Who wouldn’t want a 100 lbs of fish?

This is my friend, Bill Malone. He is a father of three, grandfather of seven, and great-grandfather of one. Valuing people is a very important part of his life.

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He is not a fish farmer, though he does live and work in a small fishing community in Nova Scotia. Fish, therefore, is also an important part of his life.

A few years ago, Bill dug a trout pond near his home and later stocked it with 50-60 brook trout that were 6-10 inches in length, weighed a quarter pound each, and cost a total of roughly $80. Okay, first of all, he didn’t actually dig it—he hired an excavator to dig the hole and groom the perimeter. He purchased one bag of feed for roughly $40 and fed the fish whenever he thought of it. This is beginning to sound a lot like a grade seven math problem….

Within 12-16 months, his fish were 16-18 inches in length and weighed about 2 lbs each. That’s roughly 100 lbs of fish that he then had available for...well, to eat, or give away, or leave in his pond for his friends and grandkids to fish out, or for the local bird population to gradually pick off.

Anyway, the point is this: for a rather small cost in fish and feed, and very little effort, Bill turned 15 lbs of fish into 100 lbs in just over a year. Who wouldn’t want that kind of inventory to stock their freezer? Really.

So we're now appreciating the value of this practice in our own frame of reference: Here in our largely affluent culture where all manner of food is within reach year-round, employment is accessible to most, and government programs support families, seniors, the unemployed, and the disabled. This hundred pounds of fish that Bill grew is nice, but nobody’s life really depends on it.

Transport yourself now to DR Congo: Families are dependent on their gardens for survival, literally, and may have sufficient cash to purchase rice or beans on occasion, meat only a couple of times a year; most dads are unemployed since regular jobs are few and far between and typically come with low, inconsistent wages. And government programs? Mm, not so much. The simple truth is that people die if they can’t provide for themselves.

Imagine what a hundred pounds of fish means for them. A pond, similar size to Bill’s, is capable of producing nearly 100 lbs of fish every eight months at a value of about $135 dollars. Make it three ponds and you’ve got a viable enterprise contributing substantial income and food supply to a family of seven, on average. They will consume some of the fish themselves and sell the remainder to purchase food and services that would be otherwise out of reach. One other major difference between Bill’s situation and Congo: Ponds are constructed entirely by hand—shovels, buckets, hoes, machetes.

The fish pond concept then goes from a backyard hobby in our context to meaningful livelihood in another. For us, a sense of satisfaction and pleasure in growing something on our own property; for a family in Congo, it’s a matter of security in food and income. As I’ve said before, these are not just household mud puddles that people can pull a fish from every now and then. For many, it’s contributing to survival.

FISH for HOPE is endeavoring to equip more farming families with the tools and knowledge to accomplish this. We are injecting new information through a network of seminars and supervision, while providing small tool subsidies along the way. Thousands of people have already benefitted from this intervention. A donation of $60 provides training and tools for a fish farmer in DR Congo. Or a monthly donation of $10 can do this for two farmers every year. This Father’s Day, let’s turn our hobbies into hope.

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Newcomer: another aquaculture ‘fanatic’

So, yeah, quite a lot has happened since my last post to this blog. In particular, made a trip to Congo in February-March with Sheldon Gilmer, World Hope Canada to visit the project(s) and our managers. Had an excellent time reconnecting with our team, hearing about project activities, and planning next steps. We met several new people in different contexts and capacities and I, personally, found the trip extremely broadening in development theory and practices through many discussions with seasoned professional development ‘officers’.

On the tail-end of our time there, we were to cross paths with another gentleman, Randy Bevis, an aquaculturist, who was entering the country to see how he could also contribute to aquaculture development in Equateur Province. We had spoken together in February, prior to leaving for Africa, but had not met prior to Congo.

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Randy Bevis (3rd from left) with Pastor Dole (far right) and personnel of World Vision Congo.

Originally from the US, Randy studied aquaculture in Thailand and then spent the following 18-20 years there, working in partnership with the nationals on a self-sufficient, aquaculture operation for rural development. He is now back in the states and applying his skills in aquaculture to assist international development projects for poverty alleviation. Randy partners with multiple organizations and is now lending his assistance to FISH for HOPE/World Hope Canada and our partner organization in Congo, the CEUM.

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Group of fish farmers that Randy visited with Paul Noren (standing third from left) in Lisala, along the Congo River, Equateur Province.

Randy’s experience does a lot to round out our team. Though a professional aquaculturist myself, my knowledge of tropical aquaculture is mostly academic, whereas Randy’s is thoroughly practical and practiced. We speak the same language, see many of the same things, but Randy has ideas that have already been tested and applied in other settings successfully. He brings ideas that I would learn about only through research. It’s great to have his knowledge and expertise to draw from.

I’ll update again soon with some of our next steps for FISH for HOPE.