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FEATURE

by Roy Palmer, Aquaculture Without Frontiers, Australia

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orn and bred from the Aquaculture sector in order to create a voluntary organisation to contribute to the alleviation of poverty through small-scale aquaculture, Aquaculture without Frontiers (AwF), recently celebrated its 10th birthday with an updated vision and strategy.

Beginnings

AwF was formed by Michael New OBE, having been encouraged by colleagues after delivering a keynote paper at the World Aquaculture Society (WAS) conference in Salvador, Brazil in 2003 (New 2003). Michael’s idea was stimulated by reading about the activities of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and two articles published in The Economist (Anonymous 2003a, b). He ventured the idea that people who had retired from a career in aquaculture might wish to volunteer their experience to help those less fortunate than themselves. In fact, Michael found that the idea of voluntary service in aquaculture appealed to a wide spectrum of individuals, from students to retirees.

A gem, run on a shoestring

The board was a veritable ‘who’s who’ of aquaculture and it ran then, as it does now, on a shoestring. AwF is not an organisation built around creating a massive bank of donated funds, creating overheads and paying high salaries to staff but on actually working with the great goodwill of aquaculture people and doing things that create positive outcomes for the poor and hungry of the world. It is the real meaning of what a charity is all about – people give what they can, whether that is a few dollars, or more importantly their time, knowledge and experience. It is a real gem in today’s world of professional NGOs and it is a credit to its founder and all that have or are still serving its needs. Having said that, there was the need to modify some of the organisation and during these changes there can be no question that we lost some momentum. John Forster, Dave Conley and Cormac O’Sullivan have greatly assisted the organisation with constant input and wise council and have been a strength on the board. It felt like we were going backwards, but sometimes in life these changes need to be made in order to take stock and move forward with greater and stronger steps. Hopefully, that is what we are doing!

Establishing sustainable networks

First was the creation of a strategy and a vision and mission, and clearly the people engaged at the time saw Aquaculture Learning Centres (ALCs) as a major key in the future of AwF. That means we have eased back on chasing smaller projects and are trying to create a more sustainable model for wherever we tread. It means we are building capability and capacity in one area at a time so that when we leave, essential networks of people are well established and can communicate internally and externally.

Additionally, we also have taken a broader brush to aquaculture. Education on nutrition (both human and animal) is essential – people need to know why seafood is important in their diet and how feeding their fish the right mixes helps deliver not only excellent fish health but also connects to human health. Entrepreneurial activities are also essential and encouraged, as we need to encourage people to want to get out of the poverty trap. Clearly, not everyone can run their own fish farm; there will always be people who are prepared to take the extra calculated risks and who are leaders. As long as they are building enterprises which are employing people and paying them a fair wage for a fair day’s work, and are transparent in their activities, then they are helping improve the world, and need to be encouraged and supported.

Our incredible volunteers

Of course, our business model means we are reliant on our incredible volunteers, and we needed to review our processes on how we manage and work with these fantastic individuals. Slowly and surely, we have built a committee and secretariat which now manage the Volunteer Program. What used to be done ‘with a nod and a wink’ in the old days is not possible today, and our Volunteer Committee - consisting of Cormac O’Sullivan, Ignacio Llorente and Stacey Clarke, with Paul Liew running the secretariat - are working hard on ensuring we have an efficient databank of all the volunteers, and that we are in regular contact, keeping them up to date about activities and opportunities. We are always seeking new volunteers, so anyone that is interested in assisting us on the journey we are taking, please complete the form at http://www.aquaculturewithoutfrontiers.org/volunteers/

Learning centres are key

Our strategic plan is based around building Aquaculture Learning Centres (ALCs), and our first ALC is in Tancol, a suburb of Tampico in the State of Tamaulipas, Mexico, in collaboration with Universidad Tecnológica del Mar de Tamaulipas Bicentenario (UTMarT). Whilst the main centre for UTMarT is at Soto La Marina - La Pesca, about 4 hours’ drive north of Tampico, near to Laguna Morales, this new centre in Tancol will be used to educate students and industry on aquaculture and hospitality, and will have connections to both the Mexican Federal Government (SAGARPA) and the State Government. All of these ALCs need strong, passionate leaders and, in the case of Tancol, this has definitely been UTMarT’s Director de Vinculación, MC. Héctor Hugo Gójon Báez, who has been supported by the Rector, Dr. Guadalupe Acosta Villarreal, and the Director Académico, MC. Tonatiuh Carrillo Lammens. Fresh water is in abundance at the Tancol site and, being an old water plant, there are some excellent - albeit old but well-constructed - inbuilt large tanks. Some of these are being used ‘as is’, but others

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Mar | Apr 2015 - International Aquafeed magazine  

The March - April 2015 edition of International Aquafeed magazine