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Library Conditions for collective action: Understanding factors supporting and constraining community-based fish culture in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Vietnam

Conditions for collective action: Understanding factors supporting and constraining community-based fish culture in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Vietnam

Conditions for collective action: Understanding factors supporting and constraining community-based fish culture in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Vietnam

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December 2011
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Flood-prone ecosystems in South and Southeast Asia are traditionally farmed with deepwater rice followed by post-flood rice culture during the dry season. During the

flood season, the same land is inundated, creating an open-access water body subject to multiple uses by multiple users. Fish production in these areas is based on

the capture of wild fish. In these seasonal flood plains, fish are trapped in rice fields, reproduce and are harvested by farmerfishers or full-time fishers. These flooded areas cover about 4.5 million hectares in Bangladesh, and 1.2-1.4 million hectares

(Catling 1992) is deeply flooded in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam and Cambodia for 4 to 6 months each year. One option to improve access to protein and diversified income for local users

and to improve water-use efficiency is to integrate fish culture into this system. A number of studies conducted in the 1980s tested the technical feasibility of culturing

fish in seasonally flooded rice fields (Roy et al. 1990, Mukhopadhyay et al. 1992, Rothuis et al. 1998a, Rothuis et al. 1998b, Ali et al. 1998). These studies showed that

fish production could be increased by more than 1 ton per hectare per year (t/ha/yr) by stocking fish in flooded rice fields in individual plots. Based on these findings, the WorldFish

Center implemented between 1997 and 2000 on-farm experimental trials of community-based fish culture (CBFC) on the Ganges and Meghna floodplains of Bangladesh and the Red River and

Mekong deltas in Vietnam (WorldFish 2002). Farms are cultivated individually during the dry season, but during the flood season individual landholding boundaries

disappear under the water, and water bodies and flooded rice field resources become common property. The project was based on the premise that production from these water bodies could be enhanced

by stocking locally important fish species, providing communities with an additional source of income and an increased supply of affordable fish for sale or consumption

(e.g., Dey and Prein 2003, IIRR 2000, Sinhababu et al. 1984). The results showed that fish production can be increased, with an average of 226 kilograms (kg)/ha in

Vietnam and 863 kg/ha in Bangladesh, with a significant improvement of the household income (Dey et al. 2005). CBFC was found technically and economically sound and

socially acceptable. However, the project concluded that further research was needed to understand how the institutional mechanisms needed to support fish culture

differ in a range of different contexts. From 2005 to 2010, the Challenge Program on Water and Food project Communitybased Fish Culture in Seasonal Floodplains

developed a series of trials to test this technology under different environmental and socioeconomic conditions. The objective of the project was to test the feasibility of this

approach to improve water-use efficiency and provide benefits to the various users of seasonally flooded rice fields. Technical and economic aspects were monitored, and

locally appropriate group arrangements for fish culture management, benefit sharing and resource access were tested. Although the technical and environmental aspects of culture-based fisheries in

various countries are well documented (De Silva 2003, Nguyen et al. 2001, De Silva etal. 2006), CBFC in seasonal floodplains is a relatively new concept, and the suitability

of this approach in different contexts remains under question. The project aimed to address this issue by developing onfarm trials in seasonally flooding areas with

otherwise contrasting socioeconomic and natural environments. In this report, we focus on a study designed to understand the factors and conditons that support or constrain the feasibility and

uptake of community-based fish culture in seasonal floodplains. The aim of the study is to contribute to knowledge on institutions for collective action, and the feasibility of

community-based approaches to resource management, based on lessons learned in this 5-year project. The study also offers useful lessons for project implementation

in the field of research-for-development. The report begins with an introduction to the Community-based Fish Culture project and a description of the technical intervention.

The second part of the report introduces the study to investigate the conditions for collective action in community-based fish culture, beginning with a presentation of

the research approach and methodology. The third section presents the findings of the study. Finally, we present a synthesis of the factors supporing and constraining

community-based fish culture, key lessons learned and recommendations.

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Sheriff, N.
Joffre, Olivier M.

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