EX-MNLF COMBATANTS SIGN SUPPLY DEAL WITH HATCHERY – Najir Abdurajan, president of the Matarrang Community Organization (MCO), watches over a shipment of young abalone that he and the other 29 members of the MCO will be growing out in Panglima Sugala, Tawi-Tawi, under an agreement with the Tawi-Tawi Multi-Species Hatchery, which will buy back the abalone from the MCO once they are harvested. The MCO is one of the cooperatives composed of former combatants of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) that have been assisted by USAID’s Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) Program to produce and market higher-value aquaculture products sustainably. ( Photo by USAID-GEM )
Former Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) combatants in this coastal fishing village are channeling their skills and energy into a new undertaking: sustainable aquaculture production.
Members of the Matarrang Community Organization (MCO), composed of about 29 ex-MNLF fighters, are profitably farming grouper and abalone, a turn-around from the life they lived as armed guerillas years ago.
The group recently signed a contract growing agreement with the Tawi-Tawi Multi-Species Hatchery, under which the latter will provide MCO with abalone spats and grouper fingerlings for grow-out. Once the abalone and grouper have reached harvestable size, the hatchery will purchase them at prevailing market prices.
“Under the agreement, we will regularly supply the hatchery with market-size abalone which will be used as spawners,” said MCO president Najir Abdurajan. “We began as simple seaweed growers and have now branched out into high-value aquaculture production.”
The Tawi-Tawi Hatchery was represented at the signing by its manager Arlyn Carroz, Hatchery Manager, while MCO was represented by Abdurajan.
USAID’s Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) Program, under its Sustainable Aquaculture and Fisheries Effort (TCEP-SAFE), assisted both parties in finalizing the agreement, which is expected to provide MCO with a stable market for its marine products.
Earlier, MCO was trained on aquaculture production and provided with production inputs to start its initial cycle, as part of the GEM Program’s Former Combatant Reintegration component.
This May, as a result of this assistance, MCO expects to harvest about one metric ton of grouper worth approximately US$11,000, and 200 kilograms of abalone valued at US$1,600.
Abalone currently sells at P550 per kilo, while live grouper sells at P500 per kilo in domestic markets. Most of the aquaculture products produced in Tawi-Tawi are shipped to Zamboanga City, the center of the lucrative seafood trade in Western Mindanao.
GEM collaborated with the Tawi-Tawi Hatchery to instruct the group on the use of yusukei trays for sustained commercial-level scale production.
According to Tito Ilagan, GEM senior aquaculture specialist, using the durable trays is a more cost-effective and sustainable system than traditional fish pens or rock enclosures.
“These trays are compact, but are able to yield bigger volumes of abalone per harvest,” Ilagan said.
The GEM Program has worked with fish growers’ associations in western Mindanao, including the Sulu Archipelago, to discourage the practice of catching mature reef fish and abalone from the wild for grow-out.
Most of these growers are situated in the province of Tawi-Tawi, where hatchery-bred grouper and abalone juveniles are readily available through the Tawi-Tawi Hatchery and the Mindanao State University (MSU) Abalone Research and Development Hatchery, both of which receive assistance from GEM.
The GEM Program also provides selected groups of growers with training on site location, feed management and the establishment of commercial-scale culture systems.
To date, USAID-GEM has trained approximately 11,750 aquaculture, fruit and vegetable growers on Good Agriculture Practices (GAP), effective marketing strategies, and appropriate post-harvest handling techniques.