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CAFSWISA: Thriving fish growers for fresh and processed tilapia enterprise


The municipality of Cabanglasan belongs to the lowland areas in Bukidnon where the agricultural activity takes place on small farms that produce crops for subsistence and markets. While the area is arable than the highlands, growing staple food such as rice requires a flooded or irrigated land to keep water on the fields during tillage.

Through the Small Water Impounding Project (SWIP) implemented by the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) in the area, farmers can now cultivate rice through the irrigated farming system. The water-retaining structure constructed can hold up to 800,000-1,000,000 cubic meters of volume storage for rainfall and runoff waters.

Founded in 2018 with 20 members, the Cabanglasan Farmer’s Small Water Irrigation System Association (CAFSWISA) grows rice on a total production area of ​​87 hectares near the earthen dam. This farming activity provided them a steady annual income of Php 50,000-80,000 from selling only three-fourths of their harvest and saving the remaining for consumption.

Since it took them five months to wait for the grain to harvest, the group decided to venture into tilapia farming as an additional source of income.

With the existing source of water, a farmer can establish a 500-square meter (sqm) fishpond for every hectare of the rice field as additional food and income by diversifying farm activities and increasing yields of both rice and fish crops.

In June 2018, the Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) Program through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) 10 introduced the Tilapia in Freshwater Cage Project to the farmers and fishers of Cabanglasan.

Determined to get involved in the project, CAFSWISA became a beneficiary of tilapia in cage farming. Before the implementation, the group members were equipped with Tilapia in Fish Cage Grow-out training and good practices to ensure project sustainability.

Project implementation and management

Chaired by Mr. Leonilo Arcadio, CAFSWISA installed their cages measuring 25 square meters and started their operation in July 2018. Inputs provided include 4 units of fish cages, fish landing shed, freezer, and tilapia culture in fish cage grow-out technology, amounting to Php 574,210. The tilapia fingerlings were supplied under the Technology Outreach Station (TOS) of the BFAR regular program.

Fingerlings were then simultaneously stocked. After five months culture period, members harvested the fish at a 60% survival rate.

According to Mr. Arcadio, the 50-60% fish survival rate is a problem because it indicates lapses in the production process. Provincial SAAD Focal Person Alfonsus Gonzaga suggested putting the tilapia fingerlings in a pond first. Once they grow bigger, the fish are recommended to be transferred to the cages to have an assured 80% survival rate.

For the next production cycle, the group prepared a one-meter depth pond with water not less than a three-fourths meter deep and stocked the fingerlings. The mixed-sex populations of stocks lead to uncontrolled reproduction when the fish reached its sexual maturity at three to five months. Moreover, when the excessive recruitment of fingerlings happens, the parents and offspring compete for food and become stunted (may not reach the marketable size) due to overpopulation.

Moreover, commercial tilapia production generally requires the use of male monosex populations since they grow approximately twice as fast as females. Therefore, mixed-sex populations develop a large size disparity among harvested fish, which affects marketability (Towers, 2014).

To avoid this, after the fingerlings are nursed to an advanced size within two months, the group transferred them to the cage. While they are in breeding season at this time, their eggs will just fall through the bottom and will not develop if fertilized, thus disrupting the cycle.

Tilapia has a very small stomach and grows best when fed 2-3 times a day at 9 am and 5 pm, respectively. This is equivalent to 3% of their total body weight. When they enter the fastest-growing period (about 300 grams), the group feeds the fish five times daily. Also, they kept the fresh water oxygen level above three parts per million (ppm) to ensure a good appetite for fish to achieve rapid growth and be ready for market in five months.

Cages are also maintained by cleaning one or two times per month especially when organism like algae is present and by inspecting the cage regularly to make sure it is tightly covered with nets.

This whole process allowed the group to achieve the target growth rate (marketable size) at 350-500 grams and an 80% survival rate.


Each year, the group has one production cycle in which net income was saved up for the subsequent cycle expenses to sustain the project.

From 2018 to 2020, the group already stocked 30,000 tilapia fingerlings which provided them Php 222,900 gross income after selling 2,229 kilograms (kg) of tilapia grow-out valued at Php 100/kg.Table 1. Production income from tilapia in cage culture


Fingerlings Stocked
Total Fingerlings Harvested
Total Sold

Total Sales

2018 10,000 5,000 790 79,000.00
2019 10,000 6,500 677 67,700.00
2020 10,000 6,700 762 76,200.00
Total 30,000 18,200 2,229  222,900.00

According to Mr. Arcadio, marketing their fish has never been a problem. Several walk-ins and local buyers went to their area and directly bought the fish.

“Dako kaayu ni’g impact, mao nang dako kaayu mi’g pasalamat, dili lang ako, dili lang kami. Makatabang una ang iyahang income makadugang sa among association. Ang mga miyembro malipay gyud sila labi na ug naay harvest kay gawas nga barato, makakaon pagyud sila og presko nga tilapia. Maayo siya kay ang mga hugaw sa isda madala isip abuno sa amung basakan,” shared Mr. Arcadio referring to the impact of the SAAD project to them.

(It has a huge impact, that is why we are grateful, not just me, not just them. Our income helps the association. Members are delighted especially during harvest because they can buy the fish at a cheaper price and enjoy a tasty dish from fresh tilapia. Also, fish waste carried in the water flow serves as fertilizer for our irrigated rice fields).

He added that they prayed SAAD will not yet conclude this year because they are hoping to gain more knowledge on tilapia farming through a series of training provided by the program.

Association secretary Ms. Elvira Sakin also said that they are thankful for the SAAD project because they already had their rice supply and now they have immediate access to tilapia as their favorite viand.

“Ang plano sa asosasyon sa pagka-karon nga ampingan gyud na namung fishcage ug manalangin sab mi nga unta ma-extend pa ang support ninyo aron madugangan ang amung pondo. Amo pagyud nang e-tigum, ug dili pa gyud na magamit para sa project, pwede gihapon namu na igamit sa uban pang project kay daghan pa ang gastuhanan pero ang uban nga mga BOD dili nga musugot nga gamiton kay ang kwarta diha ra gyud na siya sa fish cage,” she answered pertaining to the group’s plan.

(Our plan as of now is to take care of our fish cages and we pray that SAAD support will be extended to help us save more.  Our savings will just be intended for the operation and maintenance of our cages).Proactive measures to avoid pilfering

Mr. Arcadio shared that they have taken preventive action to steer away outside fishers who steal fish in the cages. If the incident happens, there is an internal policy on paying the appropriate penalties from the first to the second offense.

To make it clear, they put up boundaries and assigned a member to watch the surroundings.

“Gibuhatan namo og boundary ang amuang fish cage. Gipalutaw namo diha ang mga plastic ug pisi nga nagpamatuod nga bawal mag-entry dinha. Dayon naa pod mi polisiya nga bawal mag-laya diri, bawal mag-bingwit. Kung kinsa’y madakpan naay first offense, second offense. Kung kinsay makadakop, tunga sa penalty ang iyaha, ang katunga sa barangay. Ang bantay pod namu dinhi, sa barangay na dretso mu-tawag, dili na sa association,” disclosed Mr. Arcadio.

(We created boundaries for our fish cage using a nylon fishing net with float line attached to small plastic floats to inform others that they cannot enter. Then, we also have a policy that hooked and cast net fishing are not allowed. Whoever is caught will be on first and second offense sanction directly reported to the barangay. The penalty fee imposed will be equally shared by the barangay and the one who caught the disobedient individuals).

Plans for enterprise development

Mr. Arcadio said that their income this year will be allocated for the development of the group’s tilapia nursery in the pond. This is to ensure ready stock of tilapia fingerlings for the next production cycle.

Also, they plan to engage in processing value-added products like lamayo (half-dried marinated tilapia) and tilanggit (dried tilapia)  to achieve zero post-harvest loss. This is after they receive the training for tilanggit and lamayo making, coached by the Provincial SAAD Focal Person Alfonsus Gonzaga.

Such efforts will help them sustain the project and expand their production area for fish cages. ###


Writer: Jennifer Valcobero, DA-SAAD NPMO Public Relations and Communications Officer
Sources of Photos and Data: BFAR 10 and PFO SAAD Bukidnon

Towers, L. (2014). New Guide to Farming Tilapia: Breeding and Hatchery retrieved from

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