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Small-scale fisheries, Cambodia
In Asia as a whole fish provide 30% of the animal protein in a typical diet. Fishing and related industries provide either the main or a supplementary source of employment, livelihood and income for many of the region’s poor.
Recent work at WorldFish has shown that the demand for fish will grow substantially in this region and projections suggest that if production can match demand, then total fish consumption in the region will rise from around 41.5 million tonnes in 2005 to 52.3 million tonnes by 2015.
Aquaculture development will be key to meeting that target. Rehabilitating and sustaining coastal fisheries is also crucial for small-scale fisher folk and their families across the region. We are also strongly engaged in addressing the challenges posed by climate change that are poised to have major impact on coastal areas across this region.
WorldFish is actively engaged in three areas:
  • South Asia
  • the Greater Mekong Basin
  • Philippines
South Asia
  • South Asia is home to nearly 40% of the world’s poorest people, those who survive on less than a dollar a day. India has the world’s highest proportion of malnourished children closely followed by Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh. In Sri Lanka, 29% of preschoolers are underweight. The combined population of these five countries is expected to rise from the current 1.5 billion to 2.2 billion by 2050, with the biggest increases occurring in rural areas where the poorest people live. Together, population growth and global climate change threaten to reverse hard-won gains against extreme poverty and hunger.
  • Our work focuses primarily on Bangladesh. The overwhelming importance of fisheries and aquatic resources there provides a powerful entry point for addressing poverty, food insecurity and vulnerability to environmental shocks (floods, droughts, climate change). Our development of innovative fisheries co-management approaches in Bangladesh has been hailed as “an eminently replicable model for contemporary rural development.” Lessons learned on developing aquaculture in seasonal floodplains, integrating aquaculture with agriculture, and disseminating improved fish seed have also yielded benefits far beyond the country.
The Greater Mekong Basin
  • The Mekong Basin is a rich ecosystem that supports the lives and livelihoods of millions of poor in Southeast Asia. Encompassing the nations of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, it is coming under enormous intensification pressures for multiple uses that threaten to undermine its productivity and resilience.
  • Our work in this area largely focuses on Cambodia. The livelihoods of more that 74% of the population depends on agriculture and fisheries. Food security in Cambodia has traditionally had two dimensions: rice and fish, with fish being a central aspect of rural livelihood strategies. More than 80% of the total animal protein the Cambodian diet is estimated to come from fish and other aquatic animals. 
  • Cambodia has the most intensively exploited inland fishery in the world. The country’s fresh water capture fisheries rank as the fourth most productive in the world after China, India and Bangladesh. There is growing concern that a decline in capture fisheries would have immediate consequences for food security in rural Cambodia as the rural poor face an increasingly short supply of this staple food item in their traditional rice-fish diet.
  • The Mekong River is the second river in the world for its fish diversity, after the Amazon – the magnitude of which is only being discovered. In terms of fish biodiversity, the Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia, with 197 species recorded so far, as the lake ecosystem having the fourth highest fish diversity in the world, or the richest lake in the world after east‐African lakes.
  • Plans for hydropower development in the Mekong have led to growing concern over the potential environmental, economic and social costs, and there is acute concern over the impact on the basin’s fisheries. Dams impact fish communities and the fisheries dependent upon them by changing the ecological functioning of the river ecosystems that sustain these communities and their fisheries.
The Philippines
  • Comprising more than 7,000 islands, the Philippines has an extensive coastline that is a key environmental and economic resource for the nation. The fisheries sector is vital to the Philippine economy providing substantial employment and income especially in rural areas, contributing to export earnings, and ensuring local food security as well as meeting nutrition requirements.
  • These coasts support a growing tourism industry and fisheries that provide about half of the dietary protein needs of the Philippine population. Fish and fish-based products are the major source of animal protein (70%) for the poor with fish expenditure accounting for over 16% of the total food budget for the lower income group. Mangroves, the salt-tolerant forests that play an important role in stabilizing the coastlines of the Philippines, also provide important nursery grounds for numerous fish species. However, the quantity and quality of harvestable resources from the country‘s coastal waters have declined dramatically due to overfishing and habitat degradation resulting from pollution, sedimentation, and the destruction of mangroves, and now has been exacerbated by the effects of climate change.

Ongoing Projects in the Asia

Technical Partnership to Improve Aquaculture Activity of SHOUHARDO II Program

The sandy beach at Cox’s Bazar stretches unbroken for further than the eye can see, and is the pride of the Bangladeshi people. Located in the country’s southeastern corner, the beach is a popular tourist destination for Bangladeshis and international visitors alike. Despite this, many of the local communities that call Cox’s Bazar home struggle with food insecurity and poverty.

Greening the economy: economic benefits of sustainable development

Balancing human demand for land and food with the need to protect the world’s dwindling natural resources is a global challenge. For developing nations, the challenge can seem insurmountable in the face of booming populations, entrenched poverty and limited institutional know-how for creating sustainable resource management policies. Developing nations can also miss out on tapping into the vast economic benefits that can come with reducing environmental damage and over-exploitation.

Farms for the future: climate smart farming in Bangladesh

The impact of changing climate patterns in the decades to come will be felt by nations across the globe, but perhaps none more so than Bangladesh. Global sea level rise threaten to inundate the low-lying country, the majority of which lies less than one meter above sea level on the world’s largest river delta.

Taming the king of fish: adapting Hilsa to aquaculture

The Ganges–Brahmaputra River Delta is the world’s largest delta, stretching across Bangladesh and West Bengal in northeast India and supporting a population of over 250 million people. Of all the fish in these tropical delta waters, the Hilsa (Tenualosa ilisha) holds a special place in the hearts and in the diets of people living in the region. The Hilsa is known locally as Macher Raja Ilish, or Hilsa the “king of fish” and has the honor of being the national fish of Bangladesh. Maintaining good supplies of wild Hilsa is an ongoing challenge in the face of threats from overfishing, habitat...

Building capacity to better attend to the development needs in aquatic agricultural systems

Fisheries, agriculture and forestry play a critical role in supporting the livelihoods of many communities in the Philippines. The government and the development community recognize the potential of aquatic agricultural systems  to reduce poverty; however, a clearer understanding of the complexities of these systems and the communities who depend on them is needed to harness their full value. In response to this need, the Aquatic Agriculture Systems Capacity Building Project aims to enhance the capacities of the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) and Philippine research partners in...

Preparing Cambodian Fisheries for a Changing Climate

With the Mekong cutting through the region, and Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake lying at its heart, it’s no surprise that much of Cambodia’s population relies on its waterways. With climate variability and uncertainty, the delicate ecosystems that are essential to the long-term survival of Cambodian fisheries are increasingly under threat.

Optimizing Water Management for Local Livelihoods in the Mekong Basin

With the high potential of hydroelectricity development, the Mekong Basin region faces a rapid, widespread development pressure in the decades to come. Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Vietnam are the main focus areas where more hydropower dam projects are to be built along the Mekong tributaries. Though such projects significantly contribute to regional and national economic growth, local riparian communities are the ones who bear the brunt of the environmental impacts they cause.  Livelihoods of local communities heavily depend on water from rivers and other natural resources in the area a complex...

Taking an ecosystem approach to small scale fishing in the tropics

From beach-side communities dotted across the Solomon Islands archipelago, to coastal villages lining Tanzania’s Indian Ocean shoreline, thousands of communities rely on coastal fisheries.

More fish from Cambodia’s rice fields

The rice field fisheries (RFFs) of Cambodia cover a large part of the country in practically all areas where rice is cultivated. For human nutrition, fish and other aquatic animals (collectively referred to as ‘fish’ in this project) vary in importance – depending on the typology of the rice field fisheries, the source of the supply (e.g. lake and major rivers) and the demand or ‘need’ for fish as a source of animal protein.

Economic Analysis of Climate Change Adaptation

The Philippines is particularly vulnerable to climate change, as its extensive coastline is a key environmental and economic resource. Conserving ecosystems and protecting livelihoods depends to a large extent on stakeholders’ ability to predict the impact of climate change and on communities’ capacity to adapt. This study is an effort to better understand the risks associated with climate change, and assess adaptation and policy options to address these risks more effectively.


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