Increasing Food Security in the Philippines through Aquaculture
Comprehensive Aquaculture Development and Technical Assistance Program (AQUADEV)
Maripaz L. Perez
1 Jan 2011
31 Dec 2011
Production from small-scale and commercial fishing has declined significantly in the Philippines in recent years due to diminishing productivity, depletion of fish stocks, degradation of fisheries habitats, inefficient post-harvest practices and higher fuel costs. This has resulted in large numbers of disadvantaged people working on an increasingly declining resource base, making the fisheries sector a significant concern both economically and socially.
For example, fishing in Lingayen Gulf, a major fishing ground in the Philippines, reached its maximum sustainable yield more than 20 years ago, and the region now has four times the optimum effort for the available fish stocks. Currently, catch rates are only 20% of what they were 15 years ago.
Despite the dwindling stocks, fish remains the main source of protein in the country, especially for the poor, whose per capita annual fish consumption of 38kg in 2005 was one of the highest in Southeast Asia. Fish expenditure accounts for more than 16% of the total food budget for the lower income group.
An additional stress is the impact of climate change. Due to its location in the tropics, along the path of typhoons, monsoons and El Nino-La Nina, the Philippines is highly vulnerable to the vagaries of such climatic phenomena. The country’s high (and increasing) concentration of population and economic activity in coastal areas, heavy reliance on agriculture, and high dependence on natural resources make the impact of severe weather and sea level changes particularly devastating. The archipelago ranked sixth among 143 countries exposed to water-related natural disasters in the period 1980–2007.
Development of the fisheries sector
In recognition of the importance of sustained agriculture and fisheries development in the country, the Philippines government and the international development community have increased investment in the sector in recent years. The focus has been on food security and household income, while at the same time ensuring efficient and effective resource management and conservation.
The ‘Comprehensive Aquaculture Development and Technical Assistance Program’ project, which is funded by the Department of Science and Technology - Technology Application and Promotion Institute, seeks to add value to these investments through the provision of appropriate technologies that will increase the productivity of aquaculture farms, facilitate access to financial and commodity markets critical to sustaining aquaculture development and enhance the development of a supportive science-based policy environment.
This WorldFish project aims to provide a carefully planned package of interventions that will not only increase awareness and appreciation of the potential for aquaculture development, but also develop a better understanding of the need for natural fisheries stock management, including habitat rehabilitation where warranted.
Selection of the nine regions being covered by the project was based on their vulnerability to climate change, dependency on fisheries and aquaculture, and the presence of other WorldFish projects whose work could complement the attainment of this project’s objectives.
The project is targeting stakeholders both in government and local fishing communities. Local Government Units will be a key focal point, and work with them will include fisheries governance and policy, plus the development of coastal resource management plans. At the individual farm level, technical assistance will be provided through the Consultancy for Agricultural Productivity Enhancement, of which a key result will be the development of an ecosystem-based approach to aquaculture that will lead to improved productivity, and the maintenance of new benchmarks in aquaculture practices.
Overall, the project intends to complement government efforts to address the food security concerns of the country, especially for the poor.