Rice field fisheries constitute a vital source of income and nutrition for Cambodia’s poor farmers. However, as population and demand for fish grows, there has been a marked decline in yields and a degradation of aquatic biodiversity. Intensification of rice farming, pesticides and damage to habitats have also contributed to this problem. WorldFish is partnering with NGOs, local authorities and national universities to research ways to increase productivity, expand rice field fisheries while seeking innovative ways to increase biodiversity and protect ecosystems.

As part of wider European Union-funded project to improve food security for the people of Cambodia, this project focuses on the fisheries and livestock sectors and aims to promote inclusive and sustainable growth in aquaculture and fisheries for the poor. This important subcomponent of the program seeks to develop and modernize the fisheries sector, improve productivity and efficiency in aquaculture, look at ways of enhancing the value chain for the benefit of communities and reinforce Cambodian fisheries administration management capacities.

Phase 2 of this project builds on previous community-based fish conservation work in Cambodia with an emphasis on local capacity development by establishing effective co-management arrangements. The project brings together government, civil society, communities and the scientific community to reduce threats to wetlands biodiversity and fisheries resources in targeted areas, while improving local livelihoods through recovery of fisheries resources.

Freshwater capture fisheries in the Lower Mekong Basin provide a majority of the animal-source protein in local diets, and support a large proportion of community livelihoods in the region. However, the contribution of fish to supporting community welfare and livelihoods has never been fully quantified. In the absence of a solid estimate of the total economic, nutritional and livelihood value of these fisheries, their importance has often been overlooked in development planning.

The Strengthening Aquatic Resource Governance (STARGO) project aims to build resilient livelihoods among poor rural producers who depend on the highly contested natural resources in Lake Victoria, Lake Kariba, and Tonle Sap/ Lower Mekong ecoregions. The intent is to improve nutrition, income, welfare and human security, while also reducing the likelihood of broader social conflict.

Rice field fisheries (RFF), defined as the fishing done in and around rice fields, particularly during the flood season, are a vital source of income and nutrition for Cambodia’s poor farmers. To increase productivity and maintain biodiversity of wild fish in RFF, the project works in the Tonle Sap floodplain to improve management of community fish refuges (CFR), which provide dry season sanctuaries for broodstock.

In developing countries, small-scale fisheries (SSF) are a vital source of food, nutrition and income. But pressures from within and external to SSFsuch as overharvesting, infrastructure development and inadequate policy recognitionthreaten their sustainability and equitable distribution of benefits.