdiction. scale and commercial fishing, aquaculture, and processing sector;
Linkages between public and private organi- academe; and nongovernment organizations. Municipal FARMC
members come from fishers organizations, nongovernment
zations are vital for research and development organizations in the locality, local government units, local
efforts on freshwater tilapia. Private seed compa- development council, private sector, and the Department of
Agriculture. Fisheries Administrative Order No. 196, series of 2000.
nies and input suppliers are not only improving Guidelines on the Creation and Implementation of FARMCs. Quezon
Traders with
aerated tanks,
their products, but are also advising farmers on ap- City, Philippines: Department of Agriculture.

awaiting the propriate practices. Initiatives taken by the private 37 The study area contained 7 municipal FARMCs: 6 with jurisdiction
in coastal municipalities in Pampanga, for brackishwater aquaculture
arrival of tilapia sector to support the effective uptake of genetically and marine fisheries, and 1 at the Pantabangan dam in Nueva Ecija,
for freshwater tilapia cage farming.
38 Rodriguez, Basilio Jr. 2003. Private Sector Initiatives to Support
the Effective Uptake of Genetically Improved Tilapia Breeds. Paper
presented at the Workshop on Public-Private Partnerships for Delivery
of Tilapia Genetics Research Outputs to End Users, 25–27 June 2003,
Oasis Hotel, Pampanga, Philippines. Sponsored by the WorldFish
Center and the Tilapia Science Center with funding from the
International Development Research Centre of Canada.
39 Fisheries statistics collection in the Philippines is described by
Vallesteros, Cynthia C. 2002. Data System for Fisheries. Paper
presented at the 12th Agricultural Policy Forum “Agricultural
Statistics,” 18 January 2002, Philippine Institute for Development
Studies, Makati City, Philippines. BAS, Quezon City.
40 International support from bilateral donors for CLSU/BFAR-based
work has included substantial funding for infrastructure and
equipment, provision of expertise, and graduate study opportunities,
principally from Belgium, Canada, Japan, Norway, the United
Kingdom, and the United States. The results have been dramatic. For
example, the number of fish distributed from the BFAR-NFFTC
increased from 2,000 in 1981 to more than 30 million in 1996.
Source: Stickney, Robert R., and James T. Davis. 1998. Tilapia
Production by BFAR: A USAID Success Story in the Philippines. World
Aquaculture 29(3): 50–53.

agencies, along with the GIFT Foundation Interna-
tional and Phil-Fishgen, established the Tilapia Sci- NATURAL RESOURCES
ence Center, located at CLSU, to foster collaboration MANAGEMENT
in the support of tilapia farming in Central Luzon
and countrywide. The subsequent creation of Phil- Interrelationships with Agriculture. Central
ippine Tilapia Inc. in 2003 has provided a venue for Luzon tilapia ponds (for hatchery, nursery, and
stakeholders in the tilapia industry to work together growout) are surrounded by irrigated or rainfed
through advocacy, participation in the tilapia con- agriculture, principally wetland rice farming. Tila-
gress, trade fairs, promotion of tilapia consumption, pia farming here has always been pursued as a spe-
and implementation of a tilapia industry develop- cialized farm enterprise for fish as a cash crop, with
ment plan. Central Luzon stands to benefit from ponds made and managed for that single purpose.
these broad-based efforts. Despite much historical and ongoing research and
The present survey showed that the most impor- development at FAC/CLSU, integrated rice-fish
tant providers of advice to small-scale tilapia farm- farming and crop-livestock-fish farming systems
ers were other farmers (49%), government (35%), with farm ponds as pivotal, multipurpose assets,
friends (30%), and relatives (27%). Input suppliers, are not found in the region, or indeed anywhere
such as feed dealers (30%) and hatcheries (10%), in the Philippines, with the exception of some
also emerged as players in technology transfer and upland, subsistence farms in remote areas. More-
information dissemination and complemented gov- over, their future prospects seem limited, apart per-
ernment extension efforts. The proximity of private haps for some use of ricefields for nursing tilapia
tilapia hatcheries to growout farmers has helped fry to advanced fingerlings, and even this is doubt-
lower tilapia seed transport costs and mortality. ful because one of the major thrusts in current rice
research is to reduce water requirements and water
Policy and Law depths in rice farming. Pond farming in Central
Luzon is mostly driven to maximize fish production
Official policies for freshwater aquaculture in the through intensive stocking and commercial feeds,
Philippines are markedly pro-poor, with numerous and not to integrate farm enterprises, with the pond
provisions that favor small-scale operations and
community welfare; but these policies are not
implemented effectively. They are hindered by 41 Current reviews include:
(i) Oposa, Anthony. 2002. A Legal Arsenal for the Philippine
vested interests and by complex and confusing leg- Environment. Muntinlupa City: Batas Kalikasan Foundation. Oposa
islation.41 The Fisheries Code of 1998 (Republic reviewed, among other instruments, Republic Act No. 8435,
“Aquaculture and Fisheries Modernization,” which provides a
Act [RA] 8550) is the main legal framework and framework “to enhance profits and incomes ... particularly the small
the basis of all Fisheries Administrative Orders. RA farmers and fishers, by ensuring equitable access to assets, resources”
and to plan for “increased income and profit of small farmers and
8550 gives to municipal or city local government fishers;” Water Code (Presidential Decree 1067); Civil Code Provisions
units, in consultation with local farmers and sub- on Waters (Republic Act 386); Local Government Code of 1991
(Republic Act 7160) with respect to ecosystems, inland fisheries, and
ject to review by the appropriate provincial freshwater aquaculture; Pollution Control Law (Presidential Decree
Sanggunian (council), the authority to make ordi- 984); Water Classification (DENR Administrative Order 34–90);
Effluent Regulations (DENR Administrative Order 35, Series of 1990);
nances and decisions and to appropriate funds for and several instruments concerning water utilities.
general welfare and for environmental protection. (ii) Rivera-Guieb, Rebecca, Alexander Boyd-Hagart, Jocel Pangilinan,
and Ronet Santos. 2002. Aquatic Resources in the Philippines and the
Recent surveys42 suggest that fish farmers in Cen- Extent of Poverty in the Sector. Quezon City, Philippines: Voluntary
tral Luzon are aware of only the few administra- Service Overseas (Philippines). This document discusses individual
rights of fishers and farmers under the 1987 Philippine Constitution
tive orders that relate to illegal fishing practices. and related laws, and the roles and responsibilities of local government
Awareness of other regulations is limited and com- units and the Sanggunian.
pliance poor. For instance, farmers with fishponds 42 Marzon, Eduardo G. Jr., and Wilfredo E. Jamandre. 2002. Economic

larger than 300 m2 are required to secure an envi- Evaluation of Freshwater Aquaculture Technologies and Policies in
Selected Production Systems, Annual Technical Report (1 October
ronmental compliance certificate from the Depart- 2001–30 September 2002). Muñoz, Nueva Ecija: Central Luzon State
ment of Environment and Natural Resources. Very University.

few farmers are aware of this. Limited budgets, the 43 Fisheries Administrative Order No. 214, series of 2001. Code of
Practice for Aquaculture. Quezon City, Philippines: Department of
voluntary nature of a code of practice for aquacul- Agriculture.
ture, 43 and weak enforcement capabilities of 44 These include (i) Fisheries Administrative Order 214, Series of
national and local governments constrain enforce- 2001; Code of Practice for Aquaculture, which calls for, among other
ment of environment-friendly regulations. Legal provisions, an environmental impact assessment to be submitted to
the DENR before initiating any aquaculture development; and (ii)
instruments have been prepared recently under the Fisheries Administrative Order 218, Series of 2001, Yearly Report on
Fisheries Code,44 but it is hard to envisage that many Aquaculture Projects, in which all owners/operators of fish cages,
pens, ponds, hatcheries, etc., must report to BFAR their annual
small-scale farmers will comply. production by species, by 31 January of the succeeding year.

as a water and fertilizer supplier, waste recycler, and the effects of external environments on aquaculture.
fish producer. The principal natural resources for The respondents reported that the sustainability of
tilapia ponds in Central Luzon are land and water. tilapia farming was threatened by water pollution in
Feeds and fertilizers are sourced almost entirely off- ponds (31%) as well as by natural calamities, such
farm, from agricultural companies. as floods and typhoons (24%) and drought (4%).
Land ownership, or security of tenure if leased, Apart from natural conditions, social conditions that
is vital for a farmer wanting to invest in construct- affect tilapia farmers are theft/poaching of tilapia,
ing tilapia ponds.45 With heightened interest in unstable peace and order condition in some loca-
tilapia pond farming because of its potential for tions, and poisoning of fish by other people. Less
higher income, rice lands are targets for conversion than 5% of tilapia farmers considered that the
into fishponds. The exemption of aquaculture from increasing number of tilapia farmers was a threat.
the coverage of agrarian reform provides an added According to tilapia farmers, measures were being
incentive for conversion of land to ponds.46 In pursued to address natural environmental threats,
terms of expected financial returns, tilapia farm- namely, waste treatment, reduction of the use of
ing is about 4 times more profitable per ha than chemicals, improvement of infrastructure/pond
rice farming, but it is much more capital intensive repair, and control of water that enters the pond.
and much less predictable in generating returns
due to hazards (especially floods, poaching, and Climate and Natural Disasters
There is little evidence in Central Luzon of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions oc-
conflicts over water use between small-scale tila- curred in the Philippines in 1982–1983, 1990–1992,
pia farmers and rice farmers, as the former rely and 1997–1998. ENSO years are typified by
mostly on groundwater, pumped from deep wells. droughts and usually have fewer typhoons than
There are, however, some indications of water con- normal years, but their impacts on freshwater
flicts between large-scale pond farms and rice aquaculture are generally negative.49
farmers.47 Farming fish in ponds has been cited as
45 The current cost of constructing a pond is roughly P15–20 per m2,
a more efficient use of water resources than rice
equivalent to P150,000–200,000 per ha, using bulldozers and
production; partial sharing/reuse of water backhoe. Bulldozer rental alone is at least P1,200 per hour, requiring
between rice and fish enterprises, where manage- about 100 hours.

able, could be attractive.48 Most farmers totally 46 Sevilleja, Ruben C. 1996. Freshwater Aquaculture Development in
the Philippines: The Case of Tilapia. Swansea, UK: University of Wales
drain their ponds at harvest time, but this is not Centre for Development Studies.
possible in some areas (e.g., east Pampanga) in the 47 Water conflicts among large pond operators and irrigated rice
wet season because of the high water table. farmers include protests about the National Irrigation Authority
charging pond operators only 75% of the fees charged to rice farmers.
See Clarke, Gerard, and Graham C. Mair. 1998. The Philippines: Blue
ENVIRONMENT Revolution? The Rural Extension Bulletin October 1998: 19–24. (Asian
Institute of Technology, Bangkok, Thailand; and Institute for
Aquaculture, University of Stirling, Scotland, UK). Pumping water
Fishponds for large fishponds may reduce domestic water supply in some urban

Small-scale tilapia ponds have no significant, nega- 48 It has been estimated that about 5 cubic meters of water are required
to produce 1 kg of wetland rice, compared to 1.5–2.0 cubic meters to
tive environmental features in Central Luzon. produce 1 kg of fish, although there are wide variations among
Indeed, if managed for the purpose, they can serve production systems. Source: Clarke, Gerald and Graham C. Mair. 1998
(footnote 47). Their sources of data were (i) for rice production—
as sources of water (often nutrient-rich) and fertile Tuong, T.P., and S.I. Bhuiyan. 1994. Innovations Towards Improving
mud for application to rice and vegetable farming. Water Use Efficiency of Rice. Paper presented to the World Bank’s
1994 Water Resources Seminar, Landsdowne Conference Resort,
However, nutrient-rich water discharges from Virginia, 13–15 December 1993; (ii) for fish production—Beveridge,
groups of medium- and large-scale ponds into Malcolm C.M., Michael J. Phillips, and R.M. Clarke. 1991. A
Quantitative and Qualitative Assessment of Wastes from Aquatic
watercourses can cause pollution (high biochemical Animal Production. Advances in World Aquaculture (3), edited by D.E.
oxygen demand, elevated nitrogen phosphate, and Brune and J.R. Tomasso. Baton Rouge: World Aquaculture Society. p.
suspended solids), especially in the dry season. The
49 In
use of sodium cyanide in the preparation (elimina- the 1997–98 ENSO, more than 5,000 ha of freshwater fishponds
in Central Luzon and 4,000 pond farmers were affected by water
tion of predatory species) of medium- and large- shortages. In January–March 1998, 30–40% of freshwater ponds in
scale ponds is also a cause for concern, particularly Central Luzon ceased operation and the total loss for 1998 was 13,000
t, valued at about P650 million. As a contribution to disaster relief,
in Pampanga. This practice is banned but cyanide is BFAR then distributed 9.6 million tilapia fingerlings to less affected
widely available and the ban is not enforced. areas.
Source: Marquez, Sally. 1999. Assessments of the impacts of El Niño
In Central Luzon, the environmental issues in Region 3. In Fisheries Production and the El Niño Phenomenon, edited
that adversely affect tilapia pond aquaculture by Herminio R. Rabanal. PCAMRRD Book Series No. 27/1999. Los
Baños, Laguna, Philippines: Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine
relate to conditions within the farming system and Research and Development. p. 109–116.

In June 1991, the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in
Zambales Province adjacent to Pampanga had
severe impacts on Central Luzon. In Pampanga,lahar
(the term for the slurry of volcanic ash and water)
buried about 10,000 ha of agricultural lands.50 The
paucity of recent and disaggregated provincial data
precludes a comparison of current fishpond areas
with pre-eruption levels, but lahar deposits have Good-quality,
altered the topography. The beds of many water- market-sized
courses and river tributaries are now higher than the
old riverbanks and the clogging of river channels,
creeks, and canals has obstructed the natural flow
of floodwaters and caused perennial flooding in low-
lying areas. Although river dredging has begun, the There is no postharvest processing of tilapia har-
enormous volume of lahar deposits will require years vested from small-scale ponds in Central Luzon.
to dredge before former capacities to absorb flood- Fish are not fed for the 24 hours before harvest.
waters are restored. Whole, ungutted fish are taken fresh killed, mori-
bund on ice, or live in aerated tanks, from farm
Biodiversity and Alien Species gate to market. Off-flavors are a well-known prob-
lem in farmed freshwater fish, particularly those
Tilapias are alien species in Central Luzon and
throughout the Philippines. In general, Nile tilapia
introductions for aquaculture worldwide have Based on the Socioeconomic Profile of Pampanga (footnote 32).
Comparative pre- and post-eruption data (1990 versus 1996) showed
caused far fewer adverse environmental impacts that Pampanga’s wetland areas (swamps, marshes, and fishponds)
than those of some other tilapias, but the species fell from 42,341 ha to 40,681 ha. No breakdown is available on the
area of fishponds lost due to lahar. Land devoted to rice production
is potentially invasive.51 It was introduced into the declined from 68,455 ha to 65,333 ha over this period.
Philippines for aquaculture because there were no 51 Pullin, Roger S.V., Maria Lourdes Palomares, Christine V. Casal,
comparable native species. The introduction and Madan M. Dey, and Daniel Pauly. 1997. Environmental Impacts of
Tilapias. In Tilapia Aquaculture. Proceedings from the Fourth
use of alien aquatic species and related inspections International Symposium on Tilapia in Aquaculture, edited by Kevin
and quarantine have long been the responsibilities Fitzsimmons. Ithaca, NY: Northeast Regional Agricultural Engineering
Service. p. 554–570.
of BFAR—under the 1998 Fisheries Code and pre-
52 The 1993 Convention on Biological Diversity (,
existing legislation—but the controls have been
ratified by the Philippines, requires parties to “Prevent the introduction
inadequate because of lack of resources and lack of, control, or eradicate those alien species which threaten ecosystems,
of public awareness and concern. Philippine fish habitats or species.” Responsible use and control of species introduced
for aquaculture and fisheries are guided by FAO, of which the
farmers, institutes, and the aquarium trade intro- Philippines is a member State. They are part of the FAO Code of Conduct
duce alien aquatic species in contravention of for Responsible Fisheries (
codecon/asp). Prior appraisal of the possible impacts of alien species
national regulations and of the international con- introductions is a major aspect of the FAO Technical Guidelines for
ventions and codes of conduct to which the Philip- Responsible Fisheries-Precautionary Approach to Capture Fisheries and
Species Introductions (
pines is party. 52 This situation poses potential W3592E00.HTM). These have not yet been adequately applied in the
threats not only to biodiversity and the natural Philippines.

environment but also to tilapia farming because of 53 The GIFT initiatives (footnote 17) established at BFAR/NFTTC a
quarantine unit in which tilapia introduced from Africa and other
the risks of introducing diseases and parasites. locations were held under observation and treated for up to 6 months
Introductions that are not officially sanctioned are to remove any parasites and diseases. The unit was completely isolated
from all other fish and waters, and its own water sterilized before
rarely accompanied by a precautionary approach disposal. The GIFT project also assessed the possible environmental
or by adequate quarantine measures.53 There is no impacts of dissemination of genetically improved Nile tilapia. See
Bentsen, Hans B., Trygve Berg, and Peter J. Schei. 1992. Environmental
evidence that Nile tilapia has had negative impacts Effects of Release and Dissemination of Improved Nile Tilapia. Report
on the aquatic environment and biodiversity in prepared by the Agricultural University of Norway for the United
Nations Development Programme, Division of Global and
Central Luzon, which has few pristine or other Interregional Programmes. 10p. Distribution of GIFT germplasm
waters containing native species to which it could followed voluntary biosafety protocols of the International Network
on Genetics in Aquaculture. At the same time, policy and practices of
conceivably pose any significant threats additional ICLARM on alien species and related biosafety and conservation issues
to those from pollution, siltation, and water were published by ICLARM. See Pullin, R. 1994. Exotic Species and
Genetically Modified Organisms in Aquaculture and Enhanced
abstraction. Only 8% of tilapia farmers in this sur- Fisheries: ICLARM’s Position. Naga The ICLARM Quarterly 17(4): 19–
vey reported tilapia escaping into ricefields. Most 24. Manila.
tilapia farmers (89%) believe that tilapia escapees 54 The alien species most feared by farmers are piranhas and African

from farms have no effects on the natural catfish (Clarias gariepinus). The latter was introduced to the
Philippines with no official permission or controls, and is probably
environment.54 established in open waters, including the Candaba swamp.

raised in ponds and lakes where there is no possi- in tilapia operations, and household tilapia con-
bility of managing the diversity and abundance of sumption. Improved cash income from tilapia
plankton.55 In this study, 13% of tilapia farmers farming was attributed to profitable operations
reported off-flavors, probably due to heavy reli- (41%), good harvest (35%), and adequate capital
ance on commercial feeds (69%), rather than pond (10%). It was also linked to knowledge of tilapia
plankton produced by pond fertilization (2%).56 farming and having sufficient water. Tilapia farm-
Almost all respondents felt that producing tilapia ers said that, over the last 5 years, their personal
of marketable quality, along with fish safety, was capacity to invest has improved with higher sav-
not a problem. Tilapia farmers recognized that the ings (37%). These farmers also perceived signifi-
top three determinants of tilapia quality were cant improvements in technology dissemination,
genetic strain (44%), feeds (37%), and water qual- technology adoption, overall condition of natural
ity (24%). The importance of genetic strain sug- resources, shelter, access to credit, and overall food
gests that research and development efforts to consumption in their households. They anticipate
improve freshwater tilapia strains have influenced further positive changes in the next 5 years, but are
tilapia farmers positively. not as optimistic about the overall condition of natu-
ral resources. Acidic soils, polluted water, and floods
are perceived as main concerns in the future.
CRISIS AND COPING Nonadopters, in assessing outcomes 5 years
STRATEGIES ago and at present, also perceived significant gains
in all outcome indicators, except access to credit
Less than half of the tilapia farmers surveyed for farm operations and overall state of natural
reported any crisis in the last 12 months. The main resources. The former concern can be attributed to
crises cited were natural calamities, with frequen- a perceived lack of affordable financing schemes
cies of reporting as follows: typhoons (41%), for rice farming, and the latter to the occurrence of
drought (27%), and floods (19%). Other types of floods, siltation, and water pollution. Nonadopters,
crisis that upset the cash liquidity of households in general, are optimistic about most outcomes in the
were illness in the family (40%), financial loss next 5 years, but fear a possible deterioration of
(28%), and death of a household member (14%). natural resources.
To cope with these crises, households often fell Tilapia farmers felt that there was now more
back on their own savings (64%) or borrowed active information exchange/dissemination on
money from friends and relatives (45%). A few tilapia farming than in the past. Both tilapia farm-
secured loans from moneylenders, pawned their ers and nonadopters agreed that more households
jewelry, or mortgaged their land. There were cer- were engaged in tilapia farming now compared to
tain instances, however, when illness or prolonged 5 years ago.
hospitalization of a family member depleted finan-
cial resources sufficiently to stop small-scale tila-
pia farming. Both tilapia farmers and nonadopters
experienced similar types of crisis and used simi- Tilapia pond farming is a profitable livelihood that
lar coping strategies, but significantly more can contribute to reducing poverty in Central Luzon.
nonadopters than tilapia farmers reported vulner- The contributing factors have been (i) access to land
ability to typhoons (69% versus 41%) and floods (through land ownership and lease arrangements
(42% versus 20%). Nonadopters were also more with guaranteed tenure rights); (ii) reliable water
likely to sell livestock as a crisis-coping strategy
(18% versus 10%). Livestock raising (goats, pigs, 55 The most common off-flavors (an earthy muddy taste from geosmin
cattle, and chickens) provides some financial re- (trans–1, 10–dimethyl–trans–[9]–decalol) and a musty taste from 2-
methylisoborneol) are acquired by fish from a wide variety of bacteria,
serves to a household when natural calamities oc- especially cyanobacteria. Source: Tucker, Craig S. 2000. Off-flavor
cur and when family or social obligations warrant Problems in Aquaculture. Reviews in Fisheries Science 8(1): 45–88.
extra cash outlays in times of illness or death. 56 To deal with off-flavors, some tilapia farmers dissolve 1 kg of salt
in 4 gallons of water, dip feed pellets in the salt solution, and feed
tilapia with these pellets 1 week before harvest. Others hold the fish
OUTCOMES in a separate pond with flowing water for 2–3 days.
57 Respondents compared their situations 5 years ago with the present
Asked to compare their present situation with that and 5 years hence using a technique that did not need baseline data.
The baseline-independent method was drawn from Pomeroy, Robert,
5 years ago,57 respondent tilapia farmers perceived Richard Pollnac, Brenda Katon, and Canesio Predo. 1997. Evaluating
significant improvements in the following outcome Factors Contributing to the Success of Community-Based Coastal
Resource Management: The Central Visayas Regional Project I,
indicators: cash income from tilapia farming, Philippines. Ocean and Coastal Management Journal 36 (1–3): 97–
employment in tilapia operations, capacity to invest 120.

supply and water pump ownership; (iii) access to consumers (nonadopters in this case) have also
working capital (from family savings and/or from benefited from the availability of tilapia as an
external sources, such as feed suppliers, relatives, affordable food fish and as a source of protein,
friends, and financiers); (iv) availability of infra- micronutrients, and healthy lipids. Tilapia is
structure and other related facilities (roads, trans- regarded as a healthy alternative to meat and is
port facilities, and communication facilities); (v) sought for its taste, freshness, and low price. Cen-
access to markets and positive financial returns from tral Luzon is of increasing importance in supply-
tilapia farming; (vi) dissemination of improved ing tilapia from growout ponds to other population
tilapia breeds through various hatcheries; and centers. At present, it is the country’s top producer
(vii) provision of training, extension, and related of tilapia from freshwater ponds.
services by private and government organizations. There is considerable scope for further growth
Large-scale hatcheries are key players in tila- of tilapia pond farming in Central Luzon, given the
pia seed supply. Given the volume of tilapia seed above conditions and a rapidly growing popula-
that they produce and the geographic extent of the tion/consumer base. The enforcement of environ-
areas that they cover, they are major determinants mental safeguards to reduce fish mortality and to
of the choices of tilapia strains available to farmers. ensure acceptable water quality, however, is
The entry of harvests from small-scale tilapia extremely important. A stable peace and order
farms into larger consumer markets has brought condition is also a prerequisite for further growth
about direct benefits. From the survey results, small- of tilapia production. Lowering production costs,
scale farmers feel better off now than 5 years ago in particularly feed costs, through less dependence on
terms of cash income from tilapia farming, employ- fishmeal-based feeds, along with reducing vulner-
ment, and consumption, and anticipate further posi- ability to risks and changing economic conditions,
tive changes in the next 5 years. Poor tilapia are the major future challenges.


BACKGROUND Methods and Sources

Scope and Purpose A survey was conducted of 100 tilapia cage farm-
ers and 81 nursery pond farmers from the munici-
This case study focuses on an important tilapia palities of Agoncillo, Laurel, San Nicolas, and
farming area in a volcanic lake near Manila, Phil- Talisay, around Lake Taal, Batangas Province, Phil-
ippines. The study used primary and secondary ippines. These four municipalities account for at
data and published information to document the least 98% of the total number of cages in the lake
human, social, natural, physical, and financial and associated nurseries. The survey was con-
capital available to households involved in the pro- ducted in July–August 2003. Rapid appraisal of
duction and consumption of freshwater farmed tilapia cage farming in Lake Taal, site visits, meet-
fish and to identify channels through which the ings, and interviews with key informants were
poor can benefit.1 The history and biophysical, undertaken prior to this survey. Survey respon-
socioeconomic, and institutional characteristics of dents were identified through stratified random
Lake Taal, Batangas, Philippines are described, fol- sampling based on the latest official records of
lowed by accounts of the technology and manage- each municipality. Separate sets of pretested ques-
ment used for tilapia cage farming and nursery tionnaires were used to obtain information from
operations, with detailed profiles of fish farmers and the two groups of respondents. Semi-structured
other beneficiaries. Transforming processes are dis- questionnaires were used to interview other key
cussed with respect to markets, labor, institutions, informants and stakeholders, including fish trad-
support services, policy, legal instruments, natural ers, input suppliers, and fisheries groups. The
resources and their management, and environmen- study included meetings and interviews with
Floating cages tal issues. The main conclusions and implications for Municipal Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Man-
and feed bags poverty reduction are then summarized. agement Councils (MFARMCs) and the Integrated
Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management
Council (IFARMC),2 and regulatory/government
agencies at regional, provincial, and municipal lev-
els. Secondary data, both quantitative and quali-
tative, supplemented the discussions.

1 A. Morales led the survey of tilapia cage farmers and nursery pond
farmers in Lake Taal. N. Bestari, P. Edwards, B. Katon, A. Morales,
and R. Pullin collaborated on the methodology, information analyses,
and preparation of this report.
2 The establishment of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management
Councils (FARMCs) is mandated under the Fisheries Code of the
Philippines (Republic Act 8550). They are policymaking bodies for
fisheries and aquatic resources in the Philippines at national and local
levels. The national FARMC assists in formulating policies for the
protection, sustainable development, and management of fishery and
aquatic resources. Municipal FARMCs assist in preparing 5-year
municipal fishery development plans; recommend the enactment of
fishery ordinances to the local legislative council, and assist in
enforcing fishery laws, rules, and regulations in municipal waters.
FARMC members include representatives from fishers’ organizations/
cooperatives, local nongovernment organizations, local government
units, local development council, private sector, and the Department
of Agriculture. The creation of FARMC is mandatory at the municipal
and village levels or as an integrated council when dealing with a
lake, dam, river, bay, or gulf shared by two or more municipalities or

Tilapia cage farming in Lake Taal began in the CHARACTERISTICS
1970s, encouraged by the rapid development of
fish cage and pen culture in nearby Laguna de Bay, General Characteristics of Lake Taal
the Philippines’ largest inland lake.3 Aquaculture
in Lake Taal could not copy closely the develop- Lake Taal covers a total area of about 26,000 ha. It
ment experience in Laguna de Bay because of fun- has a water area (total area less islands) of about
damental differences between the two lakes. 24,400 ha and a shoreline of about 120 kilometers
Laguna de Bay is a shallow lagoon, with an aver- (km). The annual average rainfall is 2,026 milli-
age depth of 2 meters (m). It is highly eutrophic meters most of which falls in the wet season, May
(nutrient enriched, resulting in dense plankton to October. The surface water temperature range
and organic detritus) because of the influences of is 22–35 degrees centigrade (oC). Its drainage ba-
agriculture, human settlements, and industry, and sin extends over 64,000–68,000 ha (footnote 6
is ideal for the construction of pens for milkfish [v]). The average depth is 60–65 meters (m) and
(Chanos chanos), locally called bangus. By 1976, its maximum depth, 180 m or more (footnote 6
Laguna de Bay had 7,000 hectares (ha) of milkfish [v and vi]). As is common for deep lakes, the
pens, yielding about 7 metric tons (t) per ha annu- waters are stratified.8 The lake has a climate typi-
ally, based substantially on natural food organisms. cal of the humid tropics. About 37 streams feed
Cage farming of Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus)
also developed rapidly in Laguna de Bay, with pro- 5 Data from (i) Bureau of Agricultural Statistics; (ii) Basiao, Zubaida
liferation of adjacent hatcheries and nurseries.4 In U. 2003. Environmental, Biological, Social and Governance Issues of
Fish Cage Farming in Lakes. Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines: Philippine
comparison, Lake Taal is the deep, flooded caldera Council for Marine and Aquatic Resources Research and Development.
of one of the Philippines’ largest and still active 21 p.
volcanoes. It lacks shallow, soft-bottom substrates 6 Studies include: (i) Department of Tourism. 1993. The Tagaytay-
suitable for milkfish pens and is less eutrophic than Taal Integrated Master Plan. Volume 4: Aquaculture and Fisheries
Program. Manila; (ii) Zafaralla, Macrina T., et al. 1999. Southern
Laguna de Bay. Aquaculture in Lake Taal developed Tagalog Studies: Development of Aquatic Ecosystem, Health and
mainly as cage farming of Nile tilapia (and to a lim- Restoration Strategies for Stressed Freshwater Bodies. Quezon City,
Philippines: Center for Integrated Development Studies, University
ited extent milkfish and other species) with almost of the Philippines; (iii) Yambot, A.V. 2000. Problems and Issues of
total reliance on artificial feeds. Production rose Tilapia Cage Farming in Taal Lake, Philippines. In Proceedings of the
First International Symposium of Cage Aquaculture in Asia, edited by
from 13,197 t in 1995 to 21,189 t in 2000.5 I-Chiu Liao and C. Kwei Lin. Manila: Asian Fisheries Society; and
Lake Taal has been much studied6 and was Bangkok: World Aquaculture Society—Southeast Asian Chapter. p.
241–252; (iv) Santiago, Corazon B., Ma. Lourdes Cuvin-Aralar, and
included in a recent comparative study of five Zubaida U. Basiao, editors. 2001. Conservation and Ecological
tropical lakes and reservoirs.7 Management of Philippine Lakes in Relation to Fisheries and Aquaculture.
Iloilo, Philippines: Aquaculture Department, Southeast Asian Fisheries
Development Center; Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines: Philippine
3 ADB. 1989. Project Performance Audit Report on the Laguna de Bay
Council for Aquatic and Marine Research and Development; and
Quezon City, Philippines: Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources;
Fish Pen Development Project in the Philippines. Manila. From 1979 to (v) Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. Biological and Fisheries
1988, ADB supported the development of milkfish pen and tilapia Assessment of Seven (7) Major Lakes in the Philippines. Terminal Report.
cage culture in the 90,000-ha Laguna de Bay through Loan 371-PHI: A Spanish Grant Project, Government of Spain 1997–2000. Quezon
Laguna de Bay Fish Pen Development Project, for $9 million, approved City, Philippines: Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources
on 1 December 1978 (ADB. 1978. Report and Recommendation of the (Undated); (vi) Simon, David, Castor C. de Jesus, P. Boonchuwong,
President to the Board of Directors on a Proposed Loan to the Republic and K. Mohottala. 2001. The Role of Reservoir and Culture-Based
of the Philippines for the Laguna de Bay Fish Pen Development Project. Fisheries in Rural Development: Comparative Evidence from Sri Lanka,
Manila). The project objectives were to improve the socioeconomic Thailand and the Philippines. In Reservoir and Culture-Based Fisheries,
conditions of small-scale fishers and to expand pen and cage culture Biology and Management, edited by Sena S. de Silva. Canberra:
for fish supply to Metropolitan Manila. This project was unsuccessful, Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. p. 56–65;
largely because of severe typhoons in 1986 and 1987. and (vii) Amarasinghe, Upali S., Annie Duncan, Jacques Moreau, Fritz
4 Tilapia hatcheries and nurseries around Laguna de Bay took Scheimer, and Jacobus Vijvenberg. 2001. Promotion of Sustainable
advantage of available and highly suitable lands and water Capture Fisheries and Aquaculture in Asian Reservoirs and Lakes.
(groundwater, springs, and the lake margins), and the high demand Hydrobiologia 458: 181–190.
for tilapia seed from growers in the lake. By late 1982, more than one 7Publications from this study include: (i) de Jesus, Castor C. 2001.
third of the 300 households in Sto. Domingo, Bay, Laguna, were Philippine FISHSTRAT Socio-Economic Component. Alternative
involved in backyard tilapia hatchery operations, with substantial Management Scheme(s) for Sustainable Use of Taal Lake. Preliminary
poverty reduction. They prospered for about 10 years, but then Report. Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines: Philippine Council for Aquatic
declined, mainly because of lack of land tenure, rising land values, and Marine Research and Development; (ii) Guerrero, Rafael D. III.
and competition from larger hatcheries elsewhere. Sources: (i) Gaite, 2002. The Fisheries of Lake Taal and Its Management for Sustainability.
Corazon B., Jose N.A. Morales, Olga C.R. Orilla, and Bernadine B. Paper presented at the FISHSTRAT Users’ Meeting, 19–20 February
Pili. 1985. The Adoption of Tilapia Farming and Its Impact on the 2002, Bangkok.
Community of Sto. Domingo, Bay, Laguna, Philippines. In Philippine
Tilapia Economics, edited by Ian R. Smith, Enriqueta B. Torres, and 8 The deeper waters of the lake (e.g., at 80 m) tend to be 0.5 to 2.0 °C
Elvira O. Tan. ICLARM Conference Proceedings 12. Manila. p. 44–69; cooler than the surface waters and the dissolved oxygen at the warm
(ii) Yater, Luz, R., and Ian R. Smith. 1985. Economics of Private Tilapia surface is less than that of cooler, deeper waters. Guerrero (2002)
Hatcheries in Laguna and Rizal Provinces, Philippines. In Philippine (footnote 7 [ii]) suggested a typical dissolved oxygen concentration
Tilapia Economics, edited by Ian R. Smith, Enriqueta B. Torres, and gradient of surface water of 8 milligrams per liter (mg l-1), rising to
Elvira O. Tan. ICLARM Conference Proceedings 12. Manila. p. 15–32. 10 mg. l-1 at 10 m depth and 12 mg.l-1 at 20 m.

Lake Taal, but only a few flow year-round. There unemployment rates were 96% and 12%, respec-
is an outlet to the sea at Balayan Bay via the 8.2- tively.17
km long Pansipit River, which allows the entry and Five privately operated processing plants utiliz-
exit of migratory fish. The average flow rate for this ing fish and fishery products are located in Batangas
river is reported to be about 15 cubic meters (m3) Province. Facilities operated by the Philippine
per second, but average flows do not mean much, Department of Agriculture—Bureau of Fisheries and
given the large wet and dry season differences. Aquatic Resources (BFAR) include an experimental
Taal Volcano is active and has erupted about 40 fish farm, a hatchery/nursery, and a fish health labo-
times from 1592 to 1977.9 ratory. Batangas Province has a major fishing port,
8 major fish landing markets, and 6 ice plants with a
Water Quality rated capacity of more than 70 t/day.18
Lake Taal is a protected area under the Na-
Data on the water quality of Lake Taal are scattered tional Integrated Protected Areas System by virtue
among many publications, some of which are dif- of Presidential Proclamation Number 906. Respon-
ficult to access. The most recent and comprehen- sibility for management of the lake is assigned to a
sive compendium includes data from 1905 to Protected Area Management Board (PAMB).19
1995.10 The water is generally suitable for tilapia, MFARMCs are present in selected municipalities
but many of the key water quality parameters that
influence fish growth and survival (especially dis- 9 The status of Taal Volcano is monitored by the Philippine Institute
for Volcanology and Seismology (
solved oxygen) are highly variable with location, vmepd/qrn/taal.html), which has recognized that fish kills are among
volcanic activity, season, and human influences, the historical “known precursors to eruptions.” The history of Taal
Volcano eruptions, the origin of Lake Taal, and the changes in its
especially the overcrowding of intensively-fed fish topography have been reviewed by Emmanuel Ramos. 1999. Origin
cages. Reduced fish growth, fish health conditions, and Geomorphic Features of Taal Lake (footnote 6 [ii]). A further
general account, including changes in the locations and size of human
and survival, and occasional mass mortalities (fish settlements around the lake was written by Hargrove, Thomas T. 1991.
kills) contribute to present risks. The Mysteries of Taal. Metro Manila: Bookmark Publishing.
10 Zafaralla, Macrina T., Rowena A.V. Santos, Rolando P. Orozco, Fhel

Ann Mercado, and Regina Banaticla. 1999. Taal Lake: Limnological
Characterization and Sources of Ecological Perturbations (Chapter 41
in footnote 6 [ii]). Surface water temperature range is 25–36.5 ºC,
INSTITUTIONAL ATTRIBUTES with an average around 29 ºC. The lake is slightly to moderately
alkaline: pH 8.7–9.2 and total alkalinity 131–170 milligrams per liter
(mg. l-1) of calcium carbonate. Reduction in the lake’s transparency
Lake Taal had an average annual tilapia cage pro- (e.g., 4.5 m in 1989 to 1.75 m in 1998) is indicative of increasing
eutrophication. By some accepted classification criteria, the lake was
duction of 18,850 t in 1995–2002, valued at P952 already eutrophic in 1979, with net primary productivity measured
million.11 It is the biggest producer of tilapia from at 0.5 g of carbon fixed per square meter per day. Nutrients from
surrounding human settlements and agriculture, as well as from fish
freshwater cages and ranks next to Pampanga cages (uneaten feed, feces, dead fish) are the major causes. The
Province in terms of production of farmed tilapia. presence of nitrite and ammonia are normally at near zero levels in
the lake (footnote 6 [v]). However, ammonia can rise to high levels
Average tilapia wholesale prices in Batangas were where there is decomposition of accumulated organic material; e.g.,
P44–57 per kg during the same period. Capture during fish kills (3.0 mg. l-1 total ammonia in the August 1998 fish
kill) and possibly during some volcanic activity (footnote 6 [iii]).
fisheries landings from the lake in 1998 were only
11 Bureau of Agricultural Statistics. 2003.
1,681 t, representing a quarter of total landings in
1992.12 This continuing decline in capture fishery 12 Magistrado, Leticia, and Maria Theresa M. Mutia. 1999. Status of
the Open Fisheries and Aquaculture Productivity in Taal Lake (footnote
production is largely attributed to overfishing and 6 [ii]).
increased pollution. 13National Statistics Office (NSO) 2000. Census of Population and
Batangas Province had a population of 1.9 mil- Housing: Province of Batangas.
lion in 2000, growing by 3% per annum.13 The 14 Provincial Fisheries Profile. 2000.
average annual per capita consumption of fish and 15 Available:
fish products was 32 kg.14 The poverty incidence This indicates the proportion of families below the poverty line. The
annual per capita poverty threshold for Batangas was P15,305 in 2000.
of families in Batangas was 21%.15 The 2000 Fam-
ily Income and Expenditure Survey for Batangas 16 Other income sources include cash receipts, gifts, and remittances
from abroad.
placed average annual family income at P139,072,
17 National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB). Region IV.
an increase of 50.6% from the 1994 estimate of (
P92,305. Over the same period, average family 18 Provincial Fisheries Profile. Office of the Provincial Agriculturist,
expenditure grew from P73,594 to P114,894. At Batangas. The five processing plants are engaged in fish paste and
least 50% of families obtained their incomes from fish sauce production (2), fish drying (2), and smoked fish (1).
wages and salaries, compared to 28% and 21% of 19 Republic Act 7586 mandates the creation of a PAMB for making
decisions related to planning, resource protection, and general
families who relied on entrepreneurial activities administration of the protected area, including the promulgation of
and other sources, respectively.16 Literacy and rules and regulations promoting sustainable development.

and together they comprise the IFARMC of the harvests, including significant quantities of under-
province. Other fishery-related associations, sized fish. Second, the males grow faster than
including credit and multipurpose cooperatives, females in ponds and cages. These two factors led
are present in some municipalities. to decades of research on how best to produce all-
Human Health and Nutrition. Survey re- male tilapia seed. From a wide range of possible
spondents reported that fish were consumed 5–6 times methods, so-called “sex reversal of tilapia” is by far
a week in their households. On average, tilapia was the most widely practiced.21 It requires that the
consumed 4–5 times a week by cage farming house- only feed available to swim-up fry, which are at
holds and at least 4 times a week by tilapia nursery that stage sexually undifferentiated, contain an an-
households. Among all respondents, during peak drogenic hormone (usually methyltestosterone)
consumption periods, tilapia was eaten daily by 30% and that this be their only feed for 21–28 days.
and at least 3–4 times a week by 33% of house- With careful management, starting this treatment
holds. During lean consumption months, 49% con- as close as possible to first feeding, feeding regu-
sumed tilapia on 1–2 days a week. At least 83% of larly, and keeping facilities clean to prevent access
cage farmers and 93% of nursery operators experi- to natural feeds, the technique can yield reliably
enced periods of food inadequacy in 2002, particu- 95–100% male seed, called sex-reversed tilapia
larly during July (43%) and August (74%). July is (SRT). Buyers expect SRT seed to be at least 98%
the month after heavy expenditures on school fees; male in order to avoid significant and unwanted
in August, tilapia farming is often affected by ty- breeding during growout. Some SRT hatcheries
phoons. collect eggs from their female broodstock and
The main reasons given for eating tilapia were transfer them to artificial incubators. Hatchery repu-
good taste (86%), freshness (83%), and familiar- tations depend on achieving the highest possible per-
ity with the fish (57%). The generally preferred centage of male seed. The SRT technique works with
size of tilapia of the respondents was 3–4 fish per all tilapia strains and is safe for the fish and for con-
kg. The prominence of tilapia in the diets of these sumers.22 There are no detectable hormone residues
households probably reflects its easy accessibility. in the fish long before they reach harvestable size.
Fish were preferred to vegetables in the daily food SRT is a process, not a strain name. Based on this
intake of the households. survey, 45% of the tilapia cage farmers have used
SRT, citing fast growth as the primary reason. Non-
users are deterred by the price of SRT seed, which is
TECHNOLOGY AND usually P0.10–0.15 higher than the price of mixed-
MANAGEMENT sex seed.
A new approach to mass production of all-male
Seed Supply tilapia seed, genetically male tilapia (GMT) was pio-
neered at the University of Wales Swansea, United
Tilapia seed (fry and fingerlings),20 is raised from Kingdom, and further developed in collaboration
captive broodstock in hatcheries and nurseries,
which may be on the same premises. Nile tilapia are 20 BFAR uses a nationwide system of size and price categories for its
sexually mature in about 5–6 months and are easy accredited tilapia seed. The code numbers used are based on the mesh
sizes of the nets used to grade the fish. For example, “size 24” fry
to breed. They mature in growout cages but cannot (individual weight 0.045–0.096 grams (g) and “size 22” fry (0.129–
normally breed there. Nile tilapia courtship behav- 0.145 g) cost P0.15 and P0.25, respectively, in 2000. “Size 17”
fingerlings (0.468–1.200 g) and “size 14” fingerlings (1.30–2.96 g)
ior and spawning require a surface on which the cost P0.35 and P0.45, respectively.
female deposits eggs. These would fall through the 21 The possible methods include hand sexing and discarding females
mesh of a growout cage, even if spawning and fer- (laborious and wasteful); stocking predatory fish species to eat the
tilization were successful. The eggs are fertilized unwanted fry produced during growout (difficult to manage and
forfeits the male growth advantage); and interspecific hybrid crosses
externally by release of sperm from the male. The that produce skewed sex ratios, sometimes 99–100% male (difficult
fertilized eggs are immediately then taken into the to manage). These methods were compared by the Filipino developer
of SRT: Guerrero, Rafael D. III. 1982. Control of Tilapia Reproduction.
female’s mouth and incubated there until they hatch, In The Biology and Culture of Tilapias, edited by Roger S. V. Pullin
and thereafter until they become yolksac larvae and and Rosemary H. Lowe-McConnell. ICLARM Conference Proceedings
7. Manila. p. 309–316.
then swim-up fry that eventually feed independently,
22 According to a Joint FAO/NACA/WHO Study Group: “Hormones
no longer taking refuge in her mouth. All the tilapia are employed principally in hatcheries to induce spawning (e.g., carps)
species in genus Oreochromis show this behavior. and to control sex of offspring, especially for tilapias. In view of the
stages in the production cycle in which the hormones are used and
There are two other basic characteristics of the rates at which they are excreted by fish, there is no risk to
tilapias that are of great importance for seed sup- consumers of the products of aquaculture.” Source: World Health
Organization (WHO). 1999. Food Safety Issues Associated with
ply and growout. First, their prolific breeding, Products from Aquaculture. WHO Technical Report Series 883. Geneva.
especially in ponds, can lead to unpredictable 55 p.

diversify income sources. The primary reasons
given for engaging in nursery operations around
Lake Taal were profitability (94%), discussions
with or encouragement by other farmers (53%),
learning from observing a government-assisted
demonstration farm (33%), and advice from fam-
ily members and friends (25%). Social networks,
aside from profitability, were thus important moti-
Nursery sales vating forces for starting nursery operations. The
point beside barriers to entry were said to be lack of capital
Lake Taal
(61%), natural calamities (8%), and low fingerling
with the Freshwater Aquaculture Center (FAC) of the prices (7%). Nursery farmers encountered the fol-
Central Luzon State University (CLSU) in 1991– lowing input-related problems: high prices of feeds
1994, and later with FishGen (http:// (65%) and of seed (45%), and inadequate supply of seed (39%). Their main production-related
Among the respondent tilapia cage farmers of problems were bird and fish predators (85%), fish
Lake Taal, 42% have relied on seed produced in the diseases (61%), and high seed mortality (51%).
hatcheries and nurseries of neighboring provinces, Problems related to profitability and to the envi-
especially Laguna. A few small-scale, backyard ronment were typhoons (90%), declining profits
tilapia hatcheries are now in operation close to the (74%), floods (72%), and pollution (56%).
Pansipit River. More importantly, tilapia nursery Most (82%) nursery respondents plan to con-
ponds on the lake’s marginal lands and nursery tinue tilapia nursery operations in the next
hapas (fine mesh cages) in the lake have become 5 years, because of their profitability. Of these,
major sources of fingerlings for 38% of the sur- 56% said they will continue their present scale of
veyed tilapia farmers.24 These tilapia fingerlings operations and the others are planning to expand.
are sold at sizes that assist farmers to reduce Other respondents (11%) were undecided, mainly
the growout period in cages and, consequently, im- because of the uncertainty of financial sources,
prove fish survival. particularly financiers. The rest of the respondents
The majority (80%) of tilapia nurseries that might reduce (5%) or totally cease (3%) opera-
serve Lake Taal usually have 2–3 fingerling produc- tions because of past financial losses. Confidence
tion cycles per year, each lasting 1.5–3.5 months in the tilapia nursery business clearly depends on
depending on the desired fingerling size. The first confidence in the future of tilapia growout. The
cycle is usually January–March, and the second main perceived threats to sustainable operations
April–June. The nursery ponds are 48–2,100 were reported to be natural calamities (22%), low
square meters (m2) with an average of 261 m2, and price of tilapia (22%), the Government’s disman-
are about 1 m deep. For 91% of nursery pond tling or prohibiting cages (21%), water pollution
operators, the average stocking density is about (15%), tilapia overproduction (6%), high feed
1,312 per m2 using fry (size 38) or fingerlings (size prices (4%), and fish kills (3%).
32). All nursing (99%) relies on commercial feeds,
usually given three times a day. Pond fertilization
23 Mair, Graham C., and David O. F. Skibinski. 1994. Genetic Means
is less common, with organic and inorganic fertil- for the Production of Monosex Tilapia. Final Report. Muñoz, Nueva
izers used by 10% and 32% of respondents, respec- Ecija, Philippines: Freshwater Aquaculture Center, Central Luzon State
tively, reportedly because other farmers are not University; and Swansea, United Kingdom: School of Biological
Sciences, University of Wales, Swansea.
experienced in using fertilizers and regard the 24 Nursery ponds are particularly well established in the municipality
pond soil as already fertile. However, more nurs- of Laurel, where their operators enjoy good access to suitable land
ery farmers plan to use fertilizers in the future. and good water supply from watercourses and small impoundments.
Many tenant farmers here, who are also recipients of Certificate of
Nursery pond production was 774–813 finger- Land Ownership Award, converted, wholly or partially, their rice farms
lings per m2 per cycle, indicating 59% survival to tilapia nursery ponds. These certificates issued under the Philippines
Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, which redistributes land
from stocking. Most nursery pond operators (61%) ownership to tenants, giving access to resources and security of tenure.
harvest a pond completely at one time. Only 11% Most nursery pond operators buy small fry (size 38–32) which in
2003 cost P0.04–0.05 each from Laguna hatcheries—about half of
of the surveyed nurseries have considered produc- their historical prices because of high availability and competition
ing SRT, but they are concerned about the implied from hatcheries in other provinces. The fingerlings nursed in ponds
are normally sold to growout operators on reaching sizes 12–17
costs and profitability, indicating risk aversion to (footnote 20), although some farmers stock smaller fry and fingerlings
technologies that they have not yet tried. directly into growout cages. Prior to stocking, size 17–20 fingerlings
are often nursed for 2–4 weeks to size 14 in large hapas located within
Most nursery ponds were formerly small larger growout cages. These nursing hapas are used infrequently and
ricefields, converted to increase incomes and to can last for 3 years.

Genetic Strains deepening of cages where possible.29 Most cages
are 10 m x 10 m, with depths of 6–7 m and some-
Since the late 1980s, substantial genetic improve- times 15 m depending on location.30
ment of farmed tilapia has been achieved in the Stocking density varies with cage type and
Philippines.25 Tilapia genetic improvement is a dimension and with farmers’ practices. The stock-
highly dynamic and competitive field of research ing density used by respondents was 71–76 finger-
and of private enterprise. Tilapia hatchery/nursery lings per m3. The fingerling sizes used were 14
operators and fish farmers have access to a range (65%) and 17 (20%). Seed survival at harvest was
of tilapia strains produced by public agencies and 58–63%. Feeding was done twice (56%) or three
by public-private partnerships, private corpora- times (39%) a day, usually in the early morning
tions, and small-scale hatcheries. Increasingly, the
developers of a given tilapia strain are entering
25 Through selective breeding, the development of genetically
into agreements with other hatcheries to enroll improved farmed tilapias (GIFT) was partly financed by ADB under
them as accredited suppliers,26 and with farmers, technical assistance (TA) 5279-REG: Genetic Improvement of Tilapia
Species in Asia, for $475,000, approved on 8 March 1988. ADB also
offering a wide range of credit and technical sup- supported dissemination of GIFT through TA 5558-REG: Dissemination
port services to encourage customer loyalty.27 and Evaluation of Genetically Improved Tilapia Species in Asia (DEGITA),
for $600,000, approved on 14 December 1993. Development of new
The availability of tilapia strains from nurseries strains of tilapia continues, with extensive use of genetic material
near the lake as well as in neighboring provinces was derived from the GIFT, for example, the Genomar Supreme Tilapia
(GST) and the BFAR strain (GET 2002 EXCEL). FAC sells its own strain
considered important by 92% of cage farmers and known variously as FAC -selected, FAST, and IDRC strain
72% of nursery farmers. The Genomar Supreme (acknowledging support from the International Development Research
Centre of Canada). The Tagalog or “native Philippine” strain is used
Tilapia (GST) strain was used by 42% of the cage widely in Lake Taal. Its provenance is uncertain but its appearance
farmers. Others reported use of so-called Nilotica and performance suggest GIFT and/or other genetically improved
strains in its breeding history. There is no standard strain nomenclature
(19%) and Tagalog (18%) strains, the breeding his- and no independent strain certification. The result is a confusing
tory and provenance of which are unclear. In 2002, mixture of marketing claims.
the strains most commonly used by nursery farmer 26 Licensing and accreditation arrangements vary. BFAR distributes
respondents around the lake were Tagalog (31%), seed and broodstock to BFAR multiplier stations (the nearest to Lake
Taal being at Bay, Laguna) and to private hatcheries that are
GMT (28%), and GST (18%). Choice of tilapia strain encouraged to breed their own fish and to provide information and
was based mainly on expected growth performance superior breeding material back to BFAR. Genomar Supreme
Philippines holds the 8 current members of its Preferred Partner
and seed price. However, most farmers (63% of cage Hatchery Network (the nearest to Lake Taal being at Cabuyao, Laguna)
farmers and 72% of nursery farmers) would avoid to contracts that preclude the unauthorized breeding of strains other
than its GST strain.
buying seed of a given strain based solely on claims
27 Tilapia hatcheries provide incentives for customers to increase sales
about its performance. and patronage in the forms or combination of (i) increased mortality
allowance (i.e., increase in the number of fingerlings given away on
top of the volume ordered), (ii) guaranteed mortality replacements
Growout within a specific time period, (iii) technical assistance during stocking,
(iv) regular farm visits, (v) fingerling price discounts, (vi) flexible
payment terms, and (vii) free deliveries.
Tilapia cage culture in Lake Taal is intensive, with
almost total reliance on inputs of commercial feeds 28 The construction of illegal cages, particularly at the edges of the
Pansipit River, has been a perennial problem for local government
and improved tilapia breeds. The number of fish officials, exacerbated by lack of effective monitoring and political will
cages in the lake increased from 1,601 in 1993 to to control the situation.
10,567 in 1999, declining to 6,843 in 2002. The 29 The Tagaytay-Taal Integrated Master Plan (footnote 6 [i]) contains
the following requirements: “The size of the cages should be
total number is greater than these official records, standardized and their positions rearranged in such a way that a 3-m
because of illegal cages. These are clearly visible, distance between cages will be maintained in order to allow
unimpeded water circulation between the cages and serve as
particularly in areas where cages are prohibited.28 navigational lanes. The number and dimension/size of cages that an
The cages are of two types: fixed (9%) or floating individual can operate should be regulated/controlled to allow
equitable allocation of cage areas and maintain free water movement
(91%). A floating net cage consists of a floating in the area to preserve its ecology. Individual ownership should be
frame with a synthetic net enclosure below. Bam- limited to only five cages with dimensions of 20 m by 10 m by 5 m, or
10 cages of the 10 m by 10 m by 5 m size. No other size of cage
boo is the most common material used for the should be allowed outside these dimensions in order that they can be
frame and also provides floatation. Recently, a few properly arranged in such a way that maximum water circulation is
allowed between the cages and serve as navigational lanes. Only 1–2
floating cages in Laurel were constructed with rows of cages should be allowed for construction parallel to the
plastic drum flotation and metal frames. The life shoreline within the fish sanctuary. The area occupied by the cages
should not exceed 50 m offshore measured from the edge of the lake
span of a bamboo frame varies with location: at its lowest water level. This way, only a narrow strip of water parallel
1.5–2 years in calm waters; 1 year in rough wa- to the shoreline will be occupied by the cages to reduce obstruction
to water circulation inside the fish sanctuary. Accumulation of
ters. The synthetic nets last for at least 2 years. The unconsumed feeds and fecal matter of the stocks underneath the cages
design and operation of tilapia cages in Lake Taal will be minimized, if not totally prevented.”
seem to have remained relatively standard apart 30 Cage depth is site specific. Some operators use deep nets and adjust

from progressive intensification of feeding and them by tying off a portion.

and late afternoon, using commercial feeds of prices (14%), increasing costs of feeds (8%), and
varying formulations. The feed conversion ratios, overproduction (4%). A few respondents (2%)
that is, the weight of feed given divided by the mentioned withdrawal of financiers and govern-
weight of fish harvested, were poor (1.9) com- ment decisions to dismantle cages as significant
pared with those of intensive cages in general threats to their farms.
(about 1.0), indicating overfeeding and ineffi-
ciency. Fertilizers were not used for the cages. Fish Health
Tilapia were grown throughout the year, usually
in 2 cycles. Some farmers (47%) stocked their For tilapia in Lake Taal, the most serious fish health
cages in January to meet the huge tilapia demand problem is infestation by the facultative parasitic
during the Holy Week (March or April) and the isopod crustacean, Alitropus typus (locally called
fiesta season (May and June). 31 The growing timud). 33 Poor water quality stresses fish and
period was typically 5–6 months per cycle (61%), makes them also susceptible to bacterial and fun-
longer than the 3–4 months of the earlier history gal infections. 34 Three quarters (74%) of cage
of tilapia cage farming here. This was attributed farmers cited parasite infestation as a major im-
to deteriorating water quality. Cage farmers prac- pediment and risk.
ticed selective harvesting (49%) more than com- There are plans to develop enterprises in
plete (30%) and partial (21%) harvesting. Batangas to supply freshwater aquarium and orna-
Among the respondents, profitability (100%), mental fish. Hatchery operations for koi carp and
food security (70%), and discussions with other other species are already established in the province.
farmers (29%) were the principal reasons given for These development initiatives can pose serious risks
entry into tilapia cage farming. Farmers considered to aquaculture, fisheries, and biodiversity of the lake
tilapia farming as very profitable in comparison with if they allow the introduction of more alien species
the limited livelihood opportunities around the lake. and their diseases and parasites.35
The major impediments to entering tilapia cage
farming were absence of capital (50%), water pol- Production and Income
lution (18%), natural calamities (12%), low market
price (5%), and high feed cost (5%). Heavy compe- The average annual tilapia production from a
tition, absence of training, and strict municipal ordi- 10 x 10 x 6–10 m cage was about 3 t per cycle or
nances were also perceived as barriers to entry. 6 t per year. Almost all (98.5%) of the harvested
The high costs of inputs—feed (80%) and seed
(61%)—were also identified as major problems 31 Celebrations (fiestas) are held annually in most local communities,
affecting the tilapia cage farmers. Shortage of seed usually in May–June.
supply was mentioned as a constraint by half 32 The financiers are from various places, either neighboring towns
(51%) of them. This reflects the fact that most of or Metro Manila.
the major seed producers are distant from the lake. 33 This parasite infests farmed milkfish and tilapia in Indonesia,
Other production problems were high fish mortal- Malaysia, and Philippines. The timud attach to their host fish at fin
bases, on the head, in the gill cavity, on the tail, and near the anus,
ity (93%), diseases (89%), bird predation (82%), feeding on blood and causing debility and death. When not attached
parasite infestation (74%), poor water quality to host fish, timud are free-living, occurring in dense patches of aquatic
weed. For further general information, see Kabata, Z. 1985. Parasites
(74%), ineffective zoning enforcement (23%), and and Diseases of Fish Cultured in the Tropics. London: Taylor and Francis.
theft (18%). Most respondents also reported According to an unpublished report by Eliodora C. Mercene,
obtainable from BFAR, Ambulong station, Talisay, there was 40–80%
declining profits (95%) and natural calamities, timud infestation of Lake Taal tilapia cages in 1995 and substantial
such as typhoons (92%) and flooding (50%). losses and damage to tilapia fingerlings and adults in 2000. Perennial
infestations continue.
The majority of respondents (69%) said they
would continue tilapia cage farming for the next Aeromonas hydrophila is the principal bacterium known to cause
damage to (ulceration, fish rot, eye opacity, etc.) and death of caged
5 years, and a few (8%) plan to expand operations. tilapia in the lake. This ubiquitous fish bacterial pathogen has its
Some respondents (29%) cited tilapia farming as most severe effects under conditions of high stress. Parasitic fungi
cause periodic losses of tilapia seed and adults. In 1997, a bacterial
“the only job they know.” Profitability (19%) and septicemia was responsible for fish kills in Lake Taal tilapia and
continued involvement of financiers32 (7%) were streptococci were implicated. According to BFAR, however, no
streptococci were found in samples collected in 1999. Streptococcal
also reported as key factors that would assure the infections are a serious problem in aquaculture in general. See:
continuity of fish farming. Those who were unde- Shoemaker, Craig, and Phil Klesius. 1997. Streptococcal Disease
Problems and Control. In Tilapia Aquaculture: Proceedings from the
cided about the future (25%) were concerned about Fourth International Symposium on Tilapia in Aquaculture, edited by
pollution, finding capital, and declining profits. The Kevin Fitzsimmons. Ithaca NY: Northeast Regional Agricultural
Engineering Service. p. 671–680.
respondents perceived the following threats to tila- 35 This applies particularly to species of the family Cichlidae that are
pia farming: natural calamities (33%), water pollu- used extensively in the aquarium trade. All tilapias belong to this fish
tion (30%), fish kills (15%), declining tilapia family.

fish were sold for cash, with only 0.5% consumed
at home and 1.0% given away to friends, relatives,
and neighbors. Tilapia cage farming is capital
intensive but profitable. The average net income
derived from a cage was P29,000 per cycle or
P58,000 per year,36 almost entirely in cash. The
average annual operating expenses were P107,000
per cycle or P214,000 per year.37 These expenses
comprised feeds (79%), seeds (18%), labor (2%),
and fuel and miscellaneous items (1%). At least
two thirds of the surveyed cage farmers earned not
less than P30,000 per cage per year, and 15% of
them earned P10,000–30,000 per cage. In 2002,
41% of the cage farmers stocked 1 or 2 cages and
49%, 3–6 cages. Some farmers became owner-
operators and invested in cage farming by draw-
ing from savings generated from past earnings as
caretakers, or entering into financing agreements
with input suppliers. However, most of the cage
farmers were comfortable to remain caretakers
instead of becoming owner-operators because of
the financial capital requirements that acted as a and the rest were from other parts of Luzon (22%) Harvesting a
major barrier to entry. or elsewhere in the country (2%). For cage farming cage
For tilapia nursery ponds, the average annual and nursery respondents, the average lengths of resi-
number of fingerlings harvested and sold from dence in the area were 37 and 39 years, respectively,
three production cycles was at least 2,000 per m2. and they had about 8 years of experience in tilapia
The gross value of average annual sales of nursed farming.
fingerlings was P579 per m2, with average annual Tilapia cage farming was reported as the main
operating expenses at P328 per m2. On average, occupation of the surveyed cage farmers (93%)
nursery farmers spent P60,236 annually per pond, and 72% had a second occupation: fishing (21%)
apportioned as follows: seed (47%); feeds (40%); or livestock raising (18%). Other secondary occu-
labor (6%); fertilizer and chemicals (4%); and pations included crop farmer (5%), trader (3%),
other expenses, such as fuel, plastic bags, rubber driver (3%), electrician (2%), carpenter (1%),
bands, and oxygen (3%). Their mean annual net shop mechanic (1%), and government employee
income was P39,525 per year or P13,175 per cycle. (1%). Thus, cage farming is not a full-time job;
In 2002, 43% of nursery farmers owned or oper- cage farmers maximize their use of natural capital
ated 1 or 2 ponds, 27% had 3 or 4, 15% had 5 or by combining farming and fishing, while multiple
6, and the remainder had 7 ponds or more. employment reduces risks and provides additional
financial security.
Nursery operators reported also more than
PROFILES OF TILAPIA CAGE one occupation. Tilapia nursery farming (63%)
AND NURSERY FARMERS and rice farming (16%) were the main primary
occupations. Their main secondary occupations
Human Capital were fish or cage farming (36%) and livestock rais-
ing (27%), with other types of employment simi-
Tilapia farming in and around Lake Taal is pres- lar to those of cage farmers.
ently dominated by caretakers, for both nursery To improve their skills, 49% of cage farmers
ponds (65%) and growout cages (64%). The and 19% of nursery farmers had received training
remainder were owner-operators (34%) and care- in one or more of the following: tilapia farming in
taker-laborers38 (1–2%). Most activities (75%) in
both cage and nursery farming were male domi- 36The average net return per cage per cycle for cage farming was
P26,926–35,288 and for nursery farming, P12,879–16,667.
nated. However, feeding and record keeping were
performed by both males and females. The average 37 The average operating expenses per cage per cycle for cage farming
were P111,865–115,356 and for nurseries, P23,842–24,742.
age of all farmer respondents was 45 years, with
38 Caretaker-laborers are caretakers who opt to receive a fixed monthly
8 years of formal education and average household salary instead of entering into profit sharing arrangements without
size of 6. Most farmers (76%) were local residents receiving wages or fixed remuneration.

general, feeding, farm management, and fish obtained water from irrigation canals (20%) and
breeding. Most training was completed within a groundwater (10%). The majority of cage and
day. To some extent, all farmers received extension nursery farmers felt that no dominant or influen-
services, either from feed and seed suppliers or tial groups controlled access to water (92%) or to
government agencies, or both. land (93%) in and around Lake Taal. Moreover,
98% of all respondents reported no conflicts over
Natural Capital the use of resources.

The waters of Lake Taal are owned by the state, Social Capital
not by individual fishers and farmers. Cage farm-
ing sites are leased for a fixed term. The Philippine Social networks are common and strong among
fisheries, local government, and water codes pro- tilapia cage farmers in Lake Taal. Most (77%) of
vide for open access to aquaculture zones in Lake the respondents learned their fish farming prac-
Taal, and these should not exceed 5–10% cover- tices from sources within Batangas Province, 10%
age of the total water area. The 10% benchmark is from within the province and elsewhere, and 13%
currently regarded as the administrative and legal solely from outside the province. Farmers reported
limit, but this is a guess at what might be environ- that they obtained information on tilapia farming
mentally and publicly acceptable and was not sci- from various sources, including a network of fel-
entifically derived. Based on this limit, the lake low farmers (60%), friends (56%), relatives
should be providing about 1,200–2,400 ha of (48%), their own experience (52%), government
legally approved water space for fish cages. Favor- agencies (15%), feed suppliers (10%), seed sup-
able cage sites require shelter from storms, high pliers (5%), financiers (3%), media (3%), educa-
water exchange, road and boat access, and secu- tional institutions (2%), and nongovernment
rity. Such sites are limited and crowded, which organizations (1%). Social networking plays a cru-
reduces their water quality and increases the risks cial role in accessing assets for tilapia farming, par-
of disease transmission. The marginal farmlands ticularly with respect to the fish farmers’
that are used for nursery ponds and for support depend-ence on external financiers. Mutual trust
facilities for the cages are under private ownership. is paramount in a financier-caretaker relationship.
The waters of Lake Taal have several uses— Farmers of good reputation, belonging to a large
fishing, tourism and recreation, and fish farming. social network, have good chances of obtaining
Fish cage farming and cage ownership are limited access to financial resources and to farming oppor-
to residents of the adjacent municipalities, particu- tunities through referrals and contacts established
larly members of fishing cooperatives. However, through the associations.
most local residents are unable to finance cage At least 60% of the cage farmer respondents
operations; thus, they make arrangements with were members of a livelihood-related association,
nonresident financiers or absentee-investors and with 47% belonging to multipurpose cooperatives
serve either as caretakers or permanent cage work- that cater mostly to cage farmers. Some munici-
ers for cage farms that are usually registered palities require membership in an association as a
under their names. A license is needed to operate prerequisite for issuing cage licenses, following the
a fish cage and it must be renewed annually.39 recommendations of the Presidential Commission
Tilapia cage and nursery farmers have small on Tagaytay and Taal. Other types of associations
landholdings around Lake Taal. A respondent cage include FARMCs, fishers’ groups, and irrigation
farmer owned, on average, 0.5 ha of land and a and drivers’ associations. Associations serve as a
nursery farmer had 0.27 ha. Some (24%) nursery channel for information exchange among farmers;
farmers were land tenants. Cage caretakers usually 35% of the respondent cage farmers attested to the
worked in tilapia farming because they lacked sub- role of associations in conducting training and
stantial land and other assets. For tilapia cage and seminars, and serving as channels for discussing
nursery farmer respondents who owned land, the resource management issues, including monitor-
ownership was either acquired through inherit- ing of the lake and cages. In contrast, most (88%)
ance (27%), purchase (25%), or through land nursery farmer respondents were not members of
reform (7%). Some nursery farmers were using
their parents’ lands (8%).
39 Licenses are issued by the municipal government to farmers whose
The availability of water was not considered cage(s) is/are within their territorial jurisdiction. The license fees
a major concern by 88% of the nursery farmers. At comprise a municipal mayor’s permit fee, a lake user fee, and other
charges as prescribed under the existing ordinances of the municipality
least two thirds of nurseries depended on the lake, concerned. Annual license fees for a cage are P100–160; different
rivers, and streams for their water supply. Others municipalities apply different rates.

any livelihood-related association. They relied on financiers. They mobilized their financial capital by
their own social networks for information and ad- obtaining credit from feed suppliers, relatives and
vice on tilapia farming. friends, local moneylenders, and farmer coopera-
tives. For cash loans, the monthly interest rate was
Physical Capital 1.5–20.0%, with repayment periods of 1–30
months. Feed suppliers typically sell feeds on
Most respondents had lived in the area for more credit, with payment after harvest or over an
than 3 decades, and 91% of cage farmers and 98% agreed period. Feed suppliers mark up their retail
of nursery farmers owned their dwelling units. feed prices to cover their costs of capital. The same
Caretaker-laborers, hired from other areas (4%), financial arrangements apply to tilapia nurseries.
were given accommodation as part of their remu- At least 65% of nursery farmers were direct recipi-
neration. Many respondents (85% of cage farmers ents of financial assistance from financiers. For
and 89% of nursery operators) had houses built nursery owner-operators who were able to obtain
with permanent structures.40 Most respondents their financial capital from elsewhere (15%), the
owned modest household appliances and facilities, sources were relatives, friends, feed suppliers, and
such as a television, radio, electric fan, refrigera- banks.
tor, and water-sealed toilet. More cage farmers In 2002, the main sources of income for cage
(77%) than nursery farmers (47%) owned gold farmer respondents were cage farming (74%),
jewelry. Further, 64% of cage farmers and 51% of trading (6%), and fishing (6%). Only 10% of them
nursery farmers had telephones or cellular phones. received remittances from family members either
Nursery farmers had more bicycles (41% versus on a monthly (2%), quarterly (4%), or annual
34%) and more tricycles (20% versus 10%) than (4%) basis.42 Remittances averaged 2% of their
cage farmers, but both groups were equal in own- household income during the year.
ership of motorized vehicles (31%). As expected, The main sources of income for nursery farmer
more cage farmers (77%) owned boats than did respondents in 2002 were tilapia farming (62%),
nursery farmers (14%), and more nursery farmers rice farming (13%), and livestock raising (10%).
owned water pumps than cage farmers. As with the cage farmers, only a few (6%) received
The respondents reported that their access to remittances, from family members (5%) and
facilities ranged from fair (neither easy nor diffi- friends (1%). Reliance on remittances is clearly
cult) to very easy. Most cage farmers and nursery uncommon among cage and nursery farmers in
farmers shared this view in terms of road access Lake Taal.
(75% and 78%, respectively), transport facilities
(84% and 83%), communication facilities (84%
and 64%), market access (94% and 85%), and
reliable water supply (96% and 93%). Markets

Financial Capital The growing acceptance of tilapia among Filipinos

has increased the demand for the product, leading
Tilapia cage farming in Lake Taal is sustained largely to the development of new technologies, market
by external sources of financing. High operating expansion, and the opening of opportunities and
costs and the inherent risks of fish farming deter the services, including those for the poor. Market com-
local inhabitants from using their own limited finan- petition has played a significant role in transferring
cial assets for fish farming. These conditions have improved technologies, offering competitive
given rise to the emergence of financier-caretaker prices, and increasing access to tilapia for poor
relationships, which have gained local acceptance:
64% of the cage farmer respondents were caretak- 40 Construction materials include cement, bricks, expensive wood
ers and recipients of financial assistance provided by products, and galvanized iron sheets.
financiers. These relationships depend on an agree- 41 Existing financier-caretaker sharing arrangements on net profits
ment between a financier (usually a nonresident) are either 50:50, 60:40, or 80:20 in favor of the financier. Sometimes,
a caretaker works for another caretaker (primary), and they divide
and a local resident (caretaker). The former is ex- the share of the primary caretaker. In other cases, caretaker-laborers
pected to provide the financial resources while the opt to receive a fixed monthly income, or a fixed income and a small
incentive derived from net profits. For some partnerships, financial
latter manages the fish farm. The net proceeds after losses from the previous cycle are carried over the next cycle under
each crop cycle are then distributed between both an arrangement known as a “roll-back” system. This roll-back system
requires caretakers to share with the financiers the risks of cage
parties, based on their initial agreement.41 farming.
The other respondent cage farmers (35%) 42 Remittances are transfer payments to the Philippines, usually wages
received financial assistance other than from and salaries sent home by Filipinos employed outside the country.

Decision making on product pricing was attrib-
uted by the respondents to farmers (43%), finan-
ciers (23%), and wholesalers (34%). Prices were
determined by fish size using an 8-tier structure.44
This has encouraged small-scale farmers to grow
tilapia to bigger sizes. However, the growing num-
ber of unorganized intermediaries, particularly
wholesalers, and tilapia oversupply in markets
have decreased prices received by small producers
and market intermediaries. Mechanisms to improve
product flow are badly needed.

Public and Private Institutions

Tilapia farming in Lake Taal has benefited greatly

from public and private research and technical sup-
port. Choices of tilapia strains and improved man-
agement practices are products of such collaboration
through various networks. In Batangas, there are
two BFAR stations45 that have provided research,
Sorting the consumers. Cage and nursery farmers have a wide training, and information dissemination in support
harvest choice of tilapia strains. Increased competition has of tilapia farming and related issues in Lake Taal,
triggered seed suppliers to offer technical and spe- particularly on coexistence with fisheries and envi-
cial services to customers, thus benefiting small- ronmental aspects, such as fish kills and the
scale farmers in terms of information and skills upwelling of noxious deep waters. The presence of
transfer for improved farm management.43 Com- these institutions has increased farmer awareness
petition among tilapia buyers, particularly whole- and understanding of the natural hazards of the lake.
salers, has given farmers assured markets, even FARMCs were created to increase fishers’ and
before harvest. Marketing promotion by input sup- farmers’ participation in managing fisheries and
pliers has also provided small-scale farmers with aquatic resources in a sustainable manner. The
easier access to inputs, particularly feeds. presence of an IFARMC in Batangas Province and
Robust markets have encouraged the entry of municipal FARMCs around Lake Taal has led to
more market intermediaries who facilitate product increased participation of both fishers and farm-
flow. Most tilapia cage farmers (79%) preferred ers in the management of the lake. A resolution for
selling directly to wholesalers, with whom many the harmonization of the diverse municipal poli-
have established good business relationships. cies and ordinances pertaining to tilapia cage farm-
Wholesalers usually paid in cash and picked up the ing in the lake was endorsed to the Batangas
fish at the farm gate. Many respondents (53%) Provincial Council in 2003 by the IFARMC and
appreciated these cash payment arrangements, concerned municipalities. The resolution seeks to
and 19% regarded selling at the farm as highly increase benefits for farmers and the local commu-
convenient. Selling directly to wholesalers reduced nities and aims to improve lake management.
the risk of marketing a perishable product. Fish FARMCs are also active participants in the provin-
farmers were generally satisfied with their exist- cial government’s drive to eliminate illegal struc-
ing buyers. The main reasons farmers refrained tures along the Pansipit River in order to improve
from seeking other markets were good relationship water flow and the passage of migratory fish. Tila-
with their current buyers (48%), satisfactory prices pia cage farmers are expected to benefit from the
offered by their buyers (20%), and perceived anticipated improvement in water quality through
transaction costs of looking for other buyers (7%). increased farm productivity.
Fish farmers recognized that tilapia marketing has
opened opportunities for agents and brokers and 43 The special services, such as discounted prices, higher mortality
retailers as direct market outlets. More impor- allowances, and better payment terms, are beneficial; these increase
patronage and establish good business relationships.
tantly, markets for farmed tilapia from cages have
expanded into major population centers, such as 44 In general, the number of fish per kg determines price. The top
price is for tilapia of 1–2 fish per kg (individual weight, 500–1,000
Metro Manila and nearby towns, thus increasing g) and the lowest (8th tier) is for 10 fish per kg (about 100 g each).
access and opportunities for small-scale farmers 45These are the Ambulong Fisheries Station in Tanauan and the
and benefiting urban consumers. Butong Fisheries Biological Complex in Taal.

The fisheries and fish farming in Lake Taal are P2,000. These workers also received benefits in
not currently represented in the PAMB, which is terms of rice, other food provisions, and, to some
the legally mandated body for managing the lake extent, housing. For seasonal laborers, the average
and its resources. The PAMB of Lake Taal is cur- daily wage was P138. The perceptions of tilapia
rently modifying its mode of operations to enable farmers about their prospects of changing employ-
adequate consideration of the interests of fisher- ment were mixed. Some (21%) anticipated no con-
ies and aquaculture. The modification contains pro- straints in this regard. Others were worried about
visions for establishing subcommittees to address employment prospects due to either unfamiliarity
specific concerns. The PAMB is expected to contrib- with other jobs (16%), old age (12%), or lack of
ute to more sustainable management of the lake and capital to start a new business (11%).
its resources.
The fish farming cooperatives in Lake Taal Support Services, Facilities, and
facilitate information exchange and aquaculture- Infrastructure
related training and discussions.46 They help in
monitoring the condition of the lake and cage Some tilapia cage farmers (23%) and nursery farm-
farmers’ compliance with local regulations. They ers (11%) regarded government extension services
also help farmers to apply for loans to finance their as weak sources of information and advice. In two
operations. Similarly, fishery-related cooperatives municipalities, there had been reduction in exten-
serve as conduits for local government units sion personnel because of reduced budgets, which
(LGUs) in implementing assistance programs for resulted in part from decentralization of government
fish farmers.47 services. As mentioned, social networks have been
effective in disseminating information on tilapia
Labor and Employment farming among small-scale farmers, including tech-
nology and market information. Seed and feed sup-
Tilapia cage and nursery farming generate employ- pliers also provide technical support to both cage
ment opportunities for small-scale operators, care- and nursery farms.
takers, laborers, and their households. In addition, The national Government has a credit program
fish farming has created spin-off jobs, including that extends financial assistance to small-scale farm-
cage making, harvesting, handling, fish trading ers and fishers through the Quedan Rural Credit and
and vending, and nursery fishpond preparation. Guarantee Corporation (QUEDANCOR). These
Local economies have improved with the entry of loans are available to fish farmers in Lake Taal,
input suppliers, especially feed companies; their facilitated by LGUs and provided to eligible farmer
presence has increased local employment in retail- groups at an annual interest rate of 12% and a
ing, transporting, and distributing feed. Table 1
summarizes the estimated employment in tilapia
farming in Lake Taal. The cooperatives were created initially to comply with licensing
requirements and to operate fish cages. There are currently at least
Based on the present survey, the average five fish cage cooperatives in Laurel, Batangas.
monthly salary of regular workers or laborers in 47 The local government of one municipality is seeking assistance
tilapia cage farming and nurseries in 2003 was from the provincial government to finance cage culture operations.

Table 1: Employment Generated by Tilapia Cage Farming in Lake Taal, Batangas

Type of Employment Number of Assumptions

People Employeda

Cage Caretaker/Operators 2,280 3 cages per farmer, with about 6,840 cages in 2002
Family Members 4,560 2 family members assisting each cage operator/caretaker
Wholesalers/Traders 30 Based on key informant interviews and survey estimates
Harvester Group 360 Each wholesaler has a group of harvesters of at least 12 people
Drivers and Helpers 90 A wholesaler has a driver and 2 helpers to deliver to the main markets
Cage Makers 90 About 4 persons can make 1 cage per day; 300 workdays per year
Tilapia Vendors/Retailers 260 Survey estimates
Nursery Farmers 350 Estimates based on municipal records
Family Members 700 2 family members assisting each nursery farmer
Total 8,720

These estimates do not include laborers working specifically for pond preparation. Employment in hatcheries was excluded because Batangas
nursery and cage operations are mostly dependent on outside seed suppliers.

tection. The results have been mixed.49 At the
municipal level, there have been more than 20 leg-
islative instruments of relevance to fishing and
aquaculture in Lake Taal. Fishers and farmers are not
fully aware of these and many have not been effec-
tively implemented.50 More legal instruments have
been prepared under the Fisheries Code,51 but it is
hard to envisage that compliance with these will be
swift or widespread.52

48 Current reviews include

(i) Oposa, Anthony. 2002. A Legal Arsenal for the Philippine
Environment. Muntinlupa City: Batas Kalikasan Foundation. Oposa
reviewed, among other instruments: Republic Act No. 8435,
“Aquaculture and Fisheries Modernization,” which provides a
framework “to enhance profits and incomes ... particularly the small
farmers and fishers, by ensuring equitable access to assets, resources”
and to plan for “increased income and profit of small farmers and
fishers”; the Water Code (Presidential Decree 1067); Civil Code
Provisions on Waters (Republic Act 386); the Local Government Code
of 1991 (Republic Act 7160) with respect to ecosystems, inland
fisheries, and freshwater aquaculture; the Pollution Control Law
(Presidential Decree 984); Water Classification (Department of
Environment and Natural Resources, Administrative Order 34–90);
Making cages service fee of 3%. The provincial BFAR office super- Effluent Regulations (Department of Environment and Natural
from bamboo vises the implementation of national fisheries and Resources, Administrative Order 35, Series of 1990); and multiple
instruments concerning water utilities.
aquaculture programs, including tilapia farming. (ii) Rivera-Guieb, Rebecca, Boyd-Hagart Alexander, Jocel Pangilinan,
In coordination with the regional office of the and Ronet Santos. 2002. Aquatic Resources in the Philippines and the
Extent of Poverty in the Sector. Quezon City, Philippines: Voluntary
Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, BFAR also moni- Service Overseas (Philippines). The authors discuss individual rights
tors fish production and prices in Batangas. of fishers and farmers under the 1987 Philippine Constitution and
related laws, and the roles and responsibilities of LGUs and the
Private service facilities, such as ice plants, Sanggunian.
supply the marketing needs of tilapia cage farm- 49 For example, Mercene-Mutia (2001), using 1997 data, assessed
ers and traders. Ice is critical to keep products fresh the effects of local government implementation of the national open-
until they reach the market. Some entrepreneurial access policy for municipal fisheries. The verdict was essentially
negative. Open access was said to have resulted in unregulated entry
tilapia farmers rent out their boats to other farm- of fish farming practices like fish cage culture, which tend to increase
ers to transfer feeds bought in bulk. Wholesalers the pollution load in the lake. The main solution recommended was
that “national government agencies (Department of Agriculture, BFAR,
who pick up harvested tilapia at the farm gate use Department of Environment and Natural Resources) should form an
their own trucks. Different levels of government agreement with local government units for a continuing assessment
of the fishing resources in Lake Taal.” Mercene-Mutia, Ma. Theresa.
develop and maintain facilities and roads, particu- 2001. Assessment of Local Government’s Implementation of Open Access
larly from farms to markets. Most respondents Policy in Taal Lake, Philippines. p. 123–132 in footnote 6 [iv].

regarded their present access to roads, transporta- 50 Mercene-Mutia (footnote 49), noted that most fishers and cage
operators were aware of very few ordinances: e.g., prohibition of active
tion, markets, and water supply as fair. Access to cel- fishing gears, registration of fish cages, and registration of boats (fees
lular phones has greatly improved communications. are paid for both), regulation of cage construction, and prohibition
of waste disposal in the lake. It was reported that 64% of those
interviewed felt that local fishing ordinances were either not strictly
Policy and Law implemented or were ignored. Similarly, the Department of Tourism
(footnote 6 [i]) noted “Non-Enforcement of Fishing Regulations” and
that fishers “stubbornly insist their unlawful methods of fishing.”
Official policies for freshwater aquaculture in the 51 These include (i) Fisheries Administrative Order 214, Series of
Philippines are markedly pro-poor with numerous 2001, Code of Practice for Aquaculture, which calls for, among other
provisions that favor small-scale operations and provisions, an environmental impact assessment to be submitted to
the Department of Environment and Natural Resources before
community welfare, but these policies are not imple- initiating any aquaculture development; and (ii) Fisheries
mented effectively. They are hindered by vested in- Administrative Order 218, Series of 2001, Yearly Report on
Aquaculture Projects, in which all owners/operators of fish cages,
terests and by complex and confusing legislation.48 pens, ponds, hatcheries, etc., must report to BFAR their annual
The Fisheries Code of 1998 [Republic Act (RA) production by species, by 31 January of the succeeding year.

8550] is the main legal framework and the basis of 52 Laws and regulations have been widely ignored in and around
Lake Taal. For example, Fisheries Administrative Order No. 217, Series
all Fisheries Administrative Orders. RA 8550 gives of 2001, Obstruction to Defined Migration Paths provides for the
to municipal or city LGUs, in consultation with local freedom of passage of migratory species though the Pansipit River.
Rafael Guerrero (footnote 7 [ii]) mentioned the “political will” that
farmers and subject to review by the appropriate has, from time to time, made possible the clearance of the obstructions
provincial Sanggunian (council), the authority to (fish cages and traps) in the Pansipit River, but emphasized the need
for “full enforcement of existing fisheries laws and ordinances.... full
make ordinances and decisions and to appropriate implementation of the regulatory measures with utmost “political will”
funds for general welfare and for environmental pro- (and) a study to determine the carrying capacity of the lake.”

Official statistics on inland capture fisheries are the
responsibility of BFAR and the Bureau of Agricul-
tural Statistics. Their accuracy has been questioned
in an FAO report.53 For Lake Taal, the number of
fishers and their catches are probably significantly
higher than those officially reported, even with the
general decline in the lake’s fisheries. In 1999,
BFAR recorded a total of 1,180 fishers in Lake Taal.
They were most numerous in the three municipali-
ties that also have the most cage farmers.54
Many measures have been designed to con-
tribute to the sustainable management and conser-
vation of the lake’s fisheries.55 In 1975, a 1,289-ha
fish sanctuary was established for conservation
purposes under Fisheries Administrative Order No.
118. In 1996, the entire area of Taal Volcano and frustration for the fishers to see the fish sanctuary Overcrowding
Lake Taal was designated under the Philippine heavily occupied by fish cages. Fish cages, like of cages
National Integrated Protected Areas System as a most structures in open waters, attract wild fish,
“protected area,” in which ecological processes, and this attraction is particularly strong in Lake
genetic diversity, and sustainable use of natural Taal because of the output of uneaten feed and
resources must be maintained. Despite such mea- fecal matter from the cages. Fishers are naturally
sures, overfishing and the use of illegal gears have attracted to fish near the cages, but are repelled
continued, and obstructions in the Pansipit River by cage farmers who fear poaching and sabotage.
have reduced the number of migratory fish species During the present survey, respondents reported
in the Lake Taal from 31 in 1927 to 5 in 1996 (foot- no such conflicts—although this might be because
note 7 [ii]). Moreover, there has been a decline in they were reluctant to make public their personal
the fisheries catch, the most visible and widely interests or problems.
reported aspect of which concerns the fishery for
the lake’s unique endemic freshwater sardine, 53 Coates, David. 2002. Inland Capture Fisheries of Southeast Asia:
Sardinella tawilis (locally called tawilis).56 Current Status and Information Needs. RAP Publication 2002/11.
Bangkok: Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission and the FAO Regional Office
The abolition of the Presidential Commission for Asia and the Pacific (RAP). For the Philippines, it was reported
on Tagaytay and Taal in 2000 has meant that poli- that much of the statistics were based on projections rather than on
accurately collected data and that there were insufficient financial
cies and decision making related to sustaining and and human resources to remedy this. Inland capture fisheries
conserving the lake are now the responsibility of production in Southeast Asia was considered to be underestimated
by a factor of 2.5–3.6.
the PAMB. LGUs are expected to take the lead in
54 These municipalities (with numbers of registered fishers) are Laurel
implementing policies and regulations. A major
(120), Agoncillo (160), and San Nicolas (420). The other seven
challenge is how to reconcile and to strike a bal- municipalities had 36–96 registered fishers. Fisher respondents to a
ance among the competing uses of the lake. Lake BFAR 1999 survey mentioned the presence of fish cages as a problem
for them and that the cages caused “pollution.” A later study (footnote
Taal is a major tourist destination. The existing 7 [ii]) recorded 3,761 fishers (20,000 households) and cited survey
Tagaytay-Taal Integrated Master Plan was con- findings (footnote 7 [i]) that 58% of these obtained their primary
income (average P182/day) from fishing and regarded the presence
ceived for this purpose (footnotes 6[i] and 29). To of “too many fish cages” as a major problem.
date, however, tilapia cage farming has not been 55 For example, in 1993, the Provincial Council of Batangas approved
adequately managed in terms of its relationships Fisheries Ordinance 4, Series of 1993, “Ordinance Providing for the
Protection and Rehabilitation of Taal Lake’s Fisheries and Ecosystem”
with other lake users and its environmental which prohibits “active and other forms of destructive fishing gear/
impacts. method” and delineates areas in which fish cages and fish traps can
be operated. It also set limits for structures in the Pansipit River that
There are reports of longstanding conflicts would impede fish migrations and recruitment to fished populations
between the lake’s fishers and the tilapia cage in the lake—one among many instruments enacted to protect this
river’s role in sustaining the lake’s fisheries.
farmers (footnote 7 [ii]). The former, their own il-
legal practices aside, blame the latter for the de- The total fisheries catch of the lake declined from 8,792 t in 1993
to 1,681 t in 1998 and tawilis catches dropped from 29,000 t in 1984
cline in the lake’s fisheries, citing impeded to 6,000 t in 1995 (footnote 6 [iii]). However, the reasons for
navigation, lowered water quality, and obstruction fluctuating tawilis catches are poorly understood. It almost
disappeared in the 1960s, when aquaculture could not have been a
of the Pansipit River. Moreover, it is a source of contributory cause.

ENVIRONMENT overturns in Lake Taal. Since 1997, fish kills from
overturns in the lake have caused serious losses to
Water Quality, Fish Cages, and fish farmers and probably also to fishers—
Nutrient Loading although the quantities of fish lost in open waters
are less easily estimated than those in cages. Table
Lake Taal is not a stable environment for tilapia 2 summarizes some records of fish kills for which
farming. The unpredictability of the volcano and overturns were suspected as the main cause. The
associated seismic activity, with sulfide and ammo- severity of low dissolved oxygen as a cause of fish
nia releases from the lake floor, mean that fish in kills and poor growth performance is exacerbated
the lake are always at risk. More importantly, the
daily addition of artificial feeds to the cages adds 57 Assuming a feed conversion ratio of 1.5 (weight of dry feed given:
large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus to the weight of fish harvested), about 64% of the nitrogen and 81% of the
lake.57 The lake’s increasing eutrophication has phosphorus in the feeds is released into the lake environment. This
estimate is based on data published by Edwards, Peter. 1993.
been broadly welcomed as an “enrichment” (foot- Environmental Issues in Integrated Agriculture-Aquaculture and
note 6 [i]) that is expected to increase fisheries Wastewater-fed Fish Culture Systems. In Environment and
Aquaculture in Developing Countries, edited by Roger S. V. Pullin,
production by providing more zooplankton as feed Harald Rosenthal, and Jay L. Maclean. ICLARM Conference Proceedings
for tawilis (footnote 6 [v]). This is a simplistic view. 31. Manila. p. 193–170. According to Yambot (2000) (footnote 6 [iii]),
16 kg of phosphorus are released into Lake Taal for every 1.5 t of feed
The contributions of denser plankton to feeding given. Dela Vega (2001) Feeds and Feeding of Tilapia in Cages in Taal
caged tilapia will be uncertain58 and water quality Lake. Paper presented during the 5th Southern Luzon Zonal Research
and Development Review, Development Academy of the Philippines,
(especially dissolved oxygen) is likely to fluctuate Tagaytay City, 4–5 October 2001, as cited by Basiao (2003) (footnote
more widely. Moreover, the ecology and 5[ii]) estimated that the average wastage of tilapia feed in Lake Taal
was 2.6 kg (dry weight) per cage (presumably 10 x 10 x 5–7 m) per
biodiversity of the lake will change, with uncertain day; i.e., “624 t for one culture period with 2,000 units of cages.”
consequences for wild fish. 58 The value of plankton as a source of food to caged tilapia depends
on its density and species composition. The Nile tilapia gut is highly
Fish Kills acidic and adapted to the digestion of blue-green algae
(cyanobacteria); it cannot digest green microalgae to the same extent.
The composition of Lake Taal phytoplankton has been reported as
Fish kills were known in Lake Taal before aquacul- containing significant proportions (31%) (footnote 10) or very low
proportions (2.4%) (footnote 6 [v]) of blue-green algae. There will
ture began there, but the numbers of fish killed be considerable variation with location and season. The lake’s
were small and no records were kept. Lake Taal, zooplankton is typically tropical.

as is common for volcanic lakes, experiences peri- 59 Overturns in deep volcanic lakes are different from the low dissolved
oxygen conditions that cause fish kills in shallow, unstratified waters
odic upwellings or overturns 59 (locally called with dense fish populations, such as the fish pens and cages of Laguna
duong) in which deep (sometimes sulfide- and de Bay. In Laguna de Bay, the low dissolved oxygen that causes fish
kills results almost entirely from the high oxygen demand (by the
ammonia-loaded) waters containing little oxygen fish and other lake biota) exceeding the oxygen supply from
come to the surface because of certain combina- photosynthesis (by phytoplankton) and from oxygen diffusion at the
water’s surface. Such dissolved oxygen conditions normally occur in
tions of atmospheric conditions, winds, and cur- still, hot weather and when photosynthesis is greatly reduced or
rents. Fish are killed mainly by low dissolved absent, as with extensive cloud cover and at night. The phytoplankton
then use oxygen but supply little or none. Overturns in Lake Taal
oxygen, with sulfide and ammonia poisoning occur in both hot and cold weather. Water with much reduced oxygen
sometimes as contributory factors. Overturns often content is brought to the surface. The dense caged fish populations
and the plankton around them (denser than in open waters) already
follow heavy rains that make surface waters colder have a high oxygen demand, which then cannot be met. The problem
and heavier, causing them to sink and to be is again exacerbated at night and under heavy cloud cover, when
photosynthesis is absent or reduced. Low dissolved oxygen also has
replaced by deeper waters. Southeasterly winds chronic sublethal effects in suppressing fish growth, but this does not
(locally called salatan) are also major causes of appear to have been studied in Lake Taal.

Table 2: Summary Data on Significant Fish Kills in Lake Taal from Oxygen Depletion during Overturns

Year Location Fish Total Quantity

(months) Lost (t)

1997 (June–July) Agoncillo and San Nicolas Tilapia (market size) 52

1999 (May) Laurel Tilapia (market size) 20
2000 (April) Cuenca Milkfish (2 fish per kilogram) 63
2000 (April) Talisay Tilapia (market size) 2
2000 (May) Agoncillo, San Nicolas, Milkfish, tilapia, and various benthic
Leviste, Laurel species (sizes not given) >1,200
2000 (June) San Nicolas, Pansipit River Tilapia and milkfish (and snails) 50
2000 (August) Various Milkfish (all sizes) and tilapia (market size) >100

Source: Mercene, Eliadora C. Fish Kill Investigation in Taal Lake. BFAR, Ambulong, Talisay, Batangas. Unpublished document.

by other factors: poor fish health (parasitic infes- as the sole or principal cause for such losses, while
tation and bacterial infection) and poor water neglecting other major causes such as siltation
quality (especially elevated ammonia). The major- (from logging of watersheds), pollution, overfish-
ity of cage respondents (78%) reported that they ing, and the interactions of these factors. Nile tila-
had experienced fish kills, which they attributed to pia is not known to be a significant predator on
lack of oxygen (71%), polluted water (59%), and other fish. It eats primarily blue-green algae, other
diseases and parasites (31%). Most of the fish kills plankton, and detritus. It is unlikely that it could
occurred in May (29%) and June (26%). cause significant depletion or extinction of any of
Lake Taal’s native species. Moreover, the lake has
Climate and Natural Disasters only limited areas of the shallow soft bottom habi-
tats that are essential as breeding grounds for tila-
El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions pias. There is, however, speculation to the
have occurred in the Philippines in 1982–1983, contrary.63 The possibility that Nile tilapia popula-
1990–1992, and 1997–1998. ENSO years are typi- tions in Lake Taal pose threats to its natural
fied by droughts and they usually have fewer biodiversity should be more thoroughly investi-
typhoons than normal years, but their impacts on gated. Lake Taal contains water hyacinth
freshwater aquaculture are generally negative.60 (Eichornia crassipes), an invasive floating weed
Clearly, the main threat of a major disaster in Lake that can seriously hamper fish cage operations, as
Taal is that of the periodic activity of the volcano it has in many other lakes. The other potentially
(footnote 9). The eruption of Mount Pinatubo problematical floating weed, Pistia stratiodes, is
caused ash to fall on Lake Taal, but no serious effects probably absent from Lake Taal (footnote 6[i]).
were recorded. Cage farmer respondents (64%) reported that
tilapia escape from their cages. The majority
Biodiversity and Alien Species (86%) believed that this had no effect on the envi-
ronment. Piranha (30%) and sharks (28%) were
Tilapias are alien species throughout the Philip- the alien species that farmers feared most as po-
pines. They were introduced for aquaculture tential introductions.
because there are no comparable native species.
The introduction and use of alien aquatic species,
60 The 1997–1998 ENSO caused the water level of Lake Taal to fall by
and related inspections and quarantine, have long 2–3 m, stranding some tilapia cages at the lake’s margins. Cage
been the responsibilities of BFAR under RA No. productivity declined to about 1–2 t per cage per cropping cycle,
compared with the normal 3–4 t. About 6.5 ha of tilapia nursery ponds
8550 (the 1998 Fisheries Code) and preexisting were affected by water shortages, with the loss of about 3 million
legislation, but lack of adequate resources and of fingerlings. Source: Luistro, Aida P. 1999. The Impact of El Niño on
the Fisheries in the Southern Tagalog Region (Region 4). In Fisheries
lack of public awareness and concern have made Production and the El Niño Phenomenon, edited by Herminio R.
effective controls impossible. Philippine fish farm- Rabanal. PCAMRRD Book Series No. 27/1999. Los Baños, Laguna,
Philippines: Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine Research and
ers, institutes, and the aquarium trade introduce Development (PCAMRRD). p. 117–128.
alien aquatic species in contravention of national 61 The 1993 Convention on Biological Diversity
regulations and of the international conventions (, ratified by the Philippines, requires parties to:
and codes of conduct to which the Philippines is a “Prevent the introduction of, control, or eradicate those alien species
which threaten ecosystems, habitats or species.” Responsible use and
party.61 This situation poses potential threats not control of species introduced for aquaculture and fisheries are guided by
only to biodiversity and the natural environment FAO, of which the Philippines is a member state. They are part of the
FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (
but also to tilapia farming, because of the risks of agreem/codecon/codecon/asp). Prior appraisal of the possible impacts
introducing diseases and parasites. Introductions of alien species introductions is a major aspect of the FAO Technical
Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries-Precautionary Approach to Capture
that are not officially sanctioned are rarely accom- Fisheries and Species Introductions (
panied by a precautionary approach or by W3592E/W3592E00.HTM). These have not yet been adequately applied
in the Philippines.
adequate quarantine measures. In general, Nile ti-
62 Pullin, Roger S.V., Maria Lourdes Palomares, Christine V. Casal,
lapia introductions have caused far fewer adverse Madan M. Dey, and Daniel Pauly. 1997. Environmental impacts of
environmental impacts than those of some other tilapias. In Tilapia Aquaculture. Proceedings from the Fourth
International Symposium on Tilapia in Aquaculture, edited by Kevin
tilapias, but it is potentially invasive as an alien Fitzsimmons. Ithaca, NY: Northeast Regional Agricultural Engineering
species and a potential threat to native aquatic Service. p. 554–570.
biodiversity in pristine and other waters.62 63 For example, Zafaralla et al. (1999) (footnote 6 [ii]) have

Tilapias (including Nile tilapia) have been im- commented: “Predation by tilapia has drawn the sinarapan population
to extinction in Lake Buhi. Will it do the same to the tawilis?” However,
plicated in the decline and even extinction of some the problem alluded to in Lake Buhi has multiple environmental
Philippine endemic freshwater fishes, for example, causes. Similarly, Basiao (2003) (footnote 5 [ii]) noted that important
natural fishery resources in the Philippines, including tawilis in Lake
some cyprinid species of Lake Lanao, Mindanao. Taal, “might have been threatened because of introduced species
Much of the literature tends to blame alien species associated with cage farming.”

FISH QUALITY terms of employment and positive incomes. How-
ever, while employment gains have remained
The timing of cage harvests depends largely on favorable, cash incomes have declined over the
destination markets. This is undertaken to ensure period. These perceived differences were statisti-
product freshness and quality on reaching the next cally significant,66 as were those for perceived
market channel. For instance, if the fish are declines in the state of natural resources, in farm
intended for local and neighboring markets, har- investments, and in access to credit. Nevertheless,
vesting starts before dawn so they are available farmers perceived improvements in technology
before markets open. Tilapia intended for Metro dissemination and access to information. More-
Manila markets are usually taken in the afternoon over, their incomes had enabled them to acquire
to consignment markets that start early in the household assets and improve their homes.
evening. Tilapia are taken fresh killed, or moribund Nursery farmers believed that tilapia nursing
on ice, from farm gate to market. Cage had been instrumental in increasing their food con-
respondents attribute the good quality of har- sumption, employment, farm investments, and
vested tilapia to water quality (96%), genetic shelter improvements over the past 5 years. Nurs-
strain (81%), and the quality of feeds used (38%). ery farming was presently seen more favorably
Off-flavors are a well-known problem in farmed than cage farming for several reasons: the local
freshwater fish, particularly those raised in ponds demand for nursed fingerlings was very high and
and lakes where there is no possibility of manag- local production was not sufficient to meet it, and
ing the diversity and abundance of plankton.64 In nursery operations were less risky and less capital
Lake Taal, respondents perceived that no off-flavor intensive than cage farming. The survey also indi-
problems exist (98%). There appear to be no seri- cated that nursery farmers were learning new tech-
ous human health concerns related to tilapia cage niques to improve production. This shows the
farming and nursery operations. dynamism of the nursery operations and substan-
tiates other statistically significant perceptions of
nursery farmers that access to technology at village
CRISIS AND COPING level had improved over that 5 years ago, and had
STRATEGIES helped new entrants to nursery farming. Nursery
farmers shared with cage farmers the perception
In the 12 months before the present survey (i.e., that the lake’s resource base was deteriorating.
mid-2002–mid-2003), the five major types of cri- Nursery farmers knew that their survival depended
sis reported by all respondents were: typhoon on stable and continuous cage operations.
(75%), flood (45%), financial loss from livelihood Cage farmers felt that technology dissemina-
occupation (41%), illness in the family (39%), and tion, its adoption in the villages, and household
drought (20%). The others were death of a house- shelter improvement will continue to improve over
hold member, loss of job, eviction, and fish kills. the next 5 years. They expect the resource base to
Farmers coped with these crises by relying on fam- continue to deteriorate, but are hopeful that tila-
ily savings (51%), obtaining loans from friends and pia farming will remain a major source of employ-
relatives (40%), selling livestock (18%), getting a ment for their families. Nursery farmers are very
loan from a money lender (9%), selling household optimistic that tilapia nursing will continue to
assets (6%), and pawning jewelry or mortgaging improve their overall food and tilapia consump-
land (3%). Farmers are very vulnerable to exter- tion, provide additional employment and cash
nal risk, especially natural calamities, which have incomes, and increase their capacity to invest in
severely affected their financial situations and their
capacity to continue tilapia farming. Exposure to 64 The most common off-flavors [an earthy muddy taste from geosmin

such risks might explain why most farmer respon- (trans–1, 10–dimethyl–trans–(9)–decalol) and a musty taste from 2–
methylisoborneol] are acquired by fish from a wide variety of bacteria,
dents are caretakers. especially blue-green algae. Source: Tucker, Craig S. 2000. Off-flavor
Problems in Aquaculture. Reviews in Fisheries Science 8(1): 45–88.

OUTCOMES 65 The baseline-independent method was drawn from Pomeroy,

Robert, Richard Pollnac, Brenda Katon, and Canesio Predo. 1997.
Evaluating Factors Contributing to the Success of Community-Based
Respondents were asked to assess their situation Coastal Resource Management: The Central Visayas Regional Project
I, Philippines. Ocean and Coastal Management Journal 36(1–3): 97–
over time, using a baseline-independent method.65 120.
Comparing their situation at present with that 5 66The test of means was the statistical method used. The difference
years ago, tilapia cage farmers perceived that they between the two periods being compared was statistically significant
have continued to benefit from tilapia farming in (p<0.01) at the 1% level.

tilapia farming. They also expect that access to occupation by would-be tilapia farmers that had no
tilapia technology will further improve, with in- land. Moreover, the lake water was of good qual-
creased adoption in their respective communities. ity for tilapia cage farming, apart from ever-present
risks of volcanic activity, overturns of noxious deep
CONCLUSIONS waters to the surface, and typhoons—risks that
farmers appear willing to carry for want of other
Tilapia cage farming in Lake Taal, Batangas con- opportunities to farm fish. However, the expansion
tributes to reducing poverty by providing direct of cage farming in the lake has been largely uncon-
employment: for cage farmers and caretakers, for strained by attempts to limit entry and to manage
those working in the lakeside nurseries that sup- cage farming in concert with the other uses of the
ply tilapia seed to the cages, and in fish handling lake, principally fishing and tourism. The very suc-
and marketing and fish feed supply. Cage farmer cess of cage farming in Lake Taal threatens its
respondents continue to earn their incomes and future because of overcrowded cages, declining
gain additional employment from tilapia farming, water quality, fish kills, and poor feed conversion
but their current income benefits have declined efficiency that all contribute to worsening harvests
compared to those 5 years ago. Respondents from and eroded profit margins. These problems are,
nursery farms said that they were better off now however, beginning to be addressed though im-
than 5 years ago in terms of food consumption, proved policies and management to reduce the
employment, investments, and home improve- numbers of and areas occupied by cages to sustain-
ments, but were well aware of their dependence able limits and to lessen conflicts.
on the continuation of the cage growout opera- Cage farming of tilapia in Lake Taal is an impor-
tions. Both types of respondents believed that tila- tant contributor to keeping tilapia prices stable, thus
pia farming would remain their primary source of helping to make tilapia more affordable to poor con-
livelihood for the next 5 years. In addition, they sumers. Lake Taal tilapias have a high reputation for
expected continuous improvements and access to quality. It is important that their contributions to
tilapia technology and adoption. rural and urban food security be maintained. Well-
For both cage growout of tilapia and associ- sited and well-managed tilapia cage farms and nurs-
ated nurseries, access to livelihood assets, together eries merit strong efforts to safeguard their future
with robust markets (input, output, and labor mar- against further mismanagement, environmental
kets), available services and infrastructure, and deterioration, alien species, fish diseases, fish kills,
supportive policies and institutions, are vital fac- and rising feed costs. Only if these manageable risks
tors for success. The main factor that initiated and can be addressed effectively can cage farming opera-
caused the rapid expansion of tilapia cage farming tions in Lake Taal be sustainable and sufficiently
in the lake was its provision of water space owned profitable to withstand the inevitable occasional
by the Government and, therefore, available for losses from adverse natural events.


BACKGROUND is second only to rice for Thais and has good qual-
ity, containing easy-to-digest protein, all amino
This case study was prepared to provide an over- acids required for human growth, unsaturated fat,
view of small-scale freshwater aquaculture in and vitamins and minerals.4
Thailand to illustrate the contextual importance of Estimated annual per capita consumption of
aquaculture—its historical development, technol- fish based on a field survey of consumers in 1998–
ogy and management, markets, development policy 1999 was an average of 28.8 kilograms (kg) of
and the role of the Government, community-based which more than 90% was in the form of fresh
development initiatives, pertinent safeguards, rel- fish.5 The highest per capita fish consumption by
evant lessons, and ways to benefit the poor.1 region was 33.8 kg in Northeastern Thailand.
Fish is the traditional source of animal protein Freshwater fish accounted for 70–90% of the total
in the Thai diet as indicated by common Thai quantity of fish consumed in all regions. Fish
expressions: kin kao kin pla leo yang? (have you ranked first among animal protein sources, fol-
eaten rice and fish yet?) and nai nam mee pla nai lowed by chicken, pork, and beef. The national
na mee kao (in the water are fish, in the field is average fish consumption per capita in 2001 was
rice).2 The great importance of fish in the Thai diet 33.5 kg according to the statistics of the Depart-
may be best illustrated by quotations from H.M. ment of Fisheries (DOF).6 This national average
Smith, an American who was the first Director hides the large variation between communities
General of Fisheries in the country: “fisheries … with good access to fish and those without. The
produce the principal animal food consumed by wide range in fish consumption also mirrors wide
the Siamese people … there is an enormous con- differences in income. Very low fish consumption
sumption of fish in the households of peasants, and levels of about 3–5 kg per capita occur in remote
probably the chief value of the freshwater fisher- communities of Northern Thailand. However,
ies lies … in providing a cheap, readily available these may not include fish obtained and consumed
tilapia, and nutritious animal food for the millions of farm- from outside the village.7
Chiang Rai ers and small tradesmen and their families.”3 Fish Thailand is situated in the Indochina penin-
sula of Southeast Asia with an area of nearly

1 This case study was undertaken by P. Edwards and Cherdsak Virapat

in collaboration with N. Bestari and R. Pullin.
2 Suraswadi, Plodprasop. 1986. Role of Aquaculture in Rural
Development of Northeast Thailand. Bangkok: Faculty of Fisheries,
Kasetsart University.
3 Smith, H. M. 1925. A Review of the Aquatic Resources and Fisheries
of Siam, with Plans and Recommendation for their Administration,
Conservation and Development. Bangkok: Ministry of Lands and
4Department of Fisheries (DOF). 2000. Fish Processing. Bangkok:
DOF. (In Thai)
5 Piumsombun, Somying. 2001. Production, Accessibility and
Consumption Patterns of Aquaculture Products in Thailand. In
Production, Accessibility, Marketing and Consumption Patterns of
Freshwater Aquaculture Products in Asia, a Cross-Country Comparison.
FAO Fisheries Circular 973. Rome.
6Pongpat Boonchuwong, Director of Fishery Economic Division,
Department of Fisheries, Bangkok. Personal communication, 2003.
7 Chaopaknam, B. 1998. Monitoring and Evaluation on the School Fish
Pond Program in Fishery Inspection Region 5. Technical Paper 13/1998.
Bangkok: Office of Inspector-General, Department of Fisheries. (In

514,000 square kilometers (km2). It is bounded on and tilapias—comprise about 60% of the total.
the west and northwest by Myanmar, on the north With production of 82,000 t in 2000, tilapia are the
and northeast by the Lao People’s Democratic Re- major herbivorous species. Four farming systems
public, on the east by Cambodia, and on the south are recognized officially: fishponds, which make
by Malaysia. The country’s climate is monsoonal up 89% of the total inland aquaculture production;
with clearly defined wet and dry seasons. The rainy and fish culture in ricefields (7%), in ditches (2%),
season runs from May to October, the cool dry sea- and in cages (1%). Most freshwater production
son from November to February, and the hot dry sea- takes place in the central plains (58%) and least
son from March to May, except in the south where in the south (6%) where marine fish are readily
there is no pronounced cool season. The annual pre- available. The two regions where poverty-focused
cipitation varies from 760 millimeters to as much as aquaculture has greatest relevance are Northern
4,200 millimeters. Both droughts and floods are and Northeastern Thailand with 19% and 18% of
common, especially in NortheasternThailand. the total inland aquaculture production, respec-
Thailand has achieved significant economic tively, but with 22% and 50%, respectively, of the
development in recent years; its gross domestic total number of farms in the country. The North-
product (GDP) grew by more than 8% annually in eastern region has the largest number of small-
1990–1996 prior to the Asian financial crisis.8 Gross scale fish farms (Table 1) according to official
national income per capita was $2,020 in 2000, with statistics. These data are likely to be a gross under-
13% of the population below the national poverty estimation because of the difficulty in identifying
line.9 The fisheries sector contributed 1.9% to the small and widely scattered aquaculture farms in
GDP in 2000; freshwater fisheries contributed about the region.
10% of the total fisheries contribution. DOF has been responsible for rural fisheries
The importance of floodplain fisheries has development since 1982 under the Fifth National
been dramatically reduced as a consequence of Economic and Social Development Plan (1982–
national development programs, especially the 1986). Many important projects, such as the Vil-
construction of multipurpose dams. Although lage Fish Pond Development Project (VFPDP) and
these dams have created reservoirs for water stor- several projects under royal initiatives, have been
age to be used in irrigation and/or electricity gen- carried out.12 The VFPDP is a state-sponsored ini-
eration, they have diminished flooding in the tiative in support of community fishpond develop-
floodplains and reduced areas that have served as ment projects, which has continued to date. Its
natural spawning and nursing grounds for most objectives are to increase fish production for local
fish species. This, coupled with pollution and consumption to generate local employment and to
environmental degradation, has resulted in a dras- reduce malnutrition and poverty. Under the
tic decline of fish populations and catches. The VFPDP, the mandate of DOF is to (i) support the
freshwater fish fauna of Thailand is rich because
there is a vast network of rivers and canals, espe- 8 NSEDB. 2001. National Income of Thailand. National Social and
Economic Development Board, Bangkok. Available: http://
cially in the central plains, and numerous swamps,
reservoirs, and water storage tanks. However, 9 Asian Development Bank (ADB). 2003. Key Indicators 2003. Manila:
freshwater fisheries have declined, providing a ADB.
major stimulus for the relatively recent develop- 10 Freshwater capture fisheries in Thailand might have passed their
ment of aquaculture in the country.10 climax of development almost 80 years ago due to overfishing.
Construction of modern irrigation systems led to further declines.
Aquaculture production in Thailand is influ- The valuable carnivorous snakehead (Channa striata) used to be the
enced by geographic factors and the country’s tra- most abundant staple food fish. Giant freshwater prawns
(Macrobrachium rosenbergii) were also abundant and consumed in
dition of fish culture. Thailand has riverine systems large numbers. The fisheries may have been adequate for the needs
of nearly 120,000 km, 300,000 hectares (ha) of of a relatively small population, but the current overall high level of
consumption of freshwater fish depends on aquaculture (Edwards,
natural lakes, and 255,000 ha of reservoirs. There Peter, Karl E. Weber, Ed W. McCoy, Chintana Chantachaeng, Chintana
is a great diversity of freshwater aquaculture sys- Pacharaprakiti, Kamtorn Kaewpaitoon, and Samart Nitsmer. 1983.
Small-Scale Fishery Project in Pathumthani Province, Central
tems and species in Thailand, including several Thailand: A Socio-Economic and Technological Assessment of Status
that have relevance for small-scale producers and and Potential. Asian Institute of Technology Research Report 158.
Bangkok: Asian Institute of Technology.
national food security. According to DOF statistics,
more than 20 fish species are farmed, with total 11 DOF. 2003. Freshwater Fishfarm Production 2000. Bangkok.
freshwater fish production of 271,000 tons (t) in 12 DOF has initiated a variety of rural development models thought to
be appropriate for community development to increase fish production
2000.11 Although data are not compiled by scale in community ponds, public waters, and school ponds. The VFPDP, one
and intensity of fish farming, herbivorous and om- of the most important rural fisheries development programs, started in
1978 as a pilot project in 14 villages of 12 provinces in Northeastern
nivorous fish species with greatest relevance for Thailand. Although referred to as village fishponds, the water bodies are
small-scale aquaculture—such as carps, gouramis, natural, improved, or engineered multipurpose reservoirs.

Table 1: Freshwater Aquaculture Farms in Thailand

Region Total Pond Ricefield Ditches Cages

Total Number of Farms 256,082 239,122 11,396 4,655 909

Northern 56,455 55,313 233 633 276
Northeastern 127,522 120,180 6,889 101 352
Central 45,390 37,716 4,201 3,217 256
Southern 26,715 25,913 73 704 25

Total Area (hectare) 96,145 68,516 25,244 2,347 38

Northern 9,627 9,172 316 123 16
Northeastern 29,702 23,642 6,012 39 9
Central 54,313 33,346 18,894 2,062 11
Southern 2,503 2,356 22 123 2

Total Production (metric ton) 271,012 240,907 19,936 6,707 3,462

Northern 51,016 49,708 244 118 946
Northeastern 47,929 42,324 4,455 16 1,134
Central 156,220 133,481 15,157 6,252 1,330
Southern 15,847 15,394 80 321 52

Source: Department of Fisheries. 2003. Fisheries Statistics of Thailand 2000. Bangkok.

rehabilitation or construction of village fishponds century. It is generally considered that Chinese

(reservoirs, swamps, and tanks); (ii) train local sup- immigrants introduced organized aquaculture to
port personnel; (iii) increase the supply of fish seed Thailand in the early years of the 20th century
or fingerlings; and (iv) provide technical advisory using fish fry imported by boat from the People’s
services. The rationale of VFPDP stems from aims to Republic of China. Chinese carps (Chinese silver
strengthen social cohesiveness and develop com- carp [Hypophthalmicthys molitrix] and grass carp
munity awareness, and the fishponds generally [Ctenopharyngodon idella]) were cultured on a
serve as core facilities that provide self-help oppor- small scale, mostly in Bangkok where there was a
tunities. Apart from generating direct benefits in ready market among the large immigrant Chinese
terms of fish production and improved water sup- population.
ply, the VFPDP trains villagers to be self-reliant. DOF started to study the lifecycle of the native
The dissemination of fish farming technology has snakeskin gourami (Trichogaster pectoralis) in
resulted in the establishment of many fishponds by 1932—its entire lifecycle is carried out in the
private individuals and communal fishponds in vil- flooded ricefields—but was unable to convince
lages. In 2001, the Government decentralized people to farm it, possibly because wild fish were
authority for management of natural resources, still abundant. During the 1950s, with technical
including fisheries in all community waters, to the assistance from the Food and Agriculture Organi-
subdistrict governments, locally known as Tambon zation (FAO) of the United Nations, DOF imported
Administrative Organizations (TAOs). TAOs have and disseminated Mozambique tilapia
become local institutions responsible for rural devel- (Oreochromis mossambicus) which soon became a
opment. In the context of these decentralization popular farmed fish in ponds. However, interest in
measures, the DOF’s budget for village pond con- this fish waned because of reservations about the
struction was being progressively transferred to quality and flavor of its flesh. Later, tilapia farm-
TAOs during 2001–2004. ing became established following introduction of
Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) in 1965 after
HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT His Majesty King Bhumipol received specimens as
a gift from His Imperial Highness Emperor Akihito
Aquaculture may have started as early as 1691 in of Japan when the latter was Crown Prince.
Thailand although this was for ornamental gold DOF promoted rice-fish farming in Northern
fish rather than for food.13 Aquaculture for food and Central Thailand in the 1950s, but this system
fish appears to be a relatively recent development is still not well developed to date. An exception is
because of the former abundance of wild fish. The the farming of snakeskin gourami southeast of
native riverine catfish (Pangasius hypophthalmus)
has been farmed on a small scale in pens and ponds 13Tarnchalanukit, W. 1974. Aquaculture Manual (in Thai). Bangkok:
in Central Thailand since the middle of the 19th Faculty of Fisheries, Kasetsart University.

Bangkok where farmers converted unproductive
ricefields in relatively saline soils of the lower
Chiengrak-Klong Dan irrigation scheme to an exten-
sive fish farming system. Since the 1960s, DOF has
placed great emphasis on the artificial spawning of
Chinese carps, common carp (Cyprinus carpio), sil-
ver barb (Barbodes gonionotus), and riverine catfish.
The availability of seed of these fish species led to a
large increase in aquaculture production.

Water for small-scale rural aquaculture is generally
available, especially in floodplain and irrigated
areas. However, the water supply for aquaculture is
restricted in drought-prone areas in the northeast
where there is significant poverty (footnote 2), and
in ponds inappropriately located in hilly areas.
In areas where agricultural chemicals are used
intensively, water is contaminated with pesticides
at low concentration.14 Measurements in 25 river
basins, including Bangpakong, Chaopraya, Kok,
Pasak, Sakakrang, Songkhla Lake, Tha Chin, and 45% of the estimated total fish seed produced in Tilapia hatchery
Yom, showed them to have poor average water the country (1,520 million). The Government’s in central
quality in terms of dissolved oxygen (DO), bio- share in producing fish seed was about 17%, two Thailand
chemical oxygen demand, coliform bacteria, and thirds of which were produced in inland fisheries
ammonia-nitrogen.15 The average DO levels in the stations.16 At these stations, seed is produced for
lower Tha Chin River were reported to be as low various purposes: stocking community ponds, free
as 1 milligram per liter, unsuitable for fish and distribution and sale to fish farmers, and for
aquatic organisms. Water quality in the main riv- experiments. Private farms produce and nurse seed
ers in the north (Nan, Ping, Wang, and Yom) re- to various size classes to meet requirements of fish
mains generally good, especially in the upstream farmers. For cage culture practices, a relatively
flow from the northern mountains, and the aver- large size of seed (20–30 fish per kg or larger than
age concentration of DO was more than 5 milli- 10 centimeters) is required.
grams per liter. Nonpoint source pollution became Major Hatcheries. For monosex tilapia seed,
significant in many parts of the country during the the main sources are in a few subdistricts of
late 1990s, especially in water from agricultural Chonburi and Chachoengsao provinces, and DOF
areas. hatcheries. A well-established network of local and
In some areas, especially in the northeast, salt- distant traders links producers to customers all over
water intrusion has a strong effect on freshwater Thailand. Demand for tilapia fry was estimated at
aquaculture. Water temperature is also important
for rural aquaculture. In the winter in the north,
temperatures may drop to less than 10 degrees 14 Yingcharoen, D., and C. Virapat. 1998. Aquatic Ecology and Fisheries
Surveys in the Songkhram River Basin, Nakorn Phanom Province,
Celsius and cause detrimental effects on fish cul- Thailand. Project on Wetland Management. Phnom Penh: Mekong
ture. In newly constructed ponds, water turbidity River Commission.
is common. 15 Department of Water Resources. 2003. Records of the First Step in
the Year 2003: Think of Water Think of Us. Bangkok. This was due to
overloading of wastewater from household communities, industries,

TECHNOLOGY AND and animal farming. The effects are more pronounced in the dry

MANAGEMENT 16 DOF started a program to establish fish breeding centers (FBCs)

under VFPDP in 1982. At present, there are 162 FBCs in the country
based in local communities and sometimes at schools, comprising
Seed Supply. More than 600 million fry of tilapia, 84 in the northeast, 36 in the north, 19 in Central Thailand, and 23
in the south. However, only 39 FBCs are currently in operation, with
the dominant fish in small-scale freshwater aquac- a seed production capability of about 6.8 million fingerlings in 1997.
ulture, both mixed sex and monosex male There are some problems regarding resource allocation among local
management organizations—there is a lack of continuous input by
(through hormone-induced sex reversal), were local management committees and support from the Government,
produced in 2001. This seed supply represented and inefficient transfer of appropriate technology to local operations.

400 million in 2000. 17 The major sources of entrepreneurs in peri-urban areas, especially in the
monosex tilapia seed are Charoen Pokaphan Group provinces in Central Thailand, and have little rel-
and other private hatcheries. Large private hatch- evance for small-scale farmers.
eries are located in the west at Prachinburi Technical constraints facing new entrant small-
(Namsai Farm), northeast at Udon Thani scale farmers have been largely resolved through
(Udonpatana Foundation), Khon Kaen (Boonhome research partnerships between the Asian Institute of
Farm), Kalasin (Viboon Farm), north at Chiangmai Technology and DOF. Much of the research was car-
(Chiangmai Patana Farm), and south at Petchaburi ried out in resource-poor Northeastern Thailand.
(Manit Farm). Although much of Thai aquaculture comprises inten-
Major Species. Nile tilapia is currently the sive farming systems, several aquaculture systems
major species with 30% of the total national inland with relevance to small-scale farmers were devel-
aquaculture production, followed by silver barb oped over the past few decades in former ricefields,
with 17% and common carp with 2% (footnote such as farming of snakeskin gourami,19 Nile tilapia
11). Production data for Chinese carps (less than seed production, 20 giant freshwater prawn
1%) and Indian major carps (rohu [Labeo rohita], (Macrobrachium rosenbergii) farming, and inland
and mrigal [Cirrhinus mrigala], at 0.4% each) culture of (marine) shrimp (Penaeus monodon). Most
probably underestimate their importance for the farmers who grow these species are now better off;
poor because these species are widely cultured, many were relatively poor rice farmers before they
especially in Northeastern Thailand. The availabil- took up aquaculture.21
ity of Nile tilapia has been a major factor in expan- Fish health is a major concern in aquaculture.
sion of small-scale aquaculture. DOF promotes a When fish farmers change their farming practices
stocking program of tilapia in various waterbodies from extensive and semi-intensive to intensive farm-
throughout the country, such as village fishponds, ing, they inevitably face increased risks of fish dis-
public waters, irrigated reservoirs, domestic water eases. DOF has published guidelines for the proper
supply reservoirs, and some multipurpose reservoirs. use of drugs and chemicals for fish disease protec-
Growout Farming. The average annual yield tion and treatment.22
across all aquaculture farm types in 2000 was
about 2.8 t/ha and for ponds, 3.5 t/ha (Table 1). 17 Srisakultiew, P. 2000. Status of Tilapia in Aquaculture. In Agriculture

Tilapia and herbivorous and omnivorous carps for and Water. Proceedings of the 12th Asian Agricultural Symposium
2000. Kumamoto: Saburi Co.
small-scale aquaculture are largely farmed in
18 Virapat, Cherdsak. 1997. Preliminary Quantitative Assessment of
polyculture in ponds. The conclusions of a survey the Fish Stocking Program in Community Fish Ponds in the Northeast
of fish farms (footnote 10), carried out in of Thailand. Technical Paper 27/1997. Bangkok: Inland Fisheries
Division, Department of Fisheries.
Pathumthani Province in Central Thailand more
than 2 decades ago to identify aquaculture tech- 19 Most snakeskin gourami production takes place in large converted
ricefields in Central Thailand where rice farming was marginal because
niques for small-scale farmers, are still relevant: of poor quality, saline soils in a reclaimed swamp in the Chiengrak-
small-scale farmers are constrained by limited on- Klongdan district of Samut Prakarn Province (Yoonpundh, Ruangvit,
and David Little. 1997. Trends in the Farming of the Snakeskin
farm sources of fertilizers and feeds and access to, Gourami in Thailand. Naga The ICLARM Quarterly 20(3/4): 18–20).
and affordability, of marketed feed. Of course, 20 The major area for tilapia seed production is a small area in three
without proper pond management, fish production contiguous subdistricts of Chonburi and Chachoengsao provinces in
Central Thailand. Former rice farmers produce 2–3 centimeter long
is low: the average yield of 490 poorly managed seed as swim-up fry in shallow ponds fertilized with manure from
village fishponds in NortheasternThailand in the feedlot livestock farms; the manure is delivered to the pond side in
plastic containers (Little, David, Chang K. Lin, and Warren A. Turner.
mid-1990s was only 416 kg/ha.18 1995. Commercial Scale Tilapia Fry Production in Thailand. World
Large commercial fish farms are either inte- Aquaculture 269 (4): 20–24).
grated with feedlot livestock and/or use waste 21 (i) A novel system to farm tilapia in cost-effective semi-intensive

food from factory canteens and restaurants or vari- pond culture without the sole use of expensive formulated pelleted
feed and without the use of wastes, has been developed (Edwards,
ous by-products from agroindustrial factories. Peter, Chang K. Lin, and A. Yakupitiyage. 2000. Semi-intensive Pond
Most integrated fish farmers are primarily livestock Aquaculture. In Tilapias: Biology and Exploitation, edited by Malcolm
C.M. Beveridge and Brendan J. McAndrew. Dordrecht: Kluwer
entrepreneurs who have constructed ponds in the Academic Publishers.
floodplain to raise the level of the animal quarters (ii) In Central Thailand, tilapia weighing up to 400 grams can be
produced within 5 months in inorganically fertilized ponds receiving
to prevent animals from drowning in the rainy sea- commercial pellets as supplementary feed (Diana, J. S., Chang K. Lin,
son. Livestock quarters are located above or adja- and Kitjar Jaiyen. 1994. Supplemental Feeding of Tilapia in Fertilized
Ponds. Journal of the World Aquaculture Society: 25(4): 497–506; and
cent to the pond, such that their manure fertilizes Diana, J.S., C. Kwei Lin, and Yang Yi. 1996. Timing of Supplemental
the fishponds and spilled feed provides nutritional Feeding for Tilapia Production. Journal of the World Aquaculture
Society: 27(4): 410–419).
inputs for fish. Such integrated farms still provide
22 Aquatic Animal Health Research Institute. 2002. Guidelines for Use
the bulk of low-value fish for urban consumers.