Aquaculture

Solutions need to translate into results on the shelves

In 2015, Solidaridad built on the Seafood Trade Intelligence Portal and the food security programme in Bangladesh to increase transparency in seafood supply chains and promote good practices. We also created partnerships with producers, input suppliers and buyers to pilot innovative solutions. For example, we took 15 European companies on a trade and investment mission to Myanmar, which led to two investment pilots for tilapia and shrimp. In addition, a partnership with Wageningen University, Deltares and Pur Projet set out to redesign shrimp-farming polders in coastal Bangladesh.

Number of producers supported

 

Total volume produced (metric tonnes)

 

Achievements

The Seafood Trade Intelligence Portal (STIP) increased its peer group to more than 15 members from the EU, the US, Asia and South America and set up collaborations with sector associations and local partners in Vietnam, Indonesia, India, the Philippines and Peru. We also saw initial investments in supply-chain development, notably with IFB of India, which was triggered through the STIP.

In Bangladesh, the aquaculture programme worked with 28,693 fish and shrimp farmers. The proportion of female farmers rose from 8% to 17%. Five farmers in our programme received the best farmer award from the Department of Fisheries for the successful adoption of good practices and yield increases in 2015.

Farmers’ income rose by 25% on average, chiefly through production increases and cost reductions. The costs associated with five key production factors were reduced by 17%, while a combination of improved post-harvest management, the establishment of four collection centres and collective marketing reduced post-harvest losses by 70%-89% and the cost of transportation and marketing by 48%.

The establishment of 230 demonstration plots to teach about eight good practices was crucial for our success. Around 89% of participants adopted at least one improved technology. Equally important is the role of 250 lead farmers supported by Solidaridad. In Debhata, a group of lead farmers has professionalized their services by founding the Shrimp Service Center. With a growing customer base of 750 shrimp farmers, the service center made a profit of just over €900 in its first year.

Regional Commodity Programmes

  • The Netherlands

    In 2015, Solidaridad’s aquaculture team in the Netherlands invested strongly in growing the Seafood Trade Intelligence Portal, which expanded its membership base and is preparing to launch new services in several countries. Private-sector companies are increasingly soliciting help with sourcing problems and the design and set-up of innovative pilot projects.

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Developments

Numerous aquaculture species, such as tilapia, have the potential to produce high-quality proteins for an increasingly demanding world population while leaving a smaller environmental footprint than beef and dairy.

At present, however, aquaculture is not doing enough to fulfil its sustainability potential. Although intensification of terrestrial aquaculture reduces its claim on land, the sector is highly dependent on fishmeal and fish oil from fisheries. This is not sustainable: overfishing, ocean acidification and a dramatic loss of plankton since the 1950s mean fisheries are not resilient. Asian fishing fleets partly depend on slave labour, and aquaculture competes with human consumption through fish for fish feed. Moreover, intensification puts a toll on the environment if effluent water is not treated properly.

Unfortunately, the main sustainability initiatives are certification initiatives designed for the intensive industry. For reasons pertaining to management requirements alone, they are not easily accessible to smallholders and do not necessarily add value for farmers.

At Solidaridad, we are working to pilot certification initiatives and improve access to them. We also work with import, food services and retail companies to develop inclusive business cases and invest in ecosystem-based approaches, such as zero-feed mangrove shrimp and intensive tilapia production linked to cropping systems.

Bangladesh remains an important focus country, chiefly due to the paradox of sustainable yet hard-to-certify smallholder shrimp farming and other persistent supply-chain issues. In 2015, leading EU buyers sounded the alarm about quality, sustainability and ethical issues. In response, Solidaridad will facilitate dialogue between 25 European importers, food service distributors and retailers, Bangladeshi producers and responsible authorities in order to deliver a comprehensive plan by late 2016.
 

Programme investments in thousand euros

 

Contracted partners per region excluding producer organizations

 

Partnerships

Key partners are trading companies servicing the European market, such as Seafood Connection, Primstar and SeaCorin, and processing factories in Asia. The Dutch government remains a key donor, although it increasingly favours smaller, targeted initiatives.

New partners are input (technology) suppliers and feed companies. For example, we are looking for an opportunity to pilot high-quality fingerling production for smallholders in Myanmar with Til-Aqua and Coppens.

In Bangladesh, we attempted to continue certified organic black-tiger shrimp production with Seafood Connection, but we believe the internal management requirements, as well as certain principles in the standard, are prohibitive for smallholders farmers – particularly in respect of the costs, management complexity and lack of added value.

Both the second phase of the food security programme in Bangladesh and the upcoming Myanmar Sustainable Aquaculture Programme (MYSAP) are expected to become platforms for innovative pilots that engage producers, input suppliers and buyers. These innovations strive to solve problems on the supply side in areas such as productivity, quality and sustainability, as well as challenges on the market side relating to access and positioning, in ways that benefit smallholders. Partners are Wageningen University, Deltares and Pur Projet.

A shrimp pilot focusing on good practices was launched in West Bengal, India with IFB Agro. In 2016, we expect to scale it up with support from the IDH FIT Fund.

Challenges

With the increasing consolidation of retailers in Europe and the US around certification initiatives primarily designed for input and capital intensive farming systems, there is a serious risk of diverse and more sustainable approaches losing market access. For example, the 11,928 shrimp farmers supported by Solidaridad in Bangladesh face a double barrier: certification systems are too complex and costly, but it is difficult to position a non-certified product in retail stores that have committed to certified products. Yet these farmers produce high-quality shrimp with a very low footprint that merits a position in the market. They also happen to be among the poorest farmers and those most affected by climate change.

In 2016, we will pilot ASC Group Certification requirements with smallholder shrimp farmers in Bangladesh, hoping to reduce costs and complexity so that they benefit farmers. Looking beyond certification, we will try to set up pilots with farmers to improve water and sediment management of coastal polders, increase mangrove cover and improve shrimp productivity against low investment and operating costs, reducing climate change-related risks. The challenge is to create the most rewarding market for this comprehensive approach, which could potentially change the lives of 195,000 shrimp farmers and their communities in the densely populated polders of coastal Bangladesh.

Daniel Knoop

International Programme Coordinator, Aquaculture