A team of Sri Lankan and Canadian researchers on aquaculture in the Wayamba province are helping to improve farm practices in shrimp and oyster farming to achieve sustainable development to improve incomes and contribute to Sri Lanka food security goal, said Project Manager and research associate in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary, Canada Dr.Tim DeJager.

He was delivering the key-note address on Empowering People to Achieve and Maintain Sustainable Aquaculture develpment on project targets in Shrimp Farming Industry in the Wayamba province.”

He said, “The Wayamba University of Sri Lanka (WUSL) and the University of Calgary (UC), Canada are collaborating partners in a two year knowledge mobilization project to improve incomes and food security for the rural poor in Sri Lanka.” The team is conducting surveys and field research to identify the key sustainability indicators, risk factors, knowledge gaps, and the barriers and constraints to improve farming practices.

This baseline research in shrimp farming, involving graduate students Trisha Westers and Jessica Wu from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Calgary, along with Dr. Sevvandi Jayakody, senior lecturer in the department of Aquaculture and Fisheries WUSL and supported by a group of research assistants from the WUSL, provides a snapshot of aquaculture sustainability in Sri Lanka, indicating the various social, environmental, and economic factors at play.

The prevalence of disease in shrimp farms is the predominant factor, necessitating the development of improved management practices. Based on this research, the intervention research is now underway, led by Prof. J M P K Jayasinghe, Department of Aquaculture and Fisheries of WUSL, and Dr. Tim DeJager.

They are supported by Sandaruwan Prasanna, who is coordinating the field research, and Chaminda Fernando of KMN Aqua Services, who is coordinating farmer input on the formulation of locally adaptive sustainable management practices.

Tim said “Shrimp Farming in NWP is done under different social and environmental conditions; and the zones and sub-zones have evolved to reflect the unique conditions of farming areas.

However, the problem is that existing Best Management Practices (BMPs) as BMPs are standardized and do not take into consideration the unique conditions, constraints, and priorities of local conditions.” Dr. Jayasinghe’s team is meeting with shrimp farmers in each of the 25 subzones in the NWP to identify the unique priorities, conditions, risk factors, barriers, and constraints, Farmers will also share innovative and adaptive ways in which sustainable management practices can be implemented. The input from this process will be analyzed and integrated into a system of technical guidelines for adaptive sustainable management practices,?said Dr. Tim DeJager.

A group of global experts will advise on the formulation of these guidelines. The draft guidelines will then be presented at a meeting of key government and industry stakeholder groups for consultation and revisions. The team will publish these guidelines for adaptive sustainable practise into a user-friendly manual that will contain the sub-zone adaptations that can be put into practice by local farmers. Workshops will be conducted with farmers to assist in the knowledge sharing process and enable farmers to share experiences and lessons learned in their implementation.

“While the input into the guidelines is underway, I will be leading a complementary activity to enhance knowledge sharing among the farmers. Sixty farmers will participate in mobile phone communication trial where they will receive SMS messages including voice SMS to see if this can be developed into a new means of instant communication among farmers to help them become aware of important new information and enable easier knowledge sharing and better connectivity to each other.

“The messages will be elaborate on the technical guidelines for adaptive sustainable practices. Results of the trial will be analysed and views of farmers in the trial will be surveyed. Recommendations for expanding such a system for all shrimp farmers will be made and if possible incorporated into the website that will be developed, he emphasised. Finally, a website will be developed to enhance

knowledge resource accessibility from global sources and make them available for access to shrimp farmers in Sri Lanka. Web development experts will survey stakeholders to obtain input on most important features and application to be included, which will then be incorporated into a requirements document that will be used as a guide to develop the site. It will be tested by a group of users from the stakeholder community before final release for use by the industry and its knowledge ecosystem, he said.

2012 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.