Thursday, January 15, 2015

Day Eight: The Fish Farm and the Future Fish-food Factory

Day Eight, Wednesday, January 14: The Fish Farm and the Future Fish-food Factory

Special note: We are trying to post videos and photos and we hope it works.  Whether it works or not, we are offering you a special opportunity to see some of our multimedia work during a public presentation at the beginning of the spring semester.  Please join us in Galileo Hall, Room 201, on the Saint Mary’s College campus on Wednesday, February 18, at 7:00pm.  All are welcome to this free event.  And now on with today’s blog entry . . .


There is a women’s group here named MUSA, the translation of which means something like “women who put their dreams into action.”  It is also the direct translation for the English word “muse” so there is a lot going on with this name.  MUSA is the source of much of the social entrepreneurship that is evident in this community.  Though it began as exclusively a group for women, its success has lured many men into participation now.  Today, we visited two of MUSA’s primary projects. 

Our guide was the community’s medic, known as Tonico (pronounced like toe-NEE-coo), a nickname for the name Anthony.  Tonico is not only the medic, but he is also the main guy who oversees the fish farm and the one who organizes things at the water filter that serves the entire community.  One of our final project assignments is to complete a multimedia piece that explicates our deeper understanding of “the common good.”  Where this community is concerned, Tonico might be the best example of living for the common good that we will ever meet.  He was a perfect guide to help us get a deeper feel for what Anã is all about. 

First, we went to visit the fish farm that MUSA started in hopes of replenishing the food supply in a lake in the community.  They wanted to correct for prior overfishing of the lake and they also wanted to create a surplus that they could sell (to visitors like us!).  They built big cages that are only about four feet deep and eight feet square and stocked them with 300 or so fish.  After lots of experimentation and troubleshooting, they now have 13 families managing cages that total about 12,000 fish.  They even found that when the river floods into the lake (about two months a year), more fish are drawn into the lake by the regular feeding of the farm fish, so Tonico said that because of the fish farm hunger and poverty are no longer problems in Anã.   Dreams into action.

We went out to the cages in little rowboats so we could all get a close look.  Tonico went into the cage wearing a pair of goggles and came up with a fish (called tambaqui) in his hand.  The fish has human-looking teeth, which is kind of a creepy sight to see.  He offered to let us go into the cage as well, and ten or so people took him up on it. He selected a few choice fish for us to eat for lunch and threw them in his boat after bopping them on the head to stun them.  We look forward to adding our participation into this excellent example of supporting the local economy. 

One of the ways that the fish farmers can manage (and afford) to feed their fish is by making their own fish food.  They had a specialist come and test local plants, seeds and fruits and determine what combination of locally available ingredients would best work to feed the fish.  Based on this recipe, the locals create pellets that look pretty much like dry dogfood.  Though their fish would grow larger with commercially produced soy-based food, the community residents don’t like the taste of the fish when the commercial product is the main food source for the fish. 

Because of their need for more fish food, they have decided to create a production center that will allow them to produce higher quantities of their local food.  Happily, the time for constructing that “factory” is now and we are going to get to be prime participants.  Yesterday we carted cement bags from the boat to the construction site and today we started carting loads of sand from the beach to the site.  We will need to get rocks going that direction too and then we will be ready to dig the perimeter foundation. 

Very near the construction site is the community’s primary water tower and microfilter system.  It, too, is a marvel, as it takes quite a few people to do the regular operations that help to maintain the system but everyone meets his or her responsibilities and the system continues to provide water that is even safe enough for us to drink.  The reduction of diarrhea, disease and infant death has been dramatic since the installation of the microfilter. 

After visiting the water tower, we went back to work at the garden and stuffed more bags.  We are getting good enough at this somewhat tedious job that it is opening up many opportunities to talk about things we might not otherwise get a chance to discuss.  We are learning about each other’s siblings, our favorite foods, our least favorite professors and the things we miss the most from California. 

We went home for lunch and ate “fish bop stew” (as coined by Connor).  It was delicious.  The afternoon brought some repetition of the morning’s jobs and a visit from the beekeeper to show us the process of honey extraction. 

We have a full day tomorrow so we are going to knock off early tonight to get our beauty sleep.  We hope to post text, photos and videos on Thursday so when you read this you should have lots more content to peruse.  Let’s hope . . .

Daily Photos

This is Anã’s micropurification system. They fortunately received it in a lottery with 4 other Amazonian communities out of 64. Since it was installed in September 2005, infant and elderly mortality rates have been dramatically reduced.

Throughout the village, there are two types of houses. The one pictured here is made by the locals. The other type are cement houses with metal shutters that were built as part of a government program.

The main mode of transportation around Anã is by bike. There are only three motorcycles in the village and no cars.

Local fisherman preparing to take us to the fish farm cages!

Traveling out to the fish farm cages.

Walking through the Amazon to check out the new fish factory site.

Carlos catching a fish bare handed at the fish farm.

Here is a row of government built homes that dot the soccer field. In the background, the Amazon is sprouting up behind them.

A young boy standing on a dirt path, getting some relief from the sun by the cloud cover.

This water tower services the entire community of Anã.

The man in charge of the community water filter, leaving work with nothing but a pair of shorts and bicycle.

A lone canoe rests under the hot Amazonian sun.

This desolate cemetery now houses the original members of the Anã community.

Bibiano is the keeper of the water pump. Every day he turns on the pump and distributes filtered water to the village of Anã using a generator.

The villagers of Anã have mastered their skills in fish food production finding the perfect balance between naturally grown ingredients to aid the growth of the fish in their farm.

Antonio shows us the fish food press at the factory. Once pressed, they will cook the ground mixture on an open range before feeding it to the fish.

One of the many soccer fields in Anã. Look for us Saturday as we rematch! United States against Brasil!

José Gogiñho building a boat on the beach. They use cotton to fill the crevices between the boats. Every 2 months they need to replace the cotton to keep the boats afloat.

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