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Small Fish Farms Increase Incomes, Improve Diets of Families Affected by HIV/AIDS in Malawi, Review Says

August 21, 2007

Small fish farms in Malawi have helped 1,200 impoverished families affected by HIV/AIDS in rural areas of the country increase their incomes and improve their diets, according to a project review released Monday, Reuters reports. Many families involved in the project -- managed by the Malaysia-based, not-for-profit WorldFish Center -- are headed by widows or grandparents caring for children who have been orphaned by AIDS.

According to WorldFish, a small, rain-fed pond can be constructed for about $90 and stocked with juvenile fish, such as tilapia, at a cost of $10. The ponds produce food as the fish grow and reproduce, requiring significantly less intensive work than subsistence farming, Reuters reports. The program also recommends that farmers use farm waste and crop by products as food for the fish. This strategy enables the farmers to grow more vegetables by using pond sediment as fertilizer, according to WorldFish.

Daniel Jamu, regional director for WorldFish in eastern and southern Africa, said that a small fish farm, covering about 200 yards and stocked with fish, could produce 130 pounds to 190 pounds of fish annually in rural Malawi, where fish can sell in markets for about $4 per pound. The company hopes to expand the program to Mozambique and Zambia within two to three years with a goal of reaching 26,000 households, Jamu said. He added that the center has received requests for information from "as far as Nigeria."

Stephen Hall, director-general of WorldFish, said, "These small fish points offer tremendous benefits to struggling farming families in rural Africa whose many challenges have been greatly compounded by AIDS." WorldFish is backed by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research and World Vision. About one in five adults in Malawi is living with HIV/AIDS, and tens of thousands of the country's 12 million residents die annually from AIDS-related illness, Reuters reports (Doyle, Reuters, 8/19).

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