Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) are paying off in PNG inland aquaculture
Wednesday, 09 November 2011 09:32

By Timothy Pickering


There is nowadays a greatly increased level of private-sector involvement in Papua New Guinea inland aquaculture, which has stemmed from past government-initiated projects and demonstration facilities in hatchery and feed-making technologies.


SPC Aquaculture Section staff were part of a Training Needs Assessment team for the PNG National Fisheries College in Kavieng, which in July made visits to key PNG aquaculture areas and installations. We were already aware of, and have been greatly impressed by, the vigour and enthusiasm with which small-sale household level businesses or community projects are being based around inland aquaculture of tilapia, carp and trout.



What is now pleasing to note is an emerging trend for the more successful and motivated farmers to specialize their activities upon certain parts of the fish aquaculture custody chain. Private-sector tilapia and carp hatcheries are being established as stand-alone businesses. These now act as district-level distribution centers for both fingerlings and feed, each supplying as many as 100 other farmers.


These advanced-level private farmers tend to be mainly ones who have received training from government staff in the National Fisheries Authority (NFA), provincial fisheries offices, and government-trained field agents now working with NGOs like Bris Kanda in Lae. Some have benefitted from work-experience attachments at the Highlands Aquaculture Development Centre (HAQDEC) in Aiyura. This training is being put to good use, and has created ripple effects whereby more and more household farms can be supplied with necessary inputs through sustainable private-sector mechanisms.  


There are reckoned to be at least half-a-dozen tilapia and carp fingerling and feed specialists now emerging in PNG, of which the following are some selected examples.


Potsy Tilapia Hatchery


Managed by Douglas Kawa, BSc graduate of Uni-Tech in Lae, and his wontok Moses Ngandang, the facility is established on family land near Markham Bridge and is a private-sector tilapia fingerling distribution centre for Morobe Province. The facility is run as a stand-alone business dealing only in sale of tilapia fingerlings ready for pond stocking. Five people work there full-time, and another two casuals to assist with harvest and packing of fingerlings. Training has been received by attachments at Aiyura and short course training at Erup government station. The hatchery is at the centre of a cluster of several dozen tilapia ponds managed by different households in the immediate neighbourhood, supplied with fingerlings and feed from this hatchery. There are other farms further afield in Morobe Province whose businesses are now based upon tilapia fingerlings supplied from Potsy Hatchery. New farmers can also be trained here through collaborations with other institutions and NGOs.


Kotuni Trout Farm, Goroka


Established in 1976 but later discontinued, this farm is now being reactivated as a community project and NFA is assisting in that process. The first new culture cycle, brought in as eyed-eggs from Tasmania, is now underway and a pellet made of local ingredients at by government staff in Goroka is now under test against imported Australian trout feed. If successful, farm staff will want to acquire their own feed-making machinery and be trained so as to become self-sufficient in their feed inputs to the farm. Their next plan is to re-commission the on-site trout hatchery, to supply themselves and other farms of which there are several in the eastern Highlands. A separate batch of fish is now being raised to broodstock size, to enable re-commissioning of the on-site trout hatchery.


Western Province tilapia and carp farmers


A good number of fish farmers now operate in Western Province, particularly along the Tabubuil-Kiunga highway. Projects were initiated by combined efforts of NFA, Wetern Province Fisheries and Ok Tedi Fly River Development Program (OTFRDP). Abraham Isok is one such farmer who runs a tilapia and carp farm near Migalsim Village not far from Tabubil, comprised of seven ponds. He is not a local landowner, but rather has moved here from another district and has bought a small piece of land which he needs to fish-farm intensively for his livelihood. He harvests every 2 months and sells fish fresh in bundles in the Tabubil market. He had not been formerly trained, but has received instruction from Aiyura-trained OTFRDP staff. While in Kiunga we overheard a conversation with another farmer who had come in to the OTFRDP office to strike a deal with them for distribution of fish feed to other farmers from his village-based farm, in part-exchange for providing feed ingredients like whole-rice and sorghum to the fish-feed mini-mill in Kiunga. This farmer is already trading in tilapia fingerlings.


Sirinumu Dam tilapia cage culture farm


Located about 1 hr drive from Port Moresby not far from the start of the famous Kokoda Track, Jonah Bobogi operates this farm on an islet in the Sirinumu Lake. He has built a floating platform with 18 fish cages in the lake, and on the islet has built six 6 x 5m cement ponds for a tilapia hatchery and broodstock. Recently he sold a harvest of 1.4 T of tilapia in Port Moresby. He is one of 60 farmers in this Lake, and he is now the main supplier of tilapia fingerlings to these other farmers. Jonah was shown how to farm fish through extension visits by Aiyura-trained NFA staff, and in this way he has acquired the basics of capacity needed to establish his business. He intends to expand his family business to become a tilapia fingerling supplier for the whole southern region of PNG.


By PNG standards of primary-sector industry development, inland aquaculture is still a fledgling sector but it is one with enormous potential for future expansion. However the sheer scale of present and future needs for trained personnel, and the logistical constraints imposed by distance, topography and infrastructure, are big hurdles to overcome. A district-by-district approach is needed, where small provincial aquaculture centers can act like ripples in a pool. It is gratifying to see that private-sector uptake of public-funded initiatives in aquaculture can be a successful mechanism for this activity to radiate outward to a district level from the comparatively few places where PNG aquaculture capacity presently exists.


Though a small industry by PNG standards, by regional standards among SPC’s Pacific islands member countries when measured in terms of sheer numbers of farmers, volume of production, and economic sustainability of projects, PNG is a clear leader. The spirit of enterprise is alive and well, and farmer motivation is high. Specialization of activities within the fish custody chain, such as the emergence of private hatchery operators, is one hallmark of a successful and maturing industry. If the on-going efforts to develop the sector can remain on their present course, the future of inland aquaculture in PNG will surely be a good one.