Under the ACIAR-funded project Culture-based fisheries development in Lao PDR and Cambodia, a monitoring team recently visited both countries to observe progress by participating community groups and to provide guidance for the next stocking season. The project is working with rural villages to implement culture-based fisheries as a community activity, where the work, management and benefits are shared by local residents.
The monitoring team travelled to Oddar Meanchey and Preah Vihea provinces to meet with communities at the trial sites. The team assessed activities to be undertaken in the upcoming stocking cycle, in particular the stocking and harvesting plans and strategies to increase community awareness to optimise the returns from culture-based fisheries activities.
The team was comprised of Prof. Sena De Silva, Lead Consultant; Dr. C.V. Mohan, R D Manager, NACA; Srun Lim Song, Country Project Leader; and representatives of the Research Team, Hort Sitha, Ou Sary, Ouch Vutha and representatives from the provincial fishery authorities Hunong Dalya (Kampong Thom Province), Pen Verna (Preah Vihea Province) and Heng Sen (Oddar Meanchey Province).
It was evident in all reservoirs visited by the team that culture-based fisheries activities being undertaken by the communities were contributing directly to food and nutritional requirements of the local people. Harvested fish were not being sold or marketed. Rather, whenever a household’s catch exceeded its daily needs the excess was preserved for future use by processing it into a paste or sauce for future consumption.
The highlight of the visit was the team’s participation in two community meetings, held in Oddar Meanchey and Preah Vihea on 25 and 27 September, respectively. The meetings were well received, with some people travelled more than 100 km (three hours by motorbike) to attend. Ideas and concerns were freely shared and new strategies for increasing the returns from the culture-based fisheries activity were discussed. There was consensus that species such as silver barb, catfish and others that could reproduce in the reservoir environment added benefit to production, a request to increase the numbers stocked. The communities also suggested that giant freshwater prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii) be included in the stocking programme.
The meetings discussed ways to improve the survival rate of the seed stock delivered to each site. As Cambodian law allows open access to reservoir fisheries there is no mechanism to prevent households fishing, even immediately after stocking. Accordingly, a suggestion by Prof. De Silva to enhance the returns on stocked fish by increasing the conservation area in each reservoir and netting it off to confine the stock for four to five months, allowing a greater proportion of the stocked seed to grow near capacity, was accepted by the stakeholders. The suggestion also included that one or two days of community fishing immediately after removal of the net would allow the whole catch to be marketed with some of the proceeds used for purchasing seed stock for the next cycle. The community representatives agreed to implement these strategies during the next crop, and it is believed that these changes in the practice will significantly increase the return from stocking.
Illegal fishing, in particular the use of prohibited gear such as electro-fishing, was also a common concern amongst most communities, the situation being exacerbated by the fact that military personnel also engage in such activities, making it difficult to stop. However, the Project Leader undertook to consult local authorities to request their assistance in reducing illegal fishing.
There was general agreement that inter-community and inter-provincial exchanges will be useful for encouraging exchange ideas and bringing about an overall improvement in culture-based fisheries activities.
The project activities in Lao PDR, where culture-based fisheries is at a more advanced stage, having been introduced under a previous ACIAR project, is trialling the establishment of Communication Centres to support community culture-based fisheries activities. Eight centres have been established to date at sites accessible to farmers, covering the communities that have been drawn into the project since 2011. The centres are located at:
In general farmer inquiries are brought to the attention of the relevant communication centres by village leaders, who are the main contact point between the regional/ provincial authorities and partners. To date, on average in for example, Saythani District, all five reservoir heads visit the communication centre once per week and place their inquiries. Based on the nature of the inquiry the communication centre staff will visit the community obtain “on ground” information and provide first line extension support. Where specialist intervention is required the staff will forward the inquiry to the Head Office of the Department of Livestock and Fisheries for advice. Most of the enquiries to date have been regarding technical issues concerning seed procurement, health management and predator control.
The initial plan for linking the Communication Centres was to make use of Skype to support voice and video interaction over wireless 3G data connections. However, 3G coverage proved to be inadequate for Skype in nearly all rural sites and so the centres now make use of instant messaging services (preferred) and email. The Department of Livestock and Fisheries also plans to establish a Facebook group to enable project participants to interact and share photographs (important for health, environmental concerns) online. However, as Facebook is still relatively unknown to people outside the capital they plan to hold a training course to introduce to project participants in November.
Communities have requested the setting up of centres at each culture-based fisheries site. As this will require considerable training and support, the most capable communities will be piloted first; a process which is expected to be extended gradually through more communities throughout the course of 2014. The proposed target is about two communities per district, including communities involved in the Van Vien and Tulakhom Districts.
The Lao project team, in collaboration with Australian project personnel, has developed a manual on artificial propagation for culture of silver barb (pa phia)whilst a manual for better management practices drafted by Prof. De Silva, is being further scrutinised by the Lao team. The pa phia manual is presently being translated into Lao and will be published together with “farmer friendly” versions by the end of 2013.
An exchange visit of a Laotian farmer group to Cambodia will be held in April- May 2014. A regional workshop will also be held to discuss the outcomes of the project in Siem Reap in October 2014 (dates to be advised).