A/Professor Jes Sammut (c), with lead farmer Mr A1 (r) who is fostering aquaculture technologies with other farmers in the Eastern Highlands Province (Photo: Cathy Hair)
The experience of ACIAR project leader Dr Jes Sammut helping people in Papua New Guinea grow fish inland, is featured in the February edition of the Qantas ‘Australian Way’ magazine in a story about scientists working in remote locations.
The Associate Professor at the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of New South Wales travels to a range of locations in the Western, Eastern Highlands and Morobe provinces of PNG on a regular basis.
Jes says inland fish farms are seen as an answer to a shortage of protein among PNG villagers, particularly for people suffering from HIV-AIDs. They're also a potential source of income.
"While there are more than 10,000 small-scale fish farms in PNG producing tilapia, carp or trout, production levels are low. So the ACIAR project is helping improve the locals’ capability to identify pond sites, supply high-quality fingerlings and feeds, and farm the fish," he said.
A team of local scientists and technicians spend time in the villages showing farmers how to build, stock and farm the ponds sustainably, and the farmers, in turn, contribute their own knowledge to the project. “The main partner in PNG is the National Fisheries Authority which drives the project locally, and we also work closely with nuns, universities, government agencies and NGOs,” he said.
“Even though there’s a lot of science behind the project, it’s also got to be practical for farmers, so we work very closely with them to make sure the technology can be adopted," Jes said. "Because of that direct contact, it’s not like traditional research where you do the science, publish a paper and then move on."
The extension of the findings of the research is occurring country wide. “The project team has trained prisoners at seven prisons, secondary school students, university students, farmers, youths involved in social programs, farmer cooperatives, and lead farmers who are ‘champions’ of the technology – and even retiring army personnel.”
There are other benefits to the work. “In areas where tribal fighting has been a problem, such as the Lai Valley, the focus on fish farming has meant local communities are experiencing less tribal fighting,” Jes said.
McGhee, Karen (2012) "The truth is way outback" Qantas Australian Way magazine, February 2012
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Mandy Gyles, ACIAR Public Affairs Officer