The national plan for the sustainable development of small-scale aquaculture and limited resources (APERL), an alternative for growth and poverty alleviation for smallholder farmers in Nicaragua.
The Nicaraguan Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture (INPESCA) is currently executing a program to support aquaculture in rural areas of Nicaragua, known as the national plan for sustainable development of small-scale aquaculture and limited resources (APERL). This program aims to strengthen small-scale aquaculture in Nicaragua and ensure food security for vulnerable households, while taking on the challenge of integrating aquaculture with the environment in a sustainable manner.
So that aquaculture in Nicaragua may soon reach an important role in food security at the national level, the APERL program has considered the protection of the environment, as well as adaptation to changes in the environment and biodiversity. This has been done using as a guide the human development and food security policies of Nicaragua, as well as the long-term vision defined by the industry itself, articulated through key ministries, namely: Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA), Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAGFOR), the Nicaraguan Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture (INPESCA), and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX). External entities such as regional government offices, universities and producers have also helped in the articulation of the project.
APERL consists of nine lines of development, in accordance with national objectives, strategies and specific action lines including natural resources, organisations, instances of government, plans, programs, incentives and financing, production systems and production inputs, health, safety, traceability, marketing, laws and regulations; human capacity, education, training and food safety.
The main actions identified by APERL to be completed in short term are:
APERL's vision is to develop in a sustainable way, causing no harm to the ecosystem, being respectful of the current legal framework, while also being innovative, inclusive of all individuals (no gender discrimination), and will improve the quality of life of communities and will promote the organisational growth. From the production viewpoint, APERL seeks to meet quality and health standards. APERL also seeks to respect animal welfare, to be economically profitable, to contribute to alimentary security of individuals, and to be mindful of climate change. Progress in the implementation of the APERL plan has been as follows:
Through this support program over 307 small tilapia farms have benefited; this translates into more than 250,000 kg of the fish sold. Also, between 364,000 – 455,000 kg of shrimp is marketed for procurement of substitute products and to improve the diet of families in western Nicaragua, contributing to food security and improving the living standards of the families most vulnerable in the aquaculture and fisheries sector.
According to INPESCA, 50 families of 15 producers each have benefited from seed, feed and technical assistance. These families now have the appropriate infrastructure to farm tilapia, black scallops, shrimp and red snapper. However, the lack of follow-up programs and the high cost of balanced aqua-culture feeds - much of which has to be imported because there are no specialised aquaculture support business in Nicaragua - has hindered the full development of these projects.
Despite the difficulties, the experience has largely been a positive one because producers managed to sell part of the production (although not all of it) to the local market. Self-consumption also helped to improve the diet of families in the program.
The most important mechanism to carry out the strategic priorities, plans and programs is based on the Alliances and Shared Responsibilities Model that is promoted by the government as part of its policy for managing the local human development. The Alliance Model aims to achieve a collective vision regarding:
In the case of aquaculture, the following entities have helped in the promotion of the project:
The project is funded by the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit, counterparts of direct project partners, as well as through non-refundable grants or partially refundable grants from cooperation agencies.
Successful projects include those of tilapia growth for food security in northern Nicaragua, red snapper farms in Asseradores, Chinandega and shrimp farms in Puerto Morazán.