NEWS FROM THE FAO REGIONAL OFFICES

From the Regional Office for
Asia-Pacific (RAP)


Simon Funge-Smith
Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Simon.FungeSmith@fao.org

STREAM launch

STREAM (Support to Regional Aquatic Resources Management) is a new initiative launched this month. Its objectives are to obtain a better understanding of poor peoples’ livelihoods and how to use relevant existing and emerging information more effectively, in order to enable people to exert greater influence over the policies and processes that impact on their lives. It is explained in a STREAM brochure, and memorandum summary that are now available (contact ereby@enaca.org). The development of country-specific implementation strategies for two pilot countries (Cambodia and Viet Nam) is a priority action over the coming months.

A diverse coalition of partners supporting the start-up of STREAM has worked together over the last 18 months to negotiate a shared vision, input different experiences and expertise into the planning process, and implement pilot activities in Cambodia and Viet Nam. This coalition will increase in size and diversity as STREAM expands into other countries, and awareness and understanding of the initiative increases among other stakeholders. The founding partners are: the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA), the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom (DFID), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the INGO Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO). STREAM is designed within NACA’s 5-year Work Programme cycle to support stakeholders to achieve the long-term objectives. It is a regional initiative that will:

  • Support capacity building among local government institutions, non-governmental agencies (NGOs), and community groups involved in aquatic resources management, including the provision of training and long-term practical support in livelihoods analyses and participatory approaches, support to poor aquatic resource users to participate more effectively in policy-making processes, and encouraging the development of more responsive government institutions.
  • Support a number of new community-based learning initiatives, the practical experiences from which will combine with lessons learned from existing case studies and feed into STREAM’s communication strategy to influence policy and practice in the region.
  • Develop a regional communications and learning strategy to realize the considerable potential that exists to facilitate lesson-learning and improved coordination between current aquatic resource initiatives in the region, increase the participation of poor aquatic resource users in decision-making processes (through the use of innovative communication approaches), and ensure policy-making is informed by lesson learning.
  • Support on-going policy and institutional changes in the region, by facilitating policy development at the national level, increasing exposure to lessons and experience at the community level, maximizing utilization of the existing regional knowledge base, and providing capacity-building support to the change process.
  • FAO/NACA Expert Consultation - "Focusing Aquaculture and Small-scale Aquatic Resource Management on Poverty Alleviation"

    The FAO/NACA Expert Consultation on "Focusing Aquaculture and Small-scale Aquatic Resource Management on Poverty Alleviation" was held in Bangkok, on February 12-14 2002. With the collaboration of NACA, this expert consultation was supported by FAO as a contribution to the regional communications role of the FAO/NACA/DFID/VSO initiative "Support to Regional Aquatic Resource Management" (STREAM). There has been a growing awareness within the aquatic resource sector of the need to address poverty more specifically and more strategically. The Expert Consultation was organized in order to provide field-level professionals in Asia with an unique opportunity to come together to share experience on working in the field of poverty alleviation and aquaculture, and to prepare a platform for future networking. The 22 participants in the consultation came from a range of field backgrounds in eight regional countries and are currently working with NGOs, donors, government departments and regional organizations (Mekong River Commission [MRC], NACA) and regional offices of international organizations (FAO, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, IUCN; International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management, ICLARM). The consultation report and full versions of the participants’ contributed papers will be published serially in the NACA newsmagazine "Aquaculture Asia", and made available via the NACA/STREAM website. The Expert Consultation concluded that living aquatic resources play a fundamental role in sustaining the livelihoods of many of the rural poor in Asia, providing crucial buffers to shock, food security and opportunities for diverse and flexible forms of income generation. In many cases, the poorer people are, the more dependent they are upon aquatic resources, particularly low-value fish and non-fish aquatic resources. Women often play important roles in aquatic resource use and management, and aquaculture interventions may have particular benefits for women.

    Small-scale aquaculture and aquatic resource management hold considerable potential to contribute to poverty alleviation. In order to realize this potential, poverty alleviation should be taken as the strategic starting point for aquaculture interventions. This has significant implications for how interventions are conceptualized, planned and executed, and the institutional arrangements. Distinctions between aquaculture and the management of living aquatic resources are often artificial and devalue the flexible and often complex relationships between aquatic resources and the livelihoods of the rural poor. As with any production-based intervention, the poorest groups face significant constraints to entry into aquaculture. Opportunities do exist to overcome these constraints, and aquaculture offers many opportunities for livelihood benefits that other sectors do not offer. Aquaculture technologies appropriate for poor people are now largely in place. The greater emphasis is on more effective extension of low-cost technologies, appropriate management practices to poor people and securing rights of access and control, rather than technical research.

    Understanding the context of poor people’s livelihoods is essential. Effective poverty alleviation requires assessment of poor people’s needs and identification of opportunities that allow for entry by poor people into aquaculture production and related activities. This in turn requires more sophisticated yet workable understandings of poor people’s livelihoods, the causes and characteristics of poverty, and the socio-economic worlds in which poor people operate. A prerequisite for this approach is greater participation by poor people. Poor people’s livelihoods often depend on a range of resources and livelihood activities, of which aquaculture may be an important component. In these cases, aquaculture needs to fit with and complement other activities, rather than attempt to replace such activities. Effective management of small-scale fisheries (including rice-fields, backwater swamps, and irrigation canals) by local resource users holds considerable potential for poor people. Small-scale aquaculture is often an important component of management of wild fisheries. Placing poverty alleviation first requires innovative institutional arrangements and partnerships between governments, NGOs, civil society groups, poor people and donors. Fisheries institutions are traditionally oriented to technical issues, and face serious budget and personnel constraints. They often have limited experience in training and extension methods appropriate for poor people. It is important to create new learning opportunities for these institutions so that they are able to provide more appropriate services to poor people. It is also important that the skills required to do so are valued and respected within the institutions.

    For further information on this consultation and related issues, please visit the following websites:

    FAO: www.fao.or.th/
    NACA: www.enaca.org
    STREAM :http://www.streaminitiative.org/index.html



    Expert Consultation on
    "New Approaches for the Improvement of
    Inland Fishery Statistics in the Mekong Basin"


    The FAO/MRC Expert Consultation on "New Approaches for the Improvement of Inland Fishery Statistics in the Mekong Basin" will be held in Udon Thani, Thailand in September 2002 and hosted by the Thai Department of Fisheries (DOF). The Consultation will provide advice on ways to improve the state of knowledge on inland fisheries in the sub-region. Specifically, the Consultation will help to establish minimum data requirements for inland fishery management, assess and develop methodology for rapid data collection, raise awareness of the value of inland fisheries, and provide guidance on collection of appropriate information on inland fisheries.

    Second Large Rivers Symposium (LARS2)

    Rivers and their social, cultural, economic and ecological importance remain grossly neglected or under-valued. Production from inland fisheries is thought to be two to five times higher than the officially reported value. River fish and fisheries only came under serious scrutiny in the 1970s, and the knowledge then available was summarized at the International Large River Symposium (LARS) held in Canada in 1985. Since then, considerable new information has been gathered on the ecology and values of rivers. In view of the importance of large rivers for food production and the current emphasis on the protection of biological diversity worldwide, it is timely that a second international symposium focussing specifically on large rivers be organized. The Symposium is being convened by the Mekong River Commission (MRC) and the Cambodian Department of Fisheries (DOF), in collaboration with the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

    The Symposium will focus on the management (i.e. conservation and sustainable use) of living aquatic resources of large rivers, including the impacts of human activities on these. The objectives of the Symposium are to:

  • provide people working on the management and development of rivers with a forum to review and synthesize the current status of large river systems, including topics such as ecology, fisheries, environmental impact assessments, multiple uses of resources and associated socio-economic considerations;
  • raise the political, public and scientific awareness of the importance of river systems, the living aquatic resources they support and the people that depend upon them; and
  • contribute to better management, conservation and restoration of the living aquatic resources of large rivers.
  • Aquaculture Country Profiles

    FAO, through the Subregional Office for the Pacific (SAPA) in Samoa, in cooperation with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) based in New Caledonia, is compiling Aquaculture Country Profiles from 22 Pacific Island countries and territories that comprise FAO member countries (Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Is., Tonga & Vanuatu) and non-member countries/territories (American Samoa, Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Northern Marianas, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Pitcairn, Tokelau, Tuvalu, & Wallis and Futuna). The objectives of collecting the aquaculture information are:

  • to provide information of the status of aquaculture in the Pacific for input to FAO global databases and reviews such as ‘State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA)’; and
  • to provide general reference material that would help organizations, donors and other stakeholders in planning future directions for aquaculture development in the Pacific.
  • FIJI – TCP/FIJ/0167 (A): Enhancement of Customary Marine Fishery Tenure

    The Director-General of FAO approved in August 2001 the technical assistance for the project "Enhancement of Customary Marine Fishery Tenure" for the Government of Fiji. The project is funded from TCP resources in the amount of US$60 000.

    The conservation and management of fisheries in Fiji poses major challenges for the Government. Government policy seeks to strengthen this management in the interests of:

  • securing rational and sustainable use of inshore fishery resources,
  • improving the management and utilization of inshore fishery resources that are habitually targeted by artisanal and small-scale fishermen, and
  • ensuring that inshore fisheries in Fiji continue to contribute in a substantial and sustained manner to national food security. Of particular concern are issues related to over-exploitation of inshore fishery resources.
  • The objective of this technical assistance is to enable the Ministry of Fisheries and Forests to strengthen inshore fisheries management in Fiji by enhancing the role of the traditional customary rights ("qoliqoli") system. The assistance will enhance the national capacity of Fiji to better conserve and manage its inshore fisheries resources, facilitate the greater participation of fishing communities in the management of their adjacent resources and the sustainable development of the country’s fisheries sector.

    Tonga - TCP/TON/0166: Development of Seaweed Farming in Tonga


    A TCP project on "Development of Seaweed Farming in Tonga (TCP/TON/0166)" has been approved and will commence in April 2002. The objective of the technical assistance is to strengthen the capability of the Government of Tonga in the sustainable use of resources through the culture of the edible seaweed Cladosiphon sp. ("mozuku") for commercial/export purposes, thereby increasing opportunities for socio-economic development in aquatic farming communities. Over a period of 12 months, the project will provide for the services of an international and a national consultant and technical and administrative support from FAO HQ, FIRI, RAP and SAPA.

    For any information relating to the activities of the Regional Office Asia-Pacific, please contact the Simon Funge-Smith Simon.FungeSmith@fao.org


    From the Africa Regional Office (RAPI)


    African quaculture:
    how to handle the harvest

    Background

    Many African farmers have hopes to benefit from aquaculture; getting food for the family as well as income. They have worked hard to build ponds and now await plentiful harvests. In spite of its apparent simplicity, however, results from campaigns aimed at promoting aquaculture have frequently been less than anticipated and are rarely long lasting.

    Difficulties in implanting viable aquaculture enterprises have been the subject of many fora. Most recently, the Africa Regional Aquaculture Review (CIFA/OP24, 2000 -- FAN No. 23) noted: "Nearly every country in the Region [has] developed some form of aquaculture. Aquaculture seems to fit naturally within African farming systems. Yet, in spite of the Region’s apparent under-utilized resources of land and water, available labour and high demand for fish, aquaculture has not fulfilled its expectations and the Africa Region remains the lowest aquaculture producer in the world."

    Today, as development efforts focus on poverty alleviation, food security and economic growth, aquaculture is mentioned as one of the possible tools to achieve these goals. Moreover, today we can profess a solid foundation for aquaculture development based on lessons learnt over past decades. Yet today this development is confronted with challenges that bring into question the practicability of numerous aquaculture programmes.

    These challenges are principally on economic and social fronts. While appropriate aquaculture technologies are known (although there is certainly room for improvement), the challenges lie in the ability of governments to extend and monitor these technologies and the suitability of these technologies for the intended target group. As agencies stagger under the burden of Structural Adjustment Policies, with their ubiquitous downsizing, decentralization and generalization, the central question arising is "how much support can governments realistically supply?".

    Within this scenario, there are perceptible trends to address these new realities, which include the inter-related issues of participation, privatization and group formation.

    Participation

    Participation is the key to a bottom-up approach to development and the way to ensure that technologies do indeed fit within the intended socio-cultural environment. Participation is fostered through a variety of mechanisms and processes; the crosscutting factor being that the end-user has a voice in decision-making. This implies the concept of "ownership" of the activity by users, as well as a high degree of accountability, users taking responsibility for their aquaculture enterprises.

    Pragmatically, participation has underscored the fact that there is more than one way to practice aquaculture. Although numerous early development efforts focused on comprehensive "packages" with rigid recipes for how to raise fish, it is now generally acknowledged that aquaculture represents a spectrum of activities ranging from technically and financially extensive to intensive. All the various systems that exist along this spectrum contribute to the overall aquaculture programme and should be recognized, each with its particular technology and target group.

    Privatization

    There is ever-growing support for an increased contribution by the private sector. This applies first and foremost to the supply of inputs (feed and seed), many countries in the region agreeing to the principle of divestment of government hatcheries as producers are supplied with seed from private sources. In some areas, there is also interest in the privatization of extension, either using these same private seed suppliers as the purveyors of extension messages or by envisioning private businesses that transmit production technologies to farming communities.

    Private-sector involvement touches on a wide variety of interventions, from vertically integrated agri-businesses raising fish to increased involvement of civil society and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). In general, there is a transfer of responsibilities foreseen that will increase efficiency. Increased efficiency will encompass the efficiency of information exchange; networking and electronic communications are vital instruments in the new development paradigm.

    Group Formation

    Groups are strategic parts of most development efforts, if not by design then by default. Groups are a common denominator for participation and can be partners in privatization, but most essentially, they are now seen as the building blocks of extension services in the Third Millennium. On-going adjustment policies frequently make it impractical to support dedicated aquaculture extension services, and the interface at the farmer level is more often a generalist who does not have the resources to assist individual farmers but must obligatorily deal with clusters of producers.

    This new reality brings with it all the uncertainties of past efforts at establishing sustainable producer organizations/groups; fish farmers are often notorious among these for their individualism. Like it or not, groups are the way to go - but how do developmentalists facilitate workable groups?

    Conclusions

    The African aquaculture harvest is applauded for its high potential, albeit its present performance may not adequately reflect the promises of harvests to come. These harvests are, to a large extent, the results of prevailing economic and socio-cultural phenomena and not limited by available technology. Moreover, this composite of phenomena has many regional similarities, as countries are embarking on the paths of economic adjustment.

    These commonalities form the basis of the aquaculture programme of the FAO Regional Office for Africa. This is founded on the premise that aquaculture development region-wide is facing a comparable set of challenges to advance a comparable set of aquaculture systems. Thus generic methodologies can be applied, revised and results compared.

    This iterative framework builds synergy through an intra-regional approach to problem solving. This tactic attempts to concentrate effort on a topic of regional importance in one country or set of countries. Results can then be conveyed throughout the Region, expanding the multiplier effect. For example, integrated irrigation/aquaculture technologies are the focal point of efforts underway in the Sahelian zone. However, these technologies, when refined, are applicable to a wide range of countries, especially those where water resources are limited.