The country's Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak met with fish farmers in Leohitu, Bobonaro on August 10 and witnessed the harvesting of over six tons of farmed tilapia. The visit marks the start of the harvesting season for nearly 200 project farmers across Timor-Leste, which is expected to produce over 60 tons of fish from a nearly 5-hectare pond area. Average fish productivity during this cycle is estimated to reach over 12 tons per hectare—a three-fold increase in fish productivity compared to previous cycles.
The event was organized by the Partnership for Aquaculture Development in Timor-Leste Phase 2 (PADTL2) project funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade ($3.2 million) and the United States Agency for International Development ($1.2 million in complementary funds). The project is implemented by WorldFish in partnership with the Timor-Leste Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
The PADTL2 project, building on the solid foundation laid during the PADTL Phase 1, works to scale up the production of genetically improved farmed tilapia (GIFT) in Timor-Leste by improving farmer access to seed, feed and technologies. In turn, this will increase the availability and accessibility of fish and encourage greater fish consumption among rural households.
The significant productivity gains achieved through the project are also due to the culture time being halved from 12 to six months through sustainable intensification of the production system, using high-quality fish feeds and in situ production of natural food (by making the water green). Farmers can now realize over 24 tons/ha of fish productivity annually by completing two production cycles—productivity comparable to the major tilapia-producing countries in Southeast Asia.
Over 400 participants representing government and non-governmental organizations, diplomatic missions, private sectors, fish farmers, fish market developers, and local services providers (LSPs) attended the ceremony. The event included a tour of the MoreDoc Unipessoal Lda public-private-partnership (PPP) tilapia hatchery in Leohitu, the first PPP model GIFT hatchery in Timor-Leste. Since opening on June 7, 2019, the hatchery has produced over two million fingerlings and sold them to farmers in Bobonaro and other municipalities and other non-governmental organizations.
The PADTL2 project inaugurated the second PPP hatchery in Parlamento, Lautem on October 5, 2021 and two more PPP hatcheries—in Hera, Dili, and Colocao, Manufahi—are under construction and due to be completed by the end of October 2022. It is expected the four PPP hatcheries will produce over 10 million fingerlings annually by 2023.
“The PADTL2 project supports progress toward the country’s National Aquaculture Development Strategy (2012–2030), creating employment and income opportunities for the citizens of Timor-Leste. The strategy targets increased farmed production of 12,000 tons per year by 2030, leading to a rise in annual fish consumption to 15 kg per person,” said WorldFish interim director general, Essam Yassin Mohammed. “Connecting fish farmers with nutrition activities such as the school feeding program and hospitals will support increased fish consumption to enhance public health outcomes.”