One of the main weaknesses identified in the PPVII Project Baseline Study was the lack of skills and knowledge among Bolivian fish farmers. Insufficient access to technical assistance and the inability to apply “Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP)”, significantly affect the level of productivity, efficiency and profitability of their operations. PPVII has found a way to utilize technology-sharing as a way to improve productive family units, leading to improved production and income.
Only 21% of the population engaged in fish farming have access to specialized technical assistance, reflecting a poor relationship between technicians and suppliers of fish feed, fry or fingerlings, and other supplies. Low levels of education and poor fish farming skills indicate the low level of specialized capabilities.
PPVII developed a University-certified Technical Assistance Program to address this lack of specialized training, as part of the project’s focus on technology transfer and communication, which includes gender equity as a cross-cutting theme. Two cohorts of over 70 students have already received their certificates. The Technical Assistance Program includes the following components:
1. Specialized Training: Six-month modular course for “Technical Assistants” (extension agents), accredited by the local university (FINI-UAGRM), including teachers from CEPAC, World Fisheries Trust (Canada), and EMBRAPA (Brazil).
2. Demonstration Units (or Field Schools): Successful Productive Family Units that apply BAPs and provide their ponds for field training with neighboring families. Eleven Demonstration Units have been established so far.
3. Technology Sharing: Peer-peer training mechanisms, using the Demonstration Units as learning centers and the farm owners and Technical Assistance graduates (lead extension agents from 5 municipalities) as facilitators.
According to participants, this is leading to happier and more productive fish farmers:
G. Flores, Municipal Technician:
“We have left the facilitator Alejandro in charge of the whole area. The municipality and Mayor have been dedicated to supporting new fish farmers who are just beginning. I see that the families who participate in the field training are happy because the technical support is closer; several of them already know how to do biometrics. ”
A. Olpo, Facilitator, Demonstration Unit, Yapacani:
“My main economic venture is fish farming. I have the great satisfaction of having been one of the first ones dedicated to fish farming in this municipality and leading the way for other people to enter this field. In addition, new working opportunities have arisen for many people, and that’s why I like others to come see my ponds and for other families to learn. ”
A. Segovia, Partner in the Association Entrepreneurial Women:
“The best thing about training is that it is done at the ponds and you can see how other people raise their fish. Most learn because things are explained and you can see the quality of the water, the ponds, how to take measurements and other techniques, you can also ask. I feel good because I have learned a lot. ”