The group discussed the institutional environment, what does it deliver and how should it deliver more to address needs.
In discussing institutional issues, the group (as had Group 1) also recognised that the type of interventions appropriate for different countries would vary depending on institutional capacity, resources and infrastructure availability. Institutional interventions within inland enhanced fisheries programmes - especially to minimise transfer of pathogens, movement of species, obtaining good quality seed, stocking healthy fry etc. - were not considered because of the lack of understanding of health issues within the context of stock enhancement programmes within the group.
The group also did not discuss the institutional issues related to the development of national and regional quarantine protocols, which are being covered through complementary FAO/NACA/OIE Asia programmes. It recognised, however, the importance of providing conditions in the aquaculture sector that minimise risks from disease outbreaks caused by trans-boundary movements of aquatic animals.
Following this background, group discussions focused on institutional issues and interventions to:
In general terms, the group considered that ongoing national, regional and international efforts to strengthen aquatic animal health management institutions should give greater attention to the identification of aquatic animal health risks and their management within small-scale aquaculture in the rural livelihood context.
The group discussions considered both low-input systems and resource-intensive systems involving poor people - the emphasis was on livelihoods. Some of the more resource-intensive systems within the region which can involve the rural poor include: small-scale marine and freshwater cage culture; fish nursing systems; improved extensive shrimp culture (e.g., in India and Bangladesh); and pond culture, including integrated farming systems, ornamental fish and community-based hatcheries.
The group considered that some culture systems could be made less resource intensive and more appropriate to the poor. The group recognised that, before a technology is deployed, it must be researched and the social and cultural environment in which its use is intended should be considered, before it is disseminated to resource-poor groups as a potential livelihood option. The risk of disease incursions and outbreaks is generally linked to poor management.
It was emphasised that intensive/higher income commercial aquaculture is linked to the rural aquaculture sector in various ways, and it is often difficult to make a clear distinction between the two. For example, the dependence of small-scale aquaculture upon hatcheries for their seed fish can expose small-scale producers to diseases (due to the focal nature of hatcheries in some countries, more intensive stocking densities etc.). Such relations emphasise the importance of a national aquatic animal health management system that is responsive to aquatic animal health problems in national aquaculture development - low-input livelihood systems and commercial, larger-scale aquaculture. The group also noted that when disease occurs, then small-scale farmers may be particularly vulnerable and may share more of the burden.
Entry points should be identified for effective aquatic animal health interventions. The group recognised that disease problems may - in some circumstances - be entry points for an overall improvement in aquatic system management and better livelihoods.
As stated in national plans, governments have a range of priorities from export earnings to support to small-scale producers, food security and livelihoods, and allocate resources to meet these priorities. The working group considered that small-scale livelihood systems should be given higher priority in national plans. Existing aquatic animal health management and technical packages have historically been technology, production or yield orientated, approaches that have not always delivered sustainable benefits to small-scale farmers.
Recently, there is more emphasis on the livelihood approach to aquaculture; a more holistic approach that attempts to understand the needs, crucial resources and abilities of farmers, and their linkages, through a participatory approach. Aquatic animal health interventions should be "delivered" using this participatory approach.
Broadly speaking, the following organisations are available for delivery of aquatic animal health information:
The management of aquatic animal health problems and of risk associated with the movement of pathogens can be improved through identification of potential key "control points." This approach, whilst not well tried, should be a cost-effective way of managing risk of pathogen spread to small-scale producers, and to improve support for aquatic animal health management and management in general.
The group discussed and identified a number of potential formal and non-formal entry and control points for delivery of management advice:
How to reach large numbers of farmers in extension programmes?
Impact and cost-effectiveness can be enhanced by building on existing government structures and through better co-operation and linkages among different agencies and institutions involved in the rural sector. For example, health and pond management messages can be extended through Departments of Fisheries, Departments of Agriculture and Departments of Livestock and Veterinary Services.
Information dissemination can be made more effective through use of alternative extension channels and promotion of better linkages and co-operation with farmer groups, NGO's, schools and non-formal channels such as media/TV. Linkages between government extension officers and private/non-government organisations should be promoted.
Technical co-operation among farmers and within farmer groups for self-help opportunities and to promote self-reliance in identification and management of problems should also be promoted.
How to build more effective linkages?
A recurrent theme during group discussions was building of more effective linkages for dissemination of aquatic animal health management messages among concerned stakeholders. These linkages might include: (a) National research institutes (NRIs) and government extension, (b) Commercial farms and national research institutes, (c) Seed suppliers/producers and small-scale farmers, (d) NGOs and small farmers, (e) Government extension, NGOs and small farmers, (f) Donors and NGOs, and (g) Regional research and national research institutes. There are opportunities to strengthen these linkages to disseminate messages on primary health care. How and what is to be done? Some possible linkages are noted below:
Seed producers/fry traders and small-scale farmers -More emphasis
needs to be given looking into the potential use of this important linkage
and dissemination channel, with potential to interact with large numbers of
National research institutes (NRIs) and small-scale farmers - Research between NRIs and small-scale farmers should be promoted to analyse management entry points, control points and information delivery and surveillance systems.
Government hatcheries/extension and small-scale farmers - There is a need to better integrate health messages into the extension programmes and for extension to focus more on small-scale sector. It may be necessary to work with partners for improving impact to overcome serious staff shortages in many countries.
NGOs and small-scale farmers - NGOs in some countries often have good links with small-scale farmers, although there is a need to look at mechanisms to improve technical information delivered.
Government extension and NGO's extension - Better exchange of experiences between NGOs and government through building of long-term relations should be promoted for more effective communication with farmers.
Farmer groups - Linkage among farmers involved in farmers groups can make extension more effective. Where possible efforts to improve dissemination of information should be based upon existing groups.
Private-sector research/experience - linkages are mainly with commercial farms. In some countries, relevant information on health management can be accessed from the private sector.
The group emphasised that the co-operation between aquatic animal health management professionals and extensionists and farmers in the identification of problems and development of extension messages should be promoted. In-country networking and development of a national aquatic health management system, which is responsive to needs and able to deal with serious epizootics, is also required.
The development of extension messages needs to be based on careful understanding of target groups - their needs, problems and circumstances. Much can be learnt also from careful evaluation of the success and/or failure of existing extension programmes. There are also opportunities to better understand the success of basic management measures in reducing risk to livelihoods from aquatic animal disease.
The relevance and impact of extension messages needs careful consideration. Messages should be appropriate to the target group and practical and cost-effective to implement. The methodologies for formulation of the messages, therefore, require careful attention and close interaction with farmers during their development.
Practical "hands-on" training - active participation of farmers and on-farm demonstrations should be emphasised in extension programmes. The design of simple analytical tools - for example analysis of what is happening in farm ecology - could be an important basis for better dialogue with farmers on aquatic animal health issues. Farmer capacity building to analyse and solve on-farm problems should be promoted, based on understanding of needs and how it can be done.
Better co-ordination and exchange of information on training programmes, their activities and impacts, at the national and regional levels, would also be cost-effective and useful in the design and development of appropriate means of supporting farmers.
The sustainability of extension programmes and technical support to farmers in dealing with health problems needs to be given careful attention at an early stage in the design of such programmes. Sustainability can be improved by ensuring that extension services are farmer driven (i.e., responsive to farmers' needs). Consideration might also be given to cost recovery mechanisms for the services provided by government and non-government services to ensure their sustainability.
Much can be done to reduce the impacts of aquatic animal health problems on livelihoods through an early and effective response to problems. To assist farmers in recognising and responding to problems, an essential requirement is better dialogue with farmers. Government has a key role and responsibility in promoting better dialogue, but is often constrained by numbers (large numbers of farmers, compared to small numbers of government extension officers).
On-farm monitoring and self-evaluation of aquaculture systems by farmers would help in early diagnosis and correction of on-farm problems, and is likely to be very cost-effective. Simple analytical tools, as used for IPM (integrated pest management) programmes, could support such an approach.
Increasing awareness among extension officers of health management issues and better systems of farm level surveillance and monitoring (e.g., such as record keeping, where possible) are required.
The group recognised that many aquatic animal health problems could be avoided or controlled through improved basic farm-level management; however there is a need to improve the institutional response to serious epizootics and other major aquatic animal disease problems. Institutional co-operation, improved capacity and an appropriate level of diagnostic or other support are necessary in such cases to respond quickly and effectively to such problems.
To build more effective health management support, better understanding of current problems through consultation with farmers, analysis of institutional responsibilities and training needs analysis are required so that systems are need based and realistic in being able to effectively respond to farmer problems.
At the national level, monitoring and evaluation of existing projects can help provide a basis for further improvement, and should be encouraged
Research in support of aquatic animal health needs to be evaluated in the field. Farmers/field workers should be made partners in the identification and implementation of research projects.
The working group made the following recommendations to improve aquatic animal health management and minimise the risk of health problems affecting the livelihoods of small-scale farmers and their households:
Case studies/pilot projects should be undertaken to assess aquatic animal health problems and better understand the relative risk to livelihoods, and to explore strategies and means for effective delivery of services to the small-scale sector. Exchange of information and experiences arising from such pilot projects should be promoted.