Teach a Man to Fish and You Feed Him for a Lifetime
The tilapia fish farm in Miacatlan is one super sustainable operation.
July 25, 2016 - Mexico
What started as a 600-fish-per-month project in 1979 has grown into a 2,000-fish-per-month operation. It is the operational staff and children that keep it going. Roughly 40 years ago, NPH Mexico's fish farm in Miacatlan produced as many fish in one year as it does now in one month.
“This is not a factory,” says farm director Dr. Julio Morales. “Production may have tripled, but it still remains a one-man show,” says the director. Pedro has been running the operation for seven years. He knew nothing about fish when he started, but has since become a knowledgeable fish farmer, receiving technical instruction from a U.S. Food and Drug Administration biologist.
“Everybody is important – the workers, managers, children,” he says. Everybody rises together and the change propels growth. “If you recognize the importance of each of your coworkers you can grow together, and together we can grow NPH,” says Dr. Morales.
Two pequeños assist Pedro* daily on the fish farm. Every few weekends a group of children joins them in harvesting and cleaning the fish, which is then passed on to the kitchens in Miacatlan and Cuernavaca and served for lunch. One harvest feeds about 1,000 children and staff in a single day.
One pequeño started helping three months ago. He came into the job deflated thinking it would be pure labor. He has since found pleasure, joy and peace in his work. “It's also a very clean job,” he says. His illusions of a dirty, smelly fish job have been shattered.
Sixteen-year-old Judeline* helped with the harvest when she was younger. She is very proud to have learned the ways of gutting, scaling, cleaning and serving fish. “Fish is a very great benefit for all because it is a way to feed us properly.”
Pedro says the farm is invaluable. “Fish is nutrition,” he says. “It provides sustenance and nourishment – both for a healthy body and a healthy mind. And of course, there is no need to buy fish for the house!”
On the technical side, the farm runs on 100 percent recycled water. An underground water-pump system pools all the property's used water – from the kitchen, dormitories, school, and clinic – and channels it into the fish farm. Later that water is used to irrigate the corn field, orchards and greenhouse.
Dr. Morales and Pedro have started to push the envelope on the 40-year project. They have begun to experiment with aquaponics, the practice of raising fish and growing vegetables and herbs without soil.
Fish waste is nutrient rich and a great fertilizer for growing plants, says Pedro. They are currently growing lettuce and cabbage in the fish tanks. The project needs to be fitted with new equipment, and they are seeking $13,000. There are also plans in the works to start selling the fish this year.
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
*Names changed to protect privacy.