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Poverty Alleviation through Improved Aquatic Resources Management in Asia-Pacific

Graham Haylor1, Paul Bulcock2 and Simon Funge-Smith3

FAO provides catalytic support to regional initiative

The recent FAO Technical Co-operation Program project (TCP/RAS/2908) entitled “Poverty Alleviation through Improved Aquatic Resources Management in Asia” has provided catalytic support to participating member countries and the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA), to better provide to its members the “rural development support”which forms an important part of the role of NACA and of fisheries line agencies around Asia-Pacific.

In early 2001, fifteen Asian governments -all NACA member countries -requested FAO for assistance to build on the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF), and its call for action towards responsible aquatic resources management, and the World Food Summit declaration about the potential contribution of aquaculture and aquatic resources to poverty alleviation and food security.


Livelihoods capacity building workshop in Rangoon, Myanmar, May 2004

Through these requests, the governments of the region sought better documentation of lessons learned, more opportunities for dialogue and mutual learning, better dissemination and coordinated efforts to inform policy-makers. At the time, in collaboration with UK's Department for International Development (DFID) and Volunteer Service Organization (VSO), FAO and Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), NACA were already in the process of developing a vehicle to deliver this, called the “Support to Regional Aquatic Resources Management”(STREAM) Initiative, and preliminary activities had already started in some member countries. The request to FAO was intended to enable more NACA member countries to become involved in the activities of the STREAM Initiative. The commencement of STREAM and the catalytic FAO support through the TCP were timely since 2004 was the “International Year of Freshwater” and attention was being focused on availability and use of freshwater, irrigation and sanitation.

Focusing on livelihoods approaches, strengthening institutions, informing policy, and communications to address the issues of poverty and aquatic resource users

With FAO support, NACA, through its STREAM Initiative and rural development focus, is building capacity to support aquaculture and living aquatic resources for rural livelihoods of poor people in the region, and to identify ways to expand the potential of improved aquaculture and aquatic resources management for poverty alleviation and food security, under four themes:

Catalyzed by the TCP, these four themes are being taken up in a range of countries, including Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Viet Nam and China P.R.

Bringing the issues of aquatic resource users into focus and strengthening in-country capacity to recognize and deal with them

Through this TCP, activities have begun to assist governments in identifying and answering the needs of poor people with the aim of improving their livelihoods. A network of multilingual Communications Hub Managers has been established, linking national stakeholders, service providers and farmers, so far in 12 countries. New communications vehicles (e.g., netmeetings) and local-language media (including drama, video documentaries, and Better-Practice Guidelines) have been developed and shared through this multilingual network.

The Initiative has, through capacity building, worked to promote greater understanding of livelihoods approaches, and facilitated institutional development and policy change in support of farmers and fishers who are poor. Livelihoods teams have been trained in Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Viet Nam and China P.R.. Innovative livelihoods approaches have been developed with and shared among NGOs, government departments, international organizations [e.g., the European Union (EU)],sub-regional organizations [e.g., Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and Mekong River Commission MRC)], national development projects, federations of Self-Help Groups, and donors such as DFID and the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ).

The STREAM Initiative has already contributed to important legal and policy changes, including, through a change in the law by the government of Cambodia, decriminalizing poor, often landless fishers who can now legally sell their small fish catches in support of their livelihoods. In India, Self-Help Groups are now encouraged by the government to bid for leases to raise fish in local water bodies and can now avail of longer lease periods, allowing them to conserve and manage their assets over a longer timeframe, making aquaculture more profitable and more attractive.

Through complementary low-resolution (for people with limited connectivity) web-based and people-based networks, the NACA-STREAM Initiative has reached hundreds of thousands of stakeholders, including farmers and policy-makers, developing approaches to working across languages and cultures, and is increasingly engaged in work on needs analysis (communication and information needs especially).

A regional partnership that draws on respective strengths

FAO and NACA have united in the STREAM Initiative to facilitate governments in their efforts to support poor people's livelihoods, through improved communications and by influencing institutions and policy development to better support the needs of poor people who are involved with fishing and small-scale fish farming.At the culmination of the TCP, a “Framework for a Pro-Poor Regional Strategy on Sustainable Aquatic Resources Management in Asia-Pacific”was agreed by all stakeholders and endorsed by the NACA Governing Council at its 16th Meeting in Los Baños, Philippines in March 2005. In addition to promoting the use of livelihoods approaches, the Framework also mandated the STREAM Initiative to continue to support governments in learning and communications around livelihoods and poverty alleviation until 2010.

What has emerged strongly from the TCP is an effective partnership between a modern multilingual, livelihoods-focused network which is effective on the ground and an international organization with the will and remit to support development and promote food security in this way.


Philippines Livelihoods capacity building workshop, June 2003

NACA, through the STREAM Initiative, is already finding utility in the ongoing work of FAO, supporting learning about co-management approaches in Cambodia and the Philippines (through the compilation of two system requirements reports on data collection and sharing mechanisms in fisheries co-management for national management institutions); identifying livelihoods needs of tsunami-affected communities in Sri Lanka (through the “Integrated Program for the Rehabilitation of the Fishery Sector in the Tsunami-affected Districts of Hambantota, Ampara and Batticaloa”[OSRO/SRL/505/ITA]); and facilitating consultations with community-based stakeholders in defining a new fisheries policy in Pakistan (through “Support to Fisheries Sector Policy and Strategy Formulation”[TCP/PAK/3005(A)]).

If you wish to know more, or see a role for the NACA-STREAM Initiative in your work, go to and let's continue to support poverty alleviation through improved aquatic resources management in Asia-Pacific.

1 Graham Haylor
STREAM Director
c/o Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA)
Suraswadi Bldg., DOF Complex
Kasetsart University Campus, Ladyao, Jatujak,
Bangkok 10900 THAILAND

2 Paul Bulcock
Research Associsate
c/o Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific
(NACA)Suraswadi Bldg., DOF Complex
Kasetsart University Campus, Ladyao, Jatujak,
Bangkok 10900 THAILAND e-mail:

3 Simon Funge-Smith
Regional Office for Asia and The Pacific (RAP)
Bangkok, Thailand

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