Modadugu V. Gupta and Madan M. Dey
International Center for Living Aquatic
Resources Management (ICLARM)
Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines



Aquaculture has been identified as the
fastest growing food production sector in the world, with the annual growth rate increasing from 5 percent in 1990-91 to around 14 percent in 1994-95 (FAO 1997). Much of the reported increases in production came from small-scale aquaculture in low-income food deficit countries where the demand for aquatic products is expected to continue increasing.
While an annual growth of 14 percent

This article is a condensed version of a paper entitled "Approaches, methods and indicators for assessing the impact of small-scale rural aquaculture projects for poverty alleviation and food security" presented at the FAO/APFIC Meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Group of  Experts on Rural Aquaculture, 20-22 October 1999, Bangkok, Thailand.


Impact assessment is often looked at as a one time exercise at the end of the activity/project. To be effective, it must be conducted at various stages of the project
development / implementation _ adoption _ impact continuum (Ahmed et al. 1999). A project(s) should begin with a clear identification of opportunities for aquaculture development in the target area, of the target population,

in aquaculture appears impressive, most of it is in China. Outside China, it is only 4.4 percent for other other countries in Asia, indicating a potential for further development of the sector. Aquaculture development has not realized its potential in many developing countries as the need for integrating aquaculture development into overall comprehensive rural development programs has not been appreciated. While it is generally accepted that aquaculture projects (excluding shrimp aquaculture and some other forms of intensive aquaculture such as intensive carp culture) in the region have had positive impacts, there is little empirical data to indicate the extent of the impact. Rigorous evaluation of the technical, economic, ecological and social impact of aquaculture is often not available or is limited. A FAO-NACA (Network of Aquaculture Centers in Asia and Pacific) survey identified weak institutional and enabling mechanisms for the lack of efficient application of improved aquaculture technologies in most countries of the Asia-Pacific region (Bueno 1999).

The paper is a brief discussion on the approaches and methods for assessing the impact of rural aquaculture projects on food security and poverty alleviation.

and the potential for impact at various levels (on the adopting households, non-adopting households, community, consumers, region, country). These identified opportunities and impacts need to be continuously monitored, evaluated and refined, using milestones laid out in the project proposals/documents.

Following Ahmed et al. (1999), Bantilan (1996) and Bantilan and Rayan (1996), a three-stage framework for assessing the impact of rural aquaculture projects is proposed (Table 1). It is, however, important to note that the method to be used and the sources of information and feedback for different projects vary at each stage of the framework.

The impact assessment in stage 1 (planning stage) of the framework is an ex ante assessment of a new project. It requires information on the demand (user's need) and supply (potential outcomes) aspects of the project. Surveys of producers and consumers on the current and future needs of existing and potential beneficiaries will provide information on the demand aspects of project outputs, while assessment of potential outcome (supply aspects) of the project needs to be based on the experience and judgment of experts. Biases inherent in these judgments and


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estimates need be taken into consideration as the project progresses. Benchmark information reflecting historical trends (e.g. yield, technological, social, demographic, economic, institutional and environmental) in the area of project concern and secondary data from national statistics and plans will serve as reference points in deriving and analyzing the ex ante potential.

The assessment of impact at the adoption stage (stage 2) will be more rigorous than the previous one as it involves measurement of the impact of a known technology.

Monitoring and evaluation methods will be used to examine the potential impact of a project outcome, e.g. a validated technology ready for dissemination, in terms of the indicators selected. Of foremost


interest at this stage of the of the continuum (stage 2), is the determination of: whether or not the project approaches/ technologies/ methods/products are being adopted and are benefiting the target groups; policy and institutional changes/support needed, if any, for adoption; how information and policy recommendations are influencing decision makers; and how these ultimately improve the welfare of various target groups. These considerations involve the determination of adoption rates and the quantification of socioeconomic and institutional factors influencing farm production and consumption, including responsiveness of producers and consumers to changes in prices.

A full analysis of the impact of project output will only be available with ex post assessment of the adoption or dissemination of the project outcomes/technologies. Field surveys and secondary information will provide the actual/extent of impact of the project. The rate and extent of adoption of technology and the policy and institutional environment can provide measures for gaps between ex ante estimates and ex post realization. Ex post impact will never be a complete measure nor will the impact be limited to a fixed time period. The impact of a certain technology/project can go beyond the time frame of the analysis and provide spillover benefits for a wider area than initially expected. Ex post impact assessment of projects aimed at poverty alleviation and food security should also assess the impact of the project on farming systems, sustainability, environment, equity and gender issues. Lack of adoption/impact of a project could also be due to an inadequate institutional framework and policies that deter the adoption and impact. Hence institutional arrangements need to be studied and appropriate suggestions made where necessary, to realize the objectives of the project.


Improvements in technology and their adoption eventually improve household, community, region and national welfare in terms of productivity, income enhancement, input savings, food and nutrition security, self-sufficiency, employment generation and, at times, export enhancement. It is also essential to ascertain that the increase in production as a result of the project is sustainable, focused on the poor and addresses gender equity. The impact of rural aquaculture projects could be broadly categorized as socioeconomic, ecological and institutional (Table 2).

Socioeconomic indicators are: efficiency, contribution to food security, employment generation and acceptability of technologies/project outputs. Improvements in efficiency can take several forms: increased production; decrease in production cost; improvement in quality; increase in profitability and income; higher surplus for consumers and producers; and increased exports. The essential indicators of food security are the availability of food and the ability to acquire it.

With regard to environmental (ecological) impacts, it is necessary to assess whether the project(s): (i) improved the resource base or resulted in degradation, and (ii) whether the increased production is sustainable over the long-term. An aquaculture project invariably effects (for better or for worse) the natural resource base and, hence, the need to assess the effects of such projects on soil and water quality, biodiversity, and the overall environment.

It is important to assess the extent to which the aquaculture project(s) strengthened the capacity of farmers, farmer’s organizations and national aquaculture R & D institutions and assisted in policy changes where necessary.


McAllister (1988), Pullin (1989,1993) and Ruddle (1993) have conceptualized the impact of aquaculture projects and suggested a holistic ecological approach. A few studies, some of which have been mentioned here, were conducted to analyze the impact of rural aquaculture projects. ICLARM (1998) analyzed the potential impact of the introduction of improved Nile tilapia, popularly known as GIFT fish, in terms of yield, cost reduction, profit enhancement, consumer prices and access in five Asian countries (Bangladesh, China, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam). The assessment was conducted through on-station and on-farm trials, and through surveys of producers, consumers and markets. The results revealed that the adoption of GIFT increased production by 24 percent (People’s Republic of China) to 67 percent (Bangladesh), reduced cost of production by 20-30 percent, increased production profitability and that the benefits would go mainly to the lower and middle income producers and consumers of fish (ICLARM 1998; Dey 1999).

Gupta et al. (1998, 1999) undertook studies to assess the impact of the integration of aquaculture with rice-fish farming in medium high lands during the irrigated and rainfed seasons and the introduction of low-input pond aquaculture in floodprone ecosystems in Bangladesh. Baseline surveys were undertaken in the project areas prior to the introduction of new technologies as well as two years after the completion of the projects to assess the adoption of technologies by the farmers and impact if any, on household income and nutrition. These studies indicated that in both cases the farmers have adopted the technologies and some have even improved/intensified the technologies. In the case of integrated rice-fish farming, farm income has increased by 65 percent, while there has been a tripling of household consumption of fish in the case of farmers adopting low-input aquaculture practices introduced in the floodprone ecosystem. In both cases, the studies revealed that relatively well off farmers took advantage of the new technologies, indicating the need for institutional support for poor farmers to benefit from the technologies.

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