How We Work
The Indigenous Aquaculture Initiative promotes only the farming of native Amazonian fish, some collected from the wild, others obtained from local hatcheries. Working with native fish takes advantage of local knowledge of, and experience with, these species, and it avoids the environmental hazards that exotic species pose.
Communities come together to help one another build fish ponds. Traditional mingas, or work parties, are a way to share labor and get complete the heavy work of earth moving and dam construction quickly. They also provide an excellent opportunity for more experienced community members to share their knowledge with beginning fish farmers. The host provides refreshments and makes a commitment to help his or her neighbors when it is time to build their fish ponds. Along with making the work easier for everyone, mingas also offer Las Lianas' trainers the opportunity to reach a large number of fish farmers in a short time, and provide training in techniques that will then be replicated throughout the community.
The Initiative emphasizes simple technologies and the use of local resources to the largest extent possible. Ponds are built either by damming a small stream or water source or by excavating a spring fed pond. Dams are made of compressed earth and clay, supported with local lumber. We do purchase plastic pipes for use beneath the dam, because they last longer and are less likely to collapse, but locally grown bamboo can be used for overflow pipes. Besides the pipes, the only other purchased materials used for pond construction are sandbags used to reduce erosion of the dam.
Fish are fed a mix of locally produced feeds supplemented with some commercial feed to ensure a balanced diet. There is a wealth of local resources for fish food available both from the forest and from local farming activities. The fish will eat a variety of crops including yuca, corn, plantains, and many fruits, as well as table scraps. Fruit trees planted on the edge of ponds provide an automated feeding system when the fruits are ripe. Plantains and other fruit can also be placed on a platform over the pond, where insects will lay their eggs; over time, both larvae and rotting fruit fall steadily into the pond. Larvae of insects, such as termites, can also be collected from their nests and provide a good source of protein.
The Indigenous Aquaculture Initiative relies on village-to-village training to extend project benefits to a wider number of families and communities. Experienced fish farmers from early adopting communities have been trained as trainers and are paid to lead workshops to teach fish farming to new families and communities. Using this approach, the program has been able to grow much more quickly than it would have if all training were dependent on Las Lianas staff. In the last 5 years we have grown tenfold from working with 3 villages in one province to supporting fish farming in 30 communities in three different provinces. (See where we work)