C arlos Leyva, native to Honduras, became interested in aquaculture while attending the Escuela Agricola Panamericana (EAP), Zamorano. "I was amazed going through a production cycle from stocking to harvest and astounded by the large amounts of succulent products resulting from it," said Leyva. After graduation in 1986, Leyva worked as an extension agent. He went on to receive a B.S. from Kansas State University and began working for a shrimp farm in Choluteca, Honduras. During his time in Choluteca, he received invaluable technical support from Dan Meyer, a CRSP host country Principal Investigator based at EAP, who would ultimately influence Leyva to pursue a graduate degree in aquaculture. Leyva returned to Zamorano in 1991 and worked in the aquaculture department at EAP.
In the fall of 2002, Leyva began working on a graduate degree at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB). His thesis project, titled "Central American Aquaculture Markets: Optimizing Tilapia Marketing in Honduras," focuses on the shortcomings of domestic marketing of tilapia in Honduras. Leyva has been responsible for gathering information from small- and medium-scale farmers for use in a model that aims to optimize marketing efforts in the region.
The most challenging aspect of Leyva's studies has been learning to use the mathematical programming tools involved in the modeling process, although, in addition to networking with other aquaculture enthusiasts, Leyva finds mathematical programming to be the most exciting and useful facet of his studies thus far.
According to Leyva, "Tropical conditions and the countryÕs natural resources are factors that favor aquaculture in Honduras." Both marine and freshwater species thrive in the warm, wet climate year-round. However, Leyva believes
Graduate Student Profile: Carlos Leyva
that the infrastructure of the Honduran market is a stumbling block for small producers. There is little organization among growers, which gives the middlemen excessive control over prices. Through his research, Leyva hopes to shed some light on the constraints to tilapia culture in Honduras.
When asked about the state of aquaculture globally Leyva replied, "Aquaculture is expanding rapidly; technology can hardly catch up with commercial needs." However, Leyva believes that advocates for capture fisheries are overly critical of aquaculture in an attempt to lower market interest in cultured products.
Leyva was born and raised in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and he plans to return to Honduras after graduation in May 2004. He will be working for Mountain Stream Tilapia, a past employer who has maintained close contact with him. More specifically, he will start a market support department that will focus on quality and research and development.
In the future, Leyva plans to start his own farm, but not for tilapia. He hopes to raise red snapper in sea cages. Ocean cage culture is one of the most exciting and rapidly developing fields in the industry.
In addition to his own research, Leyva spends time helping his fellow students in the laboratory and in the field. He also finds time to go fishing, hunting, play soccer and racquetball, and spend time with his family.
A s part of the follow-up of the fingerling production study in Honduras, in December 2003 we organized and held a four-day fingerling producers training course with nine fish farmers selected from throughout Honduras. The results of the previous interviews with these farmers helped to tailor the course content to the needs and deficiencies they feel were constraints to their efficiency in producing fingerlings.
The participants came from different areas of Honduras, including farmers and extension agents from NGOs and the local government. All were already locally producing and distributing tilapia fingerlings. Whether selling or distributing them as part of the NGOs mandate, these producers play an important role in the development of tilapia production from backyard ponds to commercial operations. Approximately 50% of the hotel and food costs were paid for by the participants and the rest of the course was financed with Aquaculture CRSP project funds.
The course consisted of two days in Zamorano in the aquaculture station and two days visiting tilapia producers in Olancho, Comayagua, and Lake Yojoa. The participants received classroom-type presentations on tilapia biology, reproduction, protocols for producing all-male fingerlings, definition and estimation of production costs, and in
Tilapia Fingerling Producer Training Course in Honduras
Fingerling producers and instructors with diploma participation presented at the end of the course.