Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Support Visit to DR Congo

I had the privilege of visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2008 in an exploratory capacity to see aquaculture in subsistence.  It was my first time in Africa, traveling with former missionary to that area, Sheldon Gilmer.  The experience was unforgettable, as well as purposeful and rewarding.

I am planning to return to DRC this March for a short visit.  My objectives in going there are summarized here:

1.      Educate – It was apparent to me that absence of adequate husbandry and breeding practices are leading to meagre harvests.  One point for education is selection of high-quality fish for breeding. Common practice when emptying a pond is to harvest all fish large enough to eat, returning small fish to the pond for continued growth.  This passes their slow-growth characteristics on to the next generation. 

2.        Equip – Tools and better-quality fingerlings (young fish) stood out to me during my previous visit as a glaring need of local fish farmers.  I intend to inject a modest amount of money into this sector for purchase of inputs to aid new farmers in start-up or existing farmers in expansion. 

3.      Encourage – Connecting with farmers, asking questions, and answering theirs can accomplish much in maintaining enthusiasm and establishing accountability with the farming network.

I also want to accomplish some deliberate goals in support of fish farming in that region:

·         Revisit at least five of the fish pond sites that I visited in 2008.
·         Identify at least five fish farmers (from previous visit or otherwise) with potential to expand their ponds or prospective farmers seeking to enter pond farming, and for them:
o   Purchase tools (wheelbarrow, shovels, machetes, rakes, axes).
o   Offer instruction in breeding selection and other husbandry skills.
·         Locate a source of good quality fingerlings.

I'm looking forward to connecting with fish farmers that I met during my previous visit and establishing new relationships with other current or prospective farmers.  Aquaculture really can make a difference in promoting sustainable livelihoods in this region.

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