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UN forum to examine fish farming's crucial role in boosting rural development

UN forum to examine fish farming's crucial role in boosting rural development

Farmer feeding fish in pond
Government officials and representatives from United Nations agencies and other organizations are set to examine the role of fish farming - or "aquaculture" - in fighting hunger and poverty at an international meeting of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which opened today in Beijing.

"The challenge for aquaculture is to help strengthen the assets available to rural households," said Rohana Subasinghe, FAO's focal point for the meeting of the Sub-committee on Aquaculture, which runs through 22 April.

"Aquaculture provides food of high nutritional value for households, and when small-scale farmers combine agriculture and aquaculture they also improve their food supply, increase their income and become better able to withstand shocks," said Mr. Subasinghe. "It decreases the risk to production, increases farm sustainability and in general boosts rural development."

Since 1984, aquaculture has grown at an overall rate of 11 per cent a year, making it the world's fastest-growing food-producing sector for nearly 20 years, according to FAO. In 1999, 42.77 million tons of aquatic products, including plants, valued at $53.5 billion were produced, and more than 300 species of aquatic organisms are farmed globally today.

Approximately 90 per cent of the total fish farming production occurs in developing countries, with a large proportion produced by small-scale outfits, particularly in low-income food deficit countries, according to FAO.

A paper prepared by FAO for the Sub-Committee says that while export-oriented, industrial and commercial aquaculture practices bring much needed foreign exchange, revenue and employment to a country, more extensive and integrated forms of aquaculture not only make a significant, grass-roots, contribution to improving livelihoods among the poorer sectors of society but also promote efficient use of resources and environmental conservation.