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Community-Based Fish Culture in Seasonal Floodplains and Irrigations Systems - Overview

Background
During the rainy season in extensive river floodplains and deltaic lowlands, floods render the land unavailable for crop production for several months each year. These waters are considerably underutilized during this period which raises the opportunity of enclosing parts of these floodwater areas to produce a crop of specifically stocked aquatic organisms. This is in addition to the naturally occurring 'wild' species that are traditionally fished and remain unaffected by the culture activity. Overall, the utilization of these waters for aquaculture activities should result in more high-quality, nutrient-dense food production and enhanced farm income for all stakeholders, notably the poor. The underlying assumption of the approach is that seasonal water-bodies (over flooded crop fields, or ponds and reservoirs in irrigation schemes), can be communally managed by all stakeholders under equitable and sustainable sharing arrangements. The approach would help mitigate the declining volume of inland capture fisheries production and subsequent increases in fish prices, which have made fish less affordable and less accessible to the poor.
 
The project is currently being implemented in five countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Mali and Vietnam.
 
Objectives
Through the design and testing of locally appropriate options for community-based fish culture, the project aims to increase productivity from seasonal floodplains, to reduce poverty, generate employment and increase income of all classes of rural society in floodplain and irrigation areas.
 
The project aims to provide:
  • User-verified technical options for integrating fish and other living aquatic resources into irrigation systems and seasonal floodplains.
  • Demonstrated and locally rooted institutional options for sharing benefits of integrating fish and other living aquatic resources into irrigation systems and seasonal floodplains.
  • Improved capacity of NARES for supporting community based fish culture in shared water bodies.
Approach and Research Focus
The project development process is based on an iterative approach to management, which is responsive to reality on the ground and recognizes that Research for Development frequently generates unanticipated outcomes. With the support of the Challenge Program on Water and Food and WorldFish, the research focus of the project was evaluated at the project mid-way point and two research questions produced in response to the way in which community-based fish culture was evolving in each of the project countries.
 
These questions form the basis of a framework which guides the current research program:
Research question 1: What is the contribution of collective approaches to aquaculture for sustainable development of floodplain resources and irrigation systems?
Research question 2: What are the most appropriate models of collective action for aquaculture under different socio-ecological contexts?