Friday, August 21, 2015

21/08/2015: Aquaculture empowers women to improve nutrition

Roy Palmer, director, Aquaculture without Frontiers  

First published in International Aquafeed, July-August 2015

AwF Director, John Forster, pointed out a recent US Aid Newsletter which highlighted the importance of aquaculture and women in assisting with the global issues of poverty and hunger.
Interestingly the example mentioned was in Nepal, a country currently suffering the enormous effects of a recent earthquake, Nepal was a country where AwF had helped establish aquaculture – see project reports 2008-2012. I particularly recall Ram Bhujel (AIT and AwF Volunteer) saying at the AwF Session during a WAS-APC Conference in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, how important AwF had been in his birthplace (Nepal) in showing that aquaculture was possible and also empowering women to engage.

As the US aid newsletter states, “In rural Nepal, widespread poverty is compounded by the lack of access to high-quality, nutritious foods.” According to a recent report from the Nepal Demographic Health Survey, 41 percent of children under the age of five are chronically malnourished, and anemia is a significant problem, afflicting 47 percent of children and 36 percent of women.
Image: Lyle Vincent
One approach to mitigate the occurrence of anemia and to improve the overall health of rural Nepalese is to supplement their diets with vitaminrich protein sources, such as fish. Researchers from Nepal’s Agriculture and Forestry University (AFU) recognised the potential of aquaculture to help address this widespread nutritional deficit, and their recent effort in Nepal successfully established more than 70 family-run fishponds, all managed by women. In the first year of operation, the ponds produced over 500 kg of fish for household consumption.

Looking back at AwF Project reports I read that an aquaculture awareness program was organised, this involved gathering a group of women and using computers from a higher secondary school in the village. A program produced on CD that was based on the “Women in Aquaculture Project” in Chitwan was shown, followed by questions and answers. Even at that stage organisers were reporting that a lot of women had shown their interest.

From that report I read, “Altogether 52 families applied and showed interest in culturing fish on their land which was almost double the number the project team had expected. Full technical support (training, field visit and fry supply) was offered to all of them, and a partial financial support was extended to all of them dividing them into two categories i.e. very poor and poor; with more support to the former.”

According to US Aid, ‘Researchers intend to train more women in effective aquaculture techniques by establishing women’s groups to educate rural Nepalese on fish farming practices and the nutritional benefits associated with household fish production.

The nutritional aspect was also highlighted by WorldFish Senior Nutrition Advisor, Dr Shakuntala Thilsted in her plenary speech at WA2015 in Jeju ‘How can Aquaculture Contribute to the Diets of the Poor’.

Dr Thilsted highlighted that the characteristics of a healthy diet for the poor included natural foods which are locally produced; culturally acceptable (taste, texture, colour, flavour, etc); affordable; high in nutritional quality; safe and available year round.

Fish and other aquatic foods are rich in several essential micronutrients especially Vitamin A (animal sourced foods have the only preformed source); retinol, fish also has Vitamin A2 – dehydroretinol); Vitamin B12 (animal sourced foods are the only dietary source); Riboflavin, Vitamin D (animal sourced foods are the only dietary source); Vitamin E, Available Iron (animal sourced foods are the only dietary source of haem iron) and available zinc, calcium and phosphorous.

Shakuntala indicated the diversity of species had an effect on a healthy diet and called upon the aquaculture industry to ensure the spread of species in fish, other aquatic animals and plants to ensure we all benefited. This way we would meet the preferences of more people, enabling various forms of preparation for different meals and snacks suitable for all sorts of occasions. It would increase the frequency and quantity of consumption, increase seasonal variety, and increase the likelihood of covering multiple nutritional needs.

One of the challenges of bringing new practices to rural women in Nepal, or for that matter in many countries, is that more than half of them are illiterate and cannot be reached through traditional methods such as distributing written materials.

AwF are supporters of the concept of empowering rural women to grow and consume fish from their own backyards, and are working on a number of project concepts. It is by giving the women the means to combat the daunting threats of anemia and malnutrition in their households. Better access to more diverse food sources means that families have the chance to increase their resilience and food security in some of the world’s most remote corners. -helps-women-nepal-improve-household-nutrition

Read the magazine HERE.

The Aquaculturists
This blog is maintained by The Aquaculturists staff and is supported by the
magazine International Aquafeed which is published by
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