Total Time: Approximate) 2 hours structured time followed by individual time frames.
• Set goals for fish pond management component of training;
• Develop a detailed set of plans for the management of the trainee's pond;
• Begin to learn basic concepts of fish culture through application of previous knowledge and experiences;
• Practice using brainstorming, deductive reasoning and analogies as problem-solving techniques.
Overview: At this point, trainees have just been assigned the ponds that they will stock and manage throughout the remainder of training. Before they can begin working with the ponds, they must develop goals and a set of plans which they can follow to meet those goals. It is at this time that the trainees really begin to think of themselves as fish farmers and to gain insights into the concerns and activities of fish farmers. Development of management plans is a critical part of training because many of the most important, most basic concepts of warmwater aquaculture are explored during this activity. The trainees do not receive any actual technical information, and though they do receive guidance from trainers, they are obliged to use their own experiences, previous knowledge, best judgement and common sense in order to develop these plans. As various parts of the management plans are developed, the trainee is given permission to begin implementation of those parts. For now, the plans they develop just provide a starting point. Several sections of the plans are never really finished. The trainee will continue to revise and supplement them as they gain new knowledge and see the results of their management practices.
1. A trainer facilitates a discussion to help trainees set goals for their pond work. Point out that the trainees should think as fish farmers as well as trainees. Have them come up with two separate statements, one as a trainee and one as a fish farmer. The Trainee Goal should address using the pond to maximize their learning about fish culture. The Fish Farmer Goal should address raising fish at a profit. Point out to the trainees that writing these down as two separate goals is important because they will need to reflect upon their goals when making management decisions' and the decisions they make as trainees may not always be consistent with the decisions they make as fish farmers. The actual choices will be theirs, but it will be helpful to acknowledge that they are wearing two different hats simultaneously so that they can make their decisions with a clear understanding of their own reasoning.
1 hour and 40 minutes, variable
2. Once goals have been set, the trainees will need to make plans for the actual management of their ponds. After this point, they work with trainers on an individual basis rather than in a group. Have them begin by brainstorming a list of all of the activities they think will be involved in fish farming. Once they have this list, have them organize the items into some logical order and write an outline for the management plan. This outline should include sections on:
• Pond preparation;
• Fertilizing (optional at this point - see Trainer Notes);
• Water quality monitoring;
• Physical pond maintenance;
Individual time frames
3. Once the trainee has an outline that includes the topics listed above, the trainer tells him/her that each item in the outline should be considered a major section of the plan. (In effect, the Management Plan is really a set of smaller plans that together comprise the overall plan to manage the pond). Suggest the use of separate pieces of paper for each part, making each part of the plan a separate notebook section. The trainee should fill in each section with as much detail as possible. The trainers provide direction at this stage regarding the order in which the trainee should develop the sections. Have trainee begin with sections on Pond Preparation and Stocking. Trainees should work closely with their trainers throughout this process.
4. Based on the amount of detail in the plans, logistics, scheduling and staff judgement, trainers allow trainees to begin implementation of certain sections of their management plans.
Resources and Materials:
• Blackboard and chalk (or newsprint and marker);
• Notebook paper;
• Comfortable work area (classroom) and area for individual meetings between trainers and trainees.
• The flow of the discussion about goals will be influenced by whether or not a group discussion about fish farming for profit has already taken place. If it has not, the discussion may take longer. Some trainees will be much quicker than others to think in terms of farming and profitability. It is important to be sure that sometime during the course of this meeting, trainees realize that aquaculture is a form of farming rather than fisheries management, and that concerns of a fish farmer are similar to concerns of any other farmer. For some trainees, this will be a difficult concept to grasp especially if they are caught up in thinking about working in a developing country and are clouding the issue with their own preconceptions about the goals of farmers in developing countries as something separate from goals of farmers in developed countries. The way in which the trainer has to handle this depends in part on whether the training program is taking place stateside or in-country, but at some point trainees should be given food for thought about the reality of whether or not a farmer will continue to farm if a profit in some form does not materialize. Some trainees will resist this idea, especially if they have a negative emotional reaction to certain terms (i.e. profit, money, capitalism). Allow some discussion and arguing, within a reasonable time frame. Most trainees will at least agree that, as farmers, they want to maximize output for minimum input;
• Having trainees come up with two separate goal statements, one "Trainee Goal" and one "Fish Farmer Goal" is a change from previous training programs. The reason for this is to avoid confusion and mixed messages later on as trainees actually work with their ponds. In the past, trainees were encouraged to set their goals strictly as fish farmers. Having them think in these terms is very important and a critical aspect of training. However, it is impossible to ignore the fact that as inexperienced trainees, they cannot realistically think and act strictly as fish farmers independent of the situation in which they are actually working. As trainees, their ponds are the most valuable tools they have for learning about the dynamics of a fish pond and experiencing the effects of various management practices. In this respect, they are encouraged to take some risks with their ponds to really maximize the learning that can be obtained from the pond work. A fish farmer whose first concern is making a profit, maximizing output for minimal input, will only be willing to take a certain amount of risk, especially without substantial experience. For example, while it may be wise for a trainee to experiment with a variety of fertilization or feeding techniques, a real farmer may not be at liberty to do so. Also, since a farmer must keep costs to a minimum, some steps may be cut out that a trainee should take. For example, an experienced farmer will balance the amount of water quality testing done against the cost and what can be predicted based on experience. A trainee, on the other hand, would be seriously limiting the learning process if he/she decides not to take numerous water quality tests in order to track cycles and learn about the effects of changes in weather, different types and quantities of feed and fertilizer, etc. By acknowledging at the beginning that the trainees are in a peculiar situation, it is hoped that they will be able to make conscious, calculated decisions, keeping both goals firmly in mind, without feeling frustrated or in a "Catch-22" position due to strong encouragement by staff to take risks but then feeling that they are failing as fish farmers because of those risks;
• Trainees should be divided among trainers for working on their management plans. They should know with which trainer they will be working, and there should be a lot of contact with the trainer throughout this process. Trainers should not work with trainees to whom another trainer has been assigned. If a trainer will be unavailable for an extended period, he/she should thoroughly brief another trainer on the progress of each trainee, and tell the trainees with which trainer they are to work during the absence;
• Development of Management Plans is a very critical component of the training program. Despite the fact that they have no access to information, trainees actually begin to think about many of the most important concepts involved in fish culture. Many trainees will be incredulous, and will make it clear that they think it is absurd, that they are expected to develop a working plan for something about which they feel they know nothing. This attitude, combined with the diversity of backgrounds and knowledge with which trainees arrive at training, make this component just as challenging and difficult for staff as it is for the trainees. It is during the initial stages of developing the Management Plans that a sense of trust between trainees and trainers can either be established or damaged. The skill and sensitivity of the trainer is therefore of the utmost importance. It is suggested that trainers practice among themselves through role playing and spend a lot of time discussing the problems they encounter and techniques they develop for working with trainees. Inexperienced trainers should sit in on discussions between experienced trainers and the trainees with whom they are working before beginning to work with trainees themselves;
• There is another point of caution that should be made to trainers. Working on management plans involves a lot of technical concepts which are very familiar and basic to the trainers, but which most of the trainees have not considered or put together in this way before now. The trainees may feel self-conscious or uneasy because of a real or perceived lack of knowledge. Because they are in a vulnerable position, trainees may easily misinterpret the tone or body language of the trainer. Trainers must be very sensitive to the feelings of the trainees and to their own actions to avoid inadvertently coming across as smug or impatient. A common reaction on the part of the trainers, as they experience sympathy for the trainees, is to be tempted to "spill beans" as a way of being nice or helpful. It is important that the trainer be extremely controlled and careful not to give in to this temptation as it can actually hinder trainees by discouraging them from being resourceful, lowering their sense of self-reliance, or robbing them of the sense of achievement they feel when they do solve a problem on their own. Trainers must be respectful, supportive, sensitive and at the same time uphold standards;
• The following are some suggestions and points to keep in mind while working with trainees on Management Plans:
• Try to help trainees draw on their own experiences and previous knowledge by helping them to see how some of those things apply to fish culture. Use of analogies is an especially valuable tool, though it may be difficult at first for the trainee to recognize the usefulness of the analogies. This is an exercise in application of various problem-solving techniques as well as an introduction to technical concepts.
• Encourage trainees, especially if they have some biology background and/or agricultural experience, to really delve into their memories and methodically think through concepts. Strengthening their own resourcefulness is another aspect of this component and ultimately builds a great deal of confidence;
• Do not, on the other hand, attempt to push a trainee who really does not have the academic background or experience to arrive at a piece of knowledge. The objective is to build confidence, not reduce it. In a case where there is missing information that absolutely cannot be arrived at through creative thinking, brainstorming or logic, the best thing the trainer can do is to ensure that the trainee recognizes that there is a gap in this particular spot, help the trainee formulate a clear question, and then encourage that trainee to fill in that piece of information at the first opportunity to do so. Reassure the trainee that there will be such an opportunity later;
• The type of guidance given by the trainer will vary. Sometimes, the trainer will need to help the trainee find an angle of attack for a problem. For example, the trainer may help the trainee break down a vague problem into a set of more specific questions that can then be tackled one at a time. Occasionally, the trainee may need a nudge on a specific technical point. Often, especially with trainees who do not have science or agriculture backgrounds, the guidance the trainer must give relates more to helping the trainee overcome the fear of exploring new territory. In this case, a trainee may be embarrassed to express ideas or afraid to take the risk of acting on those ideas and may simply need encouragement and some reinforcement that his/her thought process is valid (this is not the same as verifying the correctness of the trainee's decisions or conclusions).
• It is important to keep in mind is that brainstorming is a technique that many people have never really learned. If necessary, the trainer can point this out to the trainee and actually review the rules of brainstorming;
• The plans should be written in a way that mainly addresses the "What", "When", and "How" of the activities described. The "Why" questions should be covered in the individual discussions between the trainer and trainee. The plans themselves should be detailed, organized plans of action. Tell the trainees it should be written in such a way that they should be able to give it to someone else to follow and that person should find all of the information needed to do exactly what the author intended;
• It is not necessary for trainees to use the exact same language that the staff uses. This is important in that a discussion between a trainer and trainee can turn into a game of Password or Charades if the trainer insists that the trainee use exactly the term that the trainer would use. If the trainee describes the concept or activity clearly and the trainer knows that the trainee understands it, the trainer can either tell the trainee the technical term, or preferably, just use the trainee's term. The trainees will eventually get enough exposure to resources to learn the more common technical terms. Carrying capacity is a good example of a concept that trainees can often arrive at and describe, but for which they do not know the actual term. They often assign their own term, such as "maximum capacity" or "maximum crop" or some other descriptive term.
• The section of the management plan on fertilization is optional in the early stages of the development of plans. While almost any trainee, regardless of his/her academic background and experience, can probably reason that fish must be fed and that there are certain qualities of the water that may affect the fish, some trainees will not be able to reason, at this point, that fertilization might be an aspect of fish culture. By asking the trainee questions about what might be in the water, what fish might eat in nature, etc., the trainer might help the trainee to think about other organisms in the water, but this (or concepts like photosynthesis) can only be pushed so far with trainees who lack any background in biology. If the trainee doesn't consider it and the trainer feels it is more appropriate, fertilization can be left out of the initial outline. Once the trainee gains a little experience and begins to have access to other resources, fertilization can be added to the management plan;
• The timing and organization of going from writing the sections of the management plan to implementing them have been tried a number of ways. Trainees are not permitted to implement any section that has not been written in detail to the satisfaction of the trainer. (Note the word "approved" is not used, because any section is open to revisions, changes and additions once the trainee has tried it out and seen the results). Exactly which sections must be addressed to this extent before the trainee can begin physical work on the pond is the issue that has been approached in several ways. Unfortunately, once trainees stock their ponds and begin working, it is more difficult (mainly because of logistics) to ensure that they thoroughly cover all the required concepts in the other sections of their plans before implementing them. Ideally, it would be desirable to have all sections written before trainees ever leave the classroom. On the other hand, it is important to get the ponds stocked as soon as possible to give the trainees the longest possible growing time and the most possible experience working with their ponds and fish. Also, once the fish are in the ponds trainees feel a greater sense of urgency to get their feeding, fertilization, sampling and water quality monitoring sections done. Allowing trainees to begin pond preparation as soon as they have done that section of their plans is a good way to ease some of the tension they have been experiencing and breaks up the frustrating mental work with some physical activity. If this is done, it must be made clear to trainees that they are under some time pressure to work on their stocking sections as well. The trainer may be able to help the trainees structure their time by dividing the two tasks (pond preparation and stocking section of plan). Allowing trainees to stock their ponds before completing the other sections will probably be necessary due to the length of the training program, but staff need to put a lot of effort into their own organization in order to stay in very close touch with the progress of each trainee on the other sections of the plan. Building in certain procedures can help. For example, the appropriate trainer's initials can be required on a requisition for a Hach kit to ensure that the water quality section has been reviewed by the trainer before the trainee implements it. This is recommended, but difficulties do arise due to logistics and trainer to trainee ratios; and it can become very complicated and cumbersome. Having each trainer responsible for accounting for the progress of a specific set of trainees helps, but the difficulty of coordinating this should not be underestimated. Staff needs to commit to frequent staff meetings during this phase to closely monitor each trainee's progress;
• In the following sections, a list will be given of concepts and activities that should be addressed in the specified sections of the Management Plan. (Similar lists for other sections will be provided in Chapter Twelve.) These lists provide what is considered, in almost all cases, to be the minimum material that the trainee will need to consider and/or learn about for each section. However, this is another point where a reminder is in order to staff members regarding the importance of cautious judgement. Trainees possess different sets of skills and have a variety of backgrounds, and a certain amount of flexibility on the part of the staff is required:
• Pond Preparation:
• Consideration should be given to the condition of the pond bottom. A dry pond bottom allows for a "clean start", i.e., knowing exactly what fish are in the pond;
• Consideration of condition of dikes (rebuilding or repairing them as necessary);
• Planting or cutting of grass;
• Setting drains.
• General Pond Maintenance:
• Water management (maintaining desired levels, ability to drain and fill as needed);
• Upkeep of physical aspects of pond (dikes, vegetation, drains and inlets, etc.);
• Predator control;
• Erosion control.
• Stocking: This is one of the more difficult parts of the Management Plan and involves some of the most basic, most critical concepts that will be covered in training. Use of analogies is a particularly helpful tool for understanding concepts like carrying capacity, yield, under or overstocking, etc. Trainers need to work very closely with trainees throughout this section, and pay close attention to how well the trainee understands the concepts. The actual decisions the trainee makes (in terms of numbers, for example) are less important than those concepts.
The stocking plan can be divided into three major parts, if preferred. The first part is a description of the characteristics that would be desirable in a culture fish, the second section addresses the concepts involved in determining stocking rates and the actual numbers decided upon, and the third section describes the actual plan of action for physically stocking the fish.
Part I. Desirable characteristics of an ideal culture fish species:
• Hardy (i.e., disease resistance, ability to withstand handling and transport, wide range of tolerance in terms of water quality parameters);
• Fast growth;
• Feeds efficiently low on the food chain;
• Reproduces easily enough to enable farmer to have own fingerlings for restocking;
• Fecundity such that enough fry are produced for restocking without overreproduction occurring (optional point for now).
Part II. Determination of stocking rate:
• Stocking densities (how many fish and total weight of fish to stock, what does it depend on, how is it determined, what affects the decision);
• Carrying capacity:
• what it is (amount of biomass of a particular organism that can be supported within a given area without gaining or losing weight);
• how it is expressed (weight/area - not number of individuals, and not per volume);
• what affects it (availability of food, oxygen, concentration of waste products, etc.);
• how it can be manipulated (providing supplemental feed, fertilization, aeration, flow-through system, etc.);
• Effects of overstocking, understocking;
• Consideration of desired harvest size based on market demand and maximization of profit (Note: not necessarily "as big as the fish can get");
• How is carrying capacity used to help determine stocking density? (Carrying capacity divided by desired harvest size results in the number of individual fish to stock. The next step is to consider the size fish to be stocked, growth rates);
• Age and size considerations (Why is a small fish not necessarily a young fish and why is this an important point when stocking? How is growth affected by the age of the fish? During what stages of its life does a farmer have the most to gain by raising the fish?).
Once all of the important concepts and factors have been considered, the relationships between the factors have been discussed, the trainee has determined a carrying capacity for his/her pond (generally based upon an analogy), and a desired market size has been decided upon, the trainee has a few options, as follows, for making the actual decision about what to stock:
• One option:
a) Divide the carrying capacity by the market size to determine the number of individuals;
b) Calculate an assumed growth rate (generally based upon another analogy);
c) Calculate how much growth is expected to occur over the length of time that the trainee will be raising the fish;
d) Back-calculate to determine the weight the individual fish should be when stocked in order to reach the desired harvest size within the given time period.
• Another option:
a) The trainee may determine that the most profit will be obtained (and/or the most knowledge if thinking in terms of the Trainee Goal) if he/she raises the fish when it is young, thus capitalizing on the fastest part of the growth curve. Thus, the trainee may choose to stock young fish, assigning a certain given size to those young fish at stocking;
b) If, according to the growth rate anticipated, these fish cannot grow to the market size within the time constraints of the program, the trainee can determine the maximum amount of growth that is possible, thus deciding upon the size the fish would be at the training harvest time. He/she would then divide the carrying capacity by that figure in order to determine the number of fish to stock in order to fulfill the maximum potential of the pond. Note: the trainee might use the following kinds of reasoning in this case: that the fish will be sold to another farmer who will in turn raise them to market size; that an extrapolation can be done, based on the information obtained through sampling and harvesting, to determine how much longer it would have taken to bring the fish to market size if he/she were to continue; and how close he/she would have come to achieving carrying capacity and market size simultaneously;
• There are other approaches the trainee could take, but the important thing is that each participant understands the factors, concepts and interrelationships. The trainer also may feel some frustration in allowing the trainee to proceed based on unrealistic expectations of carrying capacity or growth rate. It would help if the trainee did the feeding plan before making final stocking decisions because a more realistic growth rate can be determined when working through the feeding plan. However, the realities of dealing with a training program rather than an actual commercial fish farming situation come into play here. It is important to get the ponds stocked as soon as possible to maximize the time the trainees spend raising fish. Furthermore, trying to cover too much territory at once (in terms of concepts) could be very confusing and overwhelming. Trainers just need to remember that the trainees will learn from mistakes just as well as, and perhaps better than, they would if they did everything exactly correctly based on input from the staff. They will have plenty of opportunities to obtain more specific information as training progresses. Again, the concepts are more important than the numbers.
• The result of this section of the stocking plan should be a stocking request, which states the number of fish being requested, the weight of fish being requested, the expected harvest numbers and weights and the length of the growing period.
Part III. Plan of action for physically stocking the pond:
• How fish will be removed from where they are (if being obtained from another pond);
• How fish will be handled;
• What information will be taken, and how it will be taken (weights, lengths, numbers);
• How fish will be transported to the trainee's pond;
• How fish will be introduced into the trainee's pond;
• Equipment and materials needed.