By 2030, the Solomon Islands is expected to have a shortfall in food fish supply of 6000 to 20,000 metric tons, driven by a growing population, the impacts of climate change and overfishing on inshore reef fisheries.
However, research shows that fish farming has great potential to contribute to household food and nutrition security for inland communities in the country.
To determine if fish farming could help improve household food and nutrition security, the ACIAR-funded Developing Inland Aquaculture in Solomon Islands project conducted participatory action research, which involved farmers as researchers themselves.
Farmers already doing, or interested in starting, aquaculture were asked to collectively select five husbandry practices to implement in their ponds.
They were to maintain water depth of 1-1.5 m, fertilise with animal manure, feed twice daily with local ingredients, stock ponds with less than 10 fish per square meter, and harvest fish greater than 10 cm long every three to four months.
The farmers implemented these practices, with project officers doing monthly field visits to provide advice and recommendations. “By following these new practices, farmers achieved better results from their ponds,” explains project coordinator Reuben Sulu.
“The farmers started doing regular, partial harvests of fish for consumption and to sell in the market, which they hadn’t done before. They also started thinking of new ways to boost their yield, such as separating male and female fish and trialing new types of feed,” he says.
By the project’s end, 87 households had established household ponds to grow Mozambique tilapia.
Because Mozambique tilapia is small, the fish is often cooked whole. By eating the head, organs and bones, individuals benefit from the many micronutrients present in fish including zinc, iron, vitamin A and calcium.
The project also focused on the importance of women in aquaculture and encouraged women to participate in the project’s workshops. The vital role of women is often overlooked in the Solomon Islands, where fishing is seen as men’s business.
Overall, the project’s results demonstrated that aquaculture can contribute to improved nutrition and food security in the Solomon Islands.
Recognising this, the Solomon Islands Government added household aquaculture to the revised National Aquaculture Strategy and Development Plan 2015-18.
With the wider uptake of good husbandry practices by husbands and wives alike, aquaculture in the Solomon Islands can make a meaningful contribution to domestic fish supply, especially for inland communities.