22. The document COFI:AQ/I/2002/3 was presented to the Sub-Committee by the Secretariat summarizing the role of aquaculture in rural development. There was general acceptance of the information contained in the document and its relevance to FAO Members. There were however a number of requests for a greater recognition of the role of rural aquaculture as an income generating activity. The Secretariat also clarified for the benefit of the Sub-Committee, that the FAO definition for aquaculture included culture-based fisheries.
23. The Sub-Committee stressed the importance of guidelines for the establishment of a framework for rural aquaculture development. The Sub-Committee also highlighted the need for distinct national and regional policy specific to rural aquaculture development. As part of policy development, the strengthening of national legislation and regulatory frameworks was also emphasized as a requirement. Such frameworks would cover, inter alia, the issues of master plan, land tenure and agrarian reform, environmental protection and licensing for aquaculture.
24. Some delegates expressed appreciation to FAO for assistance that had been provided in elaborating legislative and regulatory frameworks, while other delegates requested FAO to provide assistance in this area. Several delegates acknowledged the importance of appropriate management practices and the need for adequate understanding of the requirements for exportation of aquaculture products. The Sub-Committee felt that the basis for rural aquaculture development is the promotion of aquaculture that meets with the conditions for sustainability.
25. Several delegates stressed the need to document and disseminate success stories in aquaculture development and from this draw out the strategies that have been used for successful development and the benefit of society. It was noted that unsuccessful previous attempts to promote rural aquaculture development faced similar problems to those of the agriculture sector. It was acknowledged that several issues relating to the role of rural aquaculture such as domestic fish consumption, direct and indirect employment and the economic advantages and disadvantages within rural aquaculture were still poorly understood and would benefit from focused studies. Another area of concern is the general improvement of statistics for rural aquaculture, in particular, disaggregated data relating to women. The Sub-Committee expressed the need for a socio- economic comparative evaluation of use of land and water for aquaculture with respect to other forms of agriculture and also how aquaculture adds value to water resources in farming systems.
26. The Sub-Committee expressed considerable need for greater exchange of information and experience on development of rural aquaculture, through regional and inter-regional networks and collaboration between neighbouring countries. Specific mention was made of the catalytic role that FAO could play in promoting cooperation between multiple-organizations and governments.
27. Many delegates noted that there was limited adoption of aquaculture in rural areas due to farmers uncertainty of the benefits of aquaculture. It was emphasized that there was a need to raise awareness that rural aquaculture is a cost effective activity, with social, economic and environmental benefits, particularly when integrated with other agricultural activities. It was also recognized that there is a need to balance food security and income generation. Furthermore, it was noted that women play an important role in many aquaculture and related activities. Several delegates highlighted the importance of quality extension in rural aquaculture development and the need for innovative, low-cost extension mechanisms. It was also noted that such methods should include more effective identification of target groups and their greater participation in decision-making processes.
28. Many delegates indicated the benefit of some degree of organization of aquaculture producers including at the regional level. This could entail the formation of groups, cooperatives, larger associations and/or regional organizations, which would facilitate contact, delivery of information and extension services, the tracing and certifying of products and adoption of better management practice. Such higher levels of organization also create an enabling environment for the application of development strategies and regulatory frameworks.
29. The Sub-Committee acknowledged that an enabling environment for rural aquaculture development requires both technical and non-technical factors. These include, inter alia, need for governments to support planning and education and for political support to facilitate and promote aquaculture growth, access to quality inputs such as fingerlings, alternatives to fishmeal, low cost feeds, and access to markets and financing. The value adding of aquaculture products through processing may enhance economic viability, especially when coupled to more effective marketing. An observer warned that moving between extensive multi-species systems with low inputs, towards higher input intensive systems might not always benefit rural development.