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SAPA is offering rural children the possibility of a better future
SAPA is offering rural children the possibility of a better future

Sustainable Aquaculture for Poverty Alleviation (SAPA): a strategy for improving rural livelihoods through aquaculture and aquatic resources management in Viet Nam

In Vietnam, the resolutions of the Party Congresses VII, VIII and the Decree of the Party Central Committee defined that: in parallel with economic development and growth, Vietnam must concentrate on Hunger Eradication and Poverty Reduction. The resulting Hunger Eradication and Poverty Reduction (HEPR) programme under the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) has been recognized in Vietnam and internationally as s successful framework for poverty reduction. Over the last 10 years many policies, institutional changes, programs, projects have been put in place to promote agriculture and rural development, build up irrigation systems, strengthen credit policy, support marketing of products and generally to increase living standards especially for the poor.

Strategy thru 2010

The strategy for 2001-2010 is to expand the poverty alleviation content of HEPR, based on new poverty line definitions, to eradicate hunger and enact policies that encourage communication of appropriate technologies, strengthen and diversify capital assets and reduce vulnerability of the poor. Inter-ministerial cooperation is coordinated by MOLISA with each line ministry responsible for formulation of policy and the mechanism by which it is implemented and to provide implementation guidance at the local level (MOLISA, 2000).

The Ministry of Fisheries (MoFI) played a limited role in the first decade of the HEPR programme. Its focus was more on industrial and commercial scale development especially of aquaculture. However, following lengthy discussion among Government officials of MoFI and other concerned agencies and with the effective support from MPI and NORAD in March 2000, MoFI hosted a Scoping Meeting on "Sustainable Aquaculture for Poverty Alleviation" (SAPA), in Hanoi from the 23rd-25th May 2000. The meeting was attended by 100 representatives from MoFI, Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI), MOLISA, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), as well as provincial government agencies, people's organisations, international organisations and donors including NORAD, DFID and NACA who played a key role in planning and facilitating the meeting as well as AIT, DANIDA, ACIAR, UNDP and FAO. The meeting aimed to review the role of aquaculture development (in freshwater, brackish and marine environments) in poverty alleviation and hunger eradication in Vietnam, to identify strategies for more effective application of aquaculture and aquatic resources management in poverty alleviation and to prepare an action plan to follow on from the meeting.

Sustainable aquaculture is promoted through programmes such as SAPA
Sustainable aquaculture is promoted through programmes such as SAPA

Key issues facing poverty alleviation

The meeting identified key issues, including: the need to build a poverty-oriented approach to policy involving better understanding of livelihood goals of poor people as a basis for identifying aquaculture interventions: the poor technical knowledge-base amongst practitioners, weak capacity among institutions at all levels, poor infrastructure and the importance of co-operation among agencies involved in implementing and supporting poverty alleviation through aquaculture.

An action plan was proposed to analyse existing information on poverty and aquatic resources in Vietnam, to identify key areas where significant numbers of poor people benefit or could benefit from improved aquatic resource management and to better understand their livelihoods to inform the development of the SAPA strategy; to prepare a strategy paper for submission to the Prime Ministers office prior to budget planning for poverty alleviation by MPI.

As recommended by the meeting, MoFI sent a formal invitation to concerned participating agencies and organisations establishing an 8-person Task Force, under the overall direction of the Vice-Minister to assist the MoFI in preparing the strategy comprising representatives from MoFI, Research Institute for Aquaculture 1 (RIA.1), NORAD, DFID, NACA and AIT Outreach (SIDA). A Task Force Resource Group comprising 12-14 members from different agencies and organisations supported the Task Force (including MoFI, MOLISA, MARD, RIA-1, DANIDA, FAO, NORAD, ACIAR). The work of the Task Force was also informed by a DFID funded aquatic resource and poverty assessment implemented between June and September 2000.

In September a finalization workshop was convened by MOFI to review progress of the working group and begin to finalize a strategy paper. This 'Sustainable Aquaculture for Poverty Alleviation' strategy is based on the discussions and recommendations from that workshop.

Poverty reduction and sustainable development

There is general agreement among government and many donors that improved aquaculture and aquatic resources management can make a significant and direct impact on poverty reduction and hunger eradication in Vietnam and will depend on the sharing of effective and sustainable systems for aquaculture and aquatic resources management. The key policy issue is to better support poor and vulnerable groups who depend on aquatic resources through the use of the livelihoods perspective.

The SAPA strategy recognizes: there is a need for awareness raising and better communication of the role of aquaculture and aquatic resources management in sustaining poor people's livelihoods in Vietnam, for improved understanding of participatory approaches, improved institutional capacity and poverty focus; a need to recognise and address the gap between farmers/fishers needs and the services offered by extension institutions; to appreciate the wide range of stakeholders involved in aquatic resource management, and address issues of access to markets and financial services by the rural poor.

Admiring an aquaculture pond
Admiring an aquaculture pond

Objectives of SAPA strategy

In response to these issues, the SAPA strategy is being formulated with the following objectives:

  1. Enhancing capacities of poor people in rural areas to improve livelihoods through awareness raising and improved aquatic resources management and aquaculture;
  2. Strengthening the capabilities of institutions, and particularly local institutions, to understand and support the objectives of poor people in inland and coastal communities who depend on, or could benefit from, aquaculture and related aquatic resources management;
  3. Sharing environmentally sound, low-risk, low-cost aquaculture technologies and aquatic resources management practices;
  4. Developing national policy based on lessons and experience from local pilots and through effective information exchange, and improving inter-sectoral collaboration on strategies for addressing poverty.

Target group

The primary target group of SAPA is poor people in rural areas where opportunities exist to diversify and improve livelihoods through aquaculture and aquatic resource management. Special attention will be given to the most vulnerable groups. In terms of spatial attention, the first focus will be on the Northern Mountains, Central Highlands, North Central Coastal provinces and the Mekong delta. Moreover, links will be pursued with district, provincial, national and regional institutions and donor agencies with responsibilities for poverty alleviation and sustainable rural development.

The SAPA strategy emphasizes a process approach and will build further on the understanding derived from sustainable livelihood analyses and local pilots. For the implementation, SAPA will be part of the Ministry of Fisheries and use a Sector Committee to guide the overall development of the Strategy and an Implementation Support Unit for the execution of the strategy. The SAPA strategy will form a part the Government umbrella "Hunger Eradication and Poverty Reduction" programme.

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