By Mark Floyd, OSU News Service

(18 October 2006)

Oregon State University has received a five-year, $8.9 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development to lead a new research program designed to reduce poverty in developing countries by improving access to fish and water resources. OSU will lead the Aquaculture and Fisheries Collaborative Research Support Program, partnering with other universities and institutions around the world.

“Poverty remains the single biggest threat to children’s health today, and giving the poor better access to well-managed water resources can help toward the eradication of poverty,” said Hillary Egna, an international aquaculture specialist in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences and director of the new program.

“Our goal is to create global partnerships that develop sustainable solutions in aquaculture and fisheries for improving health, building wealth, conserving natural environments for future generations and strengthening poor societies’ ability to self-govern.”

Most of the grant money will be meted out to research teams from institutions around the world that will apply to the new center for funding, and competitive proposals for multi-disciplinary projects will be accepted beginning this fall. Roughly one-third of the research funds will target each of three regions in Africa, Asia and Latin America/Caribbean.

OSU has directed a Collaborative Research Support Program (or CRSP) in pond dynamics and aquaculture for years, Egna said. The new program will focus more on increasing access to water, and reducing the number of constraints to using aquaculture and fisheries to promote local economies.

“We’ve made a lot of progress over the last 20 years in increasing fish production through aquaculture,” she said, “but challenges still remain in terms of pressures from global trade, environmental impacts, water use conflicts and the distribution of benefits.”

Egna said the “capture” fisheries sector supplies a majority of the world’s fishery products. Aquaculture is gaining market share and can generate a lot of money for developing countries. However, the profits from those export-oriented aquaculture enterprises don’t always benefit local economies as much as they could.

Increasing the ability of developing countries to build their infrastructure and capacity through training and education is another primary goal, Egna pointed out.

“In one country, it might be access to fingerlings that is the critical roadblock to building aquaculture,” she said. “In another area, it might be limited educational opportunities for women, where a community-based outreach model could be implemented.

“Ultimately, we want to give producers and other stakeholders in developing countries better options to help their people. Our goal is not to go in there and tell them what to do.”

The U.S. Agency for International Development administers the U.S. foreign assistance program, providing economic and humanitarian assistance in more than 120 countries worldwide.