The group focused on risks and impacts of aquatic animal health problems to farmers and fishers and root causes of such risks and impacts.
The group discussed the risks of occurrence of diseases and epizootics in rural small-scale aquaculture systems and enhanced/stocked fisheries, their impacts on resource-poor rural communities, and the potential interventions for minimising and managing such risks.
It was agreed that there is a perceived risk of pathogen transfer, disease incursion, and subsequent outbreaks of disease in rural, small-scale aquaculture systems and enhanced/stocked fisheries in Asia, impacting the livelihoods of rural, resource-poor aqua-farmers, fishers, and their dependants, through loss of production, income and assets. As the risks and impacts of disease in aquaculture systems and fisheries may be different between countries and farming systems and circumstances, the interventions for mitigation may be different.
The group also agreed that health problems in aquaculture systems and fisheries can occur without involving the introduction of pathogens, due to management inadequacies, and such problems may cause significant negative impacts on rural livelihoods of small-scale aquaculturists.
The risks to livelihoods from introduction of pathogens and health problems originate from several fundamental inadequacies, but the main cause appears to be the "inadequate knowledge-base". Fundamental inadequacies include:
Many of the disease occurrences, mortalities and aquatic animal health problems in stocked systems are often beyond the control of rural communities. Measures to reduce such occurrence should be undertaken by all stakeholders (community, state and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs)) in consultation and partnership. Consensus should be built on identifying interventions and implementing them.
The perceived cause of outbreaks of disease in enhanced/stocked fisheries is stocking of poor quality seed without screening for pathogens. Although, some diseases and pathogens may not be controlled effectively, due to free movement of water and animals with associated pathogens and natural calamities such as floods in some countries, stocking with better quality seed screened for significant diseases and pathogens can have a significant positive impact.
The group considered the following measures to minimise risks of disease incursions and health problems in rural, small-scale aquaculture systems and enhanced/stocked fisheries.
Aquatic animal health management should be considered as a component within the efforts to integrate aquaculture and enhanced fisheries into overall rural development and livelihood programmes. Adequate emphasis should be given to including health management concepts within overall management strategies.
National aquaculture and fisheries policy should incorporate relevant components to address the overall aquaculture and stocked fisheries health, both commercial and rural.
In many countries, there is a need to review and evaluate the extension machinery and mechanism, and necessary improvements and reforms should be made to make extension more practical, effective and responsive to farmers' needs. This may involve getting extension workers involved in practical hands-on aquaculture within the extension process i.e., "experience training."
Since larger-scale commercial aquaculture, including hatcheries and nurseries, may pose certain risks impacting on the health of rural aquaculture and enhanced fisheries within rural development programmes, due consideration should be given for minimising such risks and impacts within commercial aquaculture development. Such strategies will benefit small and larger-scale producers alike.
It is imperative that communication between farmers, farmers' communities, NGOs, extension personnel and state instruments (including both development and research establishments), is improved so that farmers and fishers knowledge base for better management and decision making can be improved. Interventions for knowledge and resource-base improvements could be categorised into the following three areas: (a) better knowledge, (b) better transfer of knowledge and (c) improved resources.
Better Knowledge: The group considered that improving the knowledge base of the farmers and fishers, farming and fishing communities, extension instruments, institutions involved, and the policy makers and planners is important for overall management and minimisation of the risks and impacts of aquatic animal health and disease (see Chart 1).
Chart 1 - Knowledge transfer for improved management
The group felt that understanding the knowledge base of farmers, fishers and their communities, and identifying their needs are important for developing strategies to address the health-related negative impacts and risks. Evaluating the existing knowledge among farmers in using indigenous strategies and interventions, and transferring this information to extension personnel are also important.
The efforts to build farmers' knowledge base should not be based solely on technology. Farmers require science-based knowledge, combined with indigenous knowledge as appropriate, taking into consideration that farmers often have considerable practical experience in production using indigenous knowledge.
It was the opinion of the group that efforts are required to exchange knowledge within and between farmers, fisheries, communities, research and development agencies and countries. Special focus should be given to building the knowledge and skills of women involved in aquaculture.
Building awareness among the communities on the importance of small-scale aquaculture and stocked fisheries for improving livelihoods was also considered appropriate and timely.
The group recognised the importance of identifying the educational background of the extension workers and providing them with needs-based training to make extension more effective. Communication skills of extensionists should be improved, and the extension should be geared towards improving the farmers' knowledge through harnessing their own knowledge and making them to think and to take decisions. Extension should not focus on training farmers on specific technical activities, unless this knowledge is identified as a specific requirement.
The institutions involved in aquatic animal health management do not appear to have adequate access to much-needed information. Efforts are required to improve the access to information, and to disseminate information to farming communities more effectively and efficiently. Institutional capacities should be developed to meet the needs of farming and fishing communities.
Creating awareness among planners and policy makers on the importance of aquatic animal health care in rural, small-scale aquaculture and updating and upgrading their knowledge base to enable them to make correct and appropriate decisions were considered critical.
Better Transfer of Knowledge: The group agreed that the transfer of knowledge should reflect the path given in Chart 2 below.
Chart 2 - Knowledge Transfer Route
Improved Resources: The group believes that the need for resources is mainly for improving knowledge. There is also a need for improvement of physical resources and access to finance and credit.
Among farmers, fishers and their communities, improved communication through demonstrations, radio, TV, manuals, and by providing appropriate and adequate extension methodologies was recognised as highly important. Training programmes on specific topics, as appropriate for specific needs, as and when required, should be conducted to improve the knowledge of the community.
Development of community leadership in health checks and record keeping is highly relevant and will result in better communal management practices. Demonstration farms and field diagnostic facilities, perhaps maintained by better farmers, may be practical in maintaining the community approach to health management.
The resource base of the extension machinery should also be improved by providing specific training in practical issues, making practical material and tools for demonstration (identify relevant tools) and providing communication resources to keep them up-to-date (periodicals, bulletins, magazines, newsletters etc.).
Researchers and scientists should focus on local and specific problems and should make adequate linkages to other researchers within their communities. Networking should be encouraged. The institutions and researchers should have access to relevant, up-to-date books and journals.
Policy makers and planners should also be provided with adequate, relevant, up-to-date information and should create reasonably close linkages to technical experts in relevant fields. They should also be included in the information feedback networks for better understanding.
The group recommended that: