Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA), Suraswadi Building, Department of Fisheries Compound, Kasetsart University Campus Ladyao, Jatujak, Bangkok 10900, Thailand
The paper considers some environmental and socio-economic aspects to be considered in the development of aquaculture and cold water fisheries in the Hindu Kush - Himalayan region. Indigenous fish species living within the Hindu Kush - Himalayan region represent an important aquatic resource for the sub-Himalayan region. Unfortunately, this resource is generally unrecognized and undervalued and has so far been given limited consideration in rural development. Experiences available within highland areas in Asia suggest there is potential for aquaculture and fisheries development to contribute to rural development and poverty alleviation. What is needed is not a "sector driven approach" but to emphasize and recognize aquatic resources as a part of an integrated approach driven by concerns for poverty, peoples livelihoods and rural development. The paper discusses some of these issues, and identifies a number of follow up actions, including some initiatives to raise the profile of aquatic resources as part of the celebrations of the "International Year of the Mountain" in 2002.
The presentation covers cold water species (or ecosystems) in the Hindu Kush - Himalayan region and relevant experiences from other nearby highland areas in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in Vietnam and Laos. The emphasis is given on highland ecosystems and the people living in these areas, rather than cold water fish species per se.
The water resources in this large region include rivers and streams of various sizes, lakes, man-made reservoirs, floodplains and swamps, rice fields and man-made ponds and irrigation canals. These water resources have a diverse fish fauna that support the livelihoods of rural communities within the region. They also provide various opportunities for development of fisheries and aquaculture.
The aquatic resources are part of the larger ecological/agricultural, social, economic and institutional systems. Therefore management of these resources necessarily have to consider these related systems.
The environment in the Hindu Kush - Himalayan region influences the fish populations and opportunities for fisheries and aquaculture development. The natural barriers to fish movement and temperature in particular play a significant role in the distribution of species.
Man-made environmental changes arising from outside of the fisheries sector have had direct and indirect impacts on fisheries and the livelihoods of people dependant on these resources. The environmental impacts include water pollution leading to eutrophication, localized chemical pollution, siltation caused by erosion and road building, sand mining impacting on spawning beds, water development projects creating barriers to migration and hydrological changes and loss of wetland habitat. The impacts of barriers caused by dams or diversion of water to irrigation schemes in particular impacts on migratory species. Less is known about the downstream effects of such changes on the aquatic resources in floodplains and wetlands and the people living in these areas.
Within the sector, overfishing and destructive fishing practices are reported to have contributed to reduction in stocks. Transboundary movement of fish also impacted on indigenous fish stocks; these include impacts from introductions of exotic species, such as brown trout (Salmo trutta), common carp (Cyprinus carpio) and silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix).
A number of important diseases are relevant to the region. These include:
IPN - Infectious pancreatic necrosis; a viral disease affecting all salmonid producing regions including Asia (reported in 1999/2000 from Japan and Korea); brown trout is a susceptible species; vaccine available against disease.
SVC - Spring Viremia of carp: a viral disease, several carp and cyprinid species are susceptible, currently only in Europe.
VHS - Viral haemorrhagic septicaemia - reported in brown trout; European based disease, but reported in Japan during 2nd quarter of 2000, no treatment known
EUS - Epizootic ulcerative syndrome; a fungal disease affecting freshwater and estuarine warm water fish; epizootic spread in Asian region since 1985 and now prevalent in the Asian region; latest occurrence is in the Punjab waters of Pakistan.
There are also environmentally positive aspects of cold water fisheries and aquaculture development. These include the possible opportunities for conservation of indigenous biodiversity through "genetically sensitive" breeding programmes of indigenous species, small-scale aquaculture that can contribute to water storage and diversification on small-scale agricultural farms and the potential "value" that fish can add to water resources and provide a justification conservation. Unfortunately, there is little information on this value.
The approaches to management of fisheries and aquaculture are described in the various country and resource papers presented during this Symposium. These approaches appear so far to have been largely driven by technical interests and sector management strategies, rather than consideration of aquatic resources management within the framework of the Himalayan ecosystem or rural development. The current approaches and status may be summarized as follows:
Management of small-scale aquaculture:
Technologies are becoming available (although technical constraints appear to exist for several indigenous Himalayan species).
Support to implementation and participation of poor people in aquaculture have, however, been limited.
Management of capture fisheries:
There appears to have been limited success in management, indeed many fish stocks and catches from natural waters are reported to be declining.
Some "mitigation" measures are being tried for water resources development, but the success of these measures is poorly understood and questionable.
Some management practices are becoming available elsewhere in the region (e.g. co-management) but there are few examples of these local management measures being tried within the Hindu Kush - Himalayan region.
So far, it appears that there has been limited consideration of the livelihoods of people in development efforts involving fisheries and aquaculture in the Himalayan region, and fisheries and aquaculture are rarely considered in rural development. It is time to give more emphasis on the role of aquatic resources in poverty alleviation and sustainable livelihoods of people in the region.
The people of the region are characterized by very low levels of human development and their livelihoods have been summarized by the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ISIMOD) as follows:
The lowest per capita incomes in the world - probably the lowest even within each country.
Mountain economies are mostly subsistence-oriented and meet food requirements for only a part of the year, compelling household members to move out in search of income-earning opportunities, mostly to urban centres and agricultural areas in the plains.
Women and children have to bear increasing burdens of agricultural and subsistence activities in the rural mountains because of the absence of male members from mountain households.
Many parts of the mountains are not easily accessible, limiting the scope for development of various opportunities provided by a diverse, scenic but fragile environment and hampering the provision of health, education, and extension services.
Many parts of the mountains are experiencing rapid loss and damage of natural resources, resulting in further difficulties to households in meeting their subsistence needs.
These conditions represent a challenge for all concerned with poverty alleviation and development in region.
The livelihoods of people in the region are characterized by poverty. How do fisheries contribute to livelihoods - what do we know about cold water fisheries?
At the present time, it appears that fish are an important 'natural asset' in the livelihoods of people in some parts of the region. This includes the role of aquatic resources food and subsistence fishing, eco-tourism and income from sport fishing and some small-scale aquaculture. It also appears to be a neglected and diminishing 'natural asset'.
The country papers provide some examples of human utilization of aquatic resources. For example:
In Nepal, fish provide sport fishing, food and income for rural communities. There are reported to be 204 000 active fisher families (the number of households involved in foraging of aquatic resources for food on a part time basis is unknown). In the Koshi River, evidence shows that the poorest of the poor are dependant on aquatic resources - "the socio-economic status of the fishing communities is the lowest in society".
In Pakistan, the government appears to be giving emphasis to aquaculture and fisheries development for poverty alleviation. However, little information is provided. Sport fisheries are reported to be important within ecotourism in the mountain areas.
In India, fish provide food and income for rural communities, and are also important for sport fishing in some mountain areas.
In Bhutan, rivers in mountain areas are important for sport fishing.
Generally, though, information on the role of fish in the livelihoods of poor people living in rural areas is far from complete. It is known from other parts of the Asian region, such as the upper reaches of the Mekong River, that part time foraging of poor people are usually "hidden" from fisheries statistics. Are fisheries a 'hidden and undervalued asset' in the Hindu Kush - Himalayan region?
Women, as caretakers of livestock, crops, and forest lands, are in a key position to contribute to the building and maintenance of the sustainability of these lands and farm resources. Continual neglect of their important role in the mountain agro-ecosystem means missing out on a great source of under-utilized potential in the struggle to rehabilitate and enhance the environmental conditions of rural villages. What is known about women in fisheries in the Hindu Kush - Himalayan region? Has fisheries development considered this important role of women in rural households?
Experiences gained from highland areas in northern parts of Vietnam (see MOFI, 2001) and Lao PDR clearly demonstrate the benefits of small-scale aquaculture which can include:
improving farm productivity and water storage,
contribution to food supply in fish deficit upland areas and in seasons when wild fish are not available,
opportunity for additional source of flexible income,
means to diversify out of the wild fishery and rice farming,
providing a stabilizing source of aquatic animal protein and substituting a source of income.
Recognizing the generally understated and unrecognized role of aquatic resources in rural development and poverty alleviation in the region, the member governments of the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia Pacific (NACA) have requested development of a regional initiative to support better aquatic resources management for poverty alleviation. This Asian regional initiative is called "STREAM" which stands for Support to Regional Aquatic Resources Management.
The STREAM initiative has been developed at the request of NACA member governments in Asia. The STREAM "founding partners" include NACA, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom (DFID) and Voluntary Service Organization (VSO). The implementation has been mandated by NACA member governments and is a key strategic priority for NACA's Third Year Work Programme (2001-2005).
The rationale for STREAM includes:
importance of aquatic resources to the poor,
the need to share existing human and social capital across the region,
the need to address broader livelihoods and governance issues,
the key challenge now to establish support agencies and institutions that:
- utilise existing and emerging information more effectively,
- better-understand poor people's livelihoods,
- enable poor people to exert greater influence over policies and processes that impact on their lives.
To meet these challenges, there is a need to develop the policies and processes of mediating institutions, and their capacities to:
identify aquatic resource management issues impacting on the livelihoods of the poor,
monitor and evaluate management approaches,
network within and between sectors and countries.
The STREAM aims to build capacity to:
understand and secure the livelihoods of poor aquatic resource users,
accelerate communication and learning between stakeholders,
facilitate policy-making that supports the interests of the poor in the Asia Pacific region.
The guiding principles are:
securing effective participation and sustainable livelihoods,
centrality of communications,
open process and partnerships.
The approach, regional in nature, is justified as planning and management of aquatic resources is necessarily local, national and regional. A substantial aquatic resource management knowledge base already exists in the region. There is a degree of commonality in the problems and solutions across the region. Support and positive examples from other countries strengthens the effectiveness of advocacy.
The key components of STREAM are:
Capacity building. STREAM will support capacity building among local government institutions, NGOs, and community groups, via training and long-term practical support which will focus on:
- livelihoods analyses and participatory approaches.
- innovative communication approaches,
- monitoring and evaluating management approaches.
Learning initiatives. STREAM will support new community-based learning initiatives, the practical experiences of 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.
Communication. STREAM will develop a communications and learning strategy to increase the participation of poor aquatic resource users in decision-making processes and ensure policy-making is informed by lesson learning. Approaches will include case studies, workshops, field visits, translation of materials into local languages, use of the public media and the internet, discussion groups, pictorial communication, etc.
Policy changes. STREAM will support on-going policy and institutional changes, by:
- facilitating policy development at the national level,
- increasing exposure to lessons and experiences at the community level,
- maximising utilisation of the existing regional knowledge base,
- providing capacity-building support to the change process.
What is the relevance of STREAM to the Hindu Kush - Himalayan region?
The Himalayan region is regionally and globally a serious poverty 'hotspot' - urgent action is required.
The role of aquatic resources within the rural livelihoods of people in the sub-Himalayan region - is it important?
- Water resources and some demonstrated successes with aquaculture in some highland areas are available;
- Poor people are involved in fisheries and new approaches to management are needed.
The STREAM initiative and processes can support better understanding, capacity building and sharing of experiences in the region. Further information is provided in NACA/DFID/VSO/FAO (2001).
There are some environmental issues within the sector that should be addressed. These include:
The need to promote aquaculture systems that integrate within - farms and ecosystems.
The need for aquaculture systems that add value - rice-fish, integrated in irrigation.
The need for aquaculture species that make efficient use of resources. In particular, whether to promote carnivorous species that rely on expensive fishmeal based feeds, or fish feeding lower in the food chain. The role of larger and small species in aquaculture also needs to be considered.
Breeding and restocking programmes - need to consider genetics of wild and cultured populations. There is a need to understand and maintain this diversity where possible through well managed breeding programmes.
Aquatic animal health and transboundary movements. Health management has to be considered, as diseases have already impacted (socio-economic and environmental, and possibly biodiversity impacts) on the aquaculture sector in the region. An urgent need exists to address health aspects with transboundary movement. There are also existing international/regional agreements/treaties that need to be adopted in a practical way to the region.
The cold water indigenous fish species living within the Hindu Kush - Himalayan region represent an important aquatic resource for the sub-Himalayan region. This resource is characterized by:
being generally unrecognized and undervalued,
being given limited consideration in rural development.
However, experiences available within highland areas in Asia suggest there is potential for aquaculture and fisheries development to contribute to rural development and poverty alleviation (Haylor, 2000; DFID, 2000). What is needed is not a "sector driven approach" but to emphasize and recognize aquatic resources as a part of an integrated approach driven by concerns for poverty, peoples livelihoods and rural development.
Where to from here?
The following are suggestions for follow up from the Symposium:
bring together existing information on poverty and aquatic resources,
better understand livelihoods through analyses and social and economic valuation of resources,
promote sharing and testing of approaches to aquaculture and fisheries management,
communicate findings and exchange experiences,
seek policy and institutional changes based on this understanding,
use the good opportunities for sharing of experiences through national and regional cooperation.
It will be important to ensure that sufficient information and justification on the role of aquatic resources in the livelihoods of poor people and the potential for small-scale aquaculture and fisheries to contribute to sustainable livelihoods is generated within 2001 to incorporate and be considered in the programmes and activities to be initiated during the celebration of the "International Year of the Mountain" in 2002. Don't forget the fish!
DFID, 2000. Aquatic Resources Management for Sustainable Livelihoods of Poor People: Proceedings of the DFID-SE Asia Aquatic Resources Management Programme E-mail conference, June 2000, DFID, Bangkok, Thailand. 148p.
FAO/NACA, 2000. Asia Regional Technical Guidelines on Health Management for the Responsible Movement of Live Aquatic Animals and the Beijing Consensus and Implementation Strategy. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper. No. 402. Rome, FAO. 53p.
Haylor, G., 2000. Eight successful systems for promoting sustainable livelihoods through developing aquatic resource management systems that benefit the poor in SE Asia. Aquatic Resources Management Programme Briefing Paper 2. DFID SEA.
MOFI, 2001. Proceedings of the Scoping Meeting on Sustainable Aquaculture for Poverty Alleviation. 23rd-25th May 2000, Hanoi, Vietnam.
NACA/DFID/VSO/FAO, 2001. The STREAM initiative. Support to Regional Aquatic Resources Management. Memorandum. June 2001. Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA), Department for International Development (DFID), Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
 FAO/NACA. 2000. Asia
Regional Technical Guidelines on Health Management for the Responsible Movement
of Live Aquatic Animals and the Beijing Consensus and Implementation Strategy.
FAO Fisheries Technical Paper. No. 402. Rome, FAO. 53 p. The
Technical Guidelines were adopted in principle by 21 participating
countries/territories in the Asia-Pacific region, including Nepal, in Beijing in
June 2000. The guidelines provide the basis for Aquatic Animal Health Management