How the Rise of Timor-Lestes Aquaculture Sector Is a Blueprint for Other Small Island Nations — Global Issues

Senor Robiay, cluster coordinator of Laubonu. Credit: Silvino Gomes
  • Opinion by Jharendu Pant (penang, malaysia)
  • Inter Press Service

Nevertheless, the island is highly exposed to the impacts of climate change, hampering domestic food production and contributing to Timor-Leste’s ranking of 110th out of 121 countries for malnutrition. Meanwhile, the country is highly dependent on imported foods – including aquatic foods.

This improved breed of tilapia is ideal for addressing nutrition gaps for protein, essential fatty acids and micronutrients, while also minimising the burden on the environment, due to its relatively lower carbon footprint. The hatcheries were also established following rigorous environmental standards, which limits the release of effluence and observes biosecurity measures.

However, one of the challenges remaining for Timor-Leste and other resource-poor countries is the development of effective regulations and compliance monitoring. Alongside greater capacity for upholding environmental standards, subsequent phases of the strategy would also look to ensuring the benefits of increased production are shared equitably. This includes addressing issues of gender equality as well as youth employment opportunities.

Secondly, other countries with similar contexts can learn from Timor-Leste’s example of prioritising growth in production to drive increased consumption. Timor-Leste’s new fish hatcheries have helped increase production threefold between its first and second phase, paving the way for the successful scaling of aquaculture across the country.

And by prioritizing the production of monosex (all male) tilapia – which grow faster than female tilapia – Timor-Leste’s approach allowed the country’s farmers to maximize growth and the rate at which domestic production could meet the nutrition needs of the population. This resulted in increased availability and accessibility of nutritious fish to support higher levels of consumption.

Finally, Timor-Leste’s commitment to an ongoing aquaculture strategy over a decade and counting has also allowed the initiative to evolve over time. Such a long-term approach has also enabled the testing and validation of technologies and practices, making the scaling and replication elsewhere comparatively straightforward.

But ongoing funding is critical, both to develop the long-term capacity needed to maintain economic and nutritional gains in Timor-Leste, and to jumpstart similar initiatives elsewhere. The Partnership for Aquaculture Development in Timor-Leste (PADTL2) has been funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) New Zealand since 2014, with complementary financing from USAID in recent years, offering more solid and lasting gains than ad hoc interventions that last just a couple of years.

The sustainable growth of aquaculture production offers many benefits for small island nations. Over the last decade, Timor-Leste’s aquaculture strategy has become a model for developing more inclusive and secure food systems for all, helping to combat the challenges of malnutrition and exposure to climate change that impact Pacific Islands.

Partners including WorldFish are standing by to replicate this success and support other island governments to sustainably increase fish production and consumption to unlock blue fortunes for all.

IPS UN Bureau

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© Inter Press Service (2023) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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