Rice field fisheries – the fishing that occurs in and around flooded rice fields during the wet season from July to February – are a vital source of food and income for almost all rural households in Cambodia. Fishing in flooded fields is an attractive livelihood option, particularly for poor people, because it requires relatively little capital investment and land ownership. Yet these fisheries, which contribute 20-25% of the country’s inland fish catch, are often poorly managed and have low productivity.
In the Lau and Langalanga lagoons in Malaita province, Solomon Islands, the ‘saltwater people’ live on small artificial islands on top of coral reefs and mangroves, barter marine resources for root crops and vegetables, and have limited access to land. But the reef fisheries they depend on are threatened by overexploitation, climate change and changing consumption patterns. This project aims to safeguard the food security of these vulnerable communities. The project will enable coastal communities to manage the natural resources on which they depend, and build the capacity of the provincial government to effectively support these grassroots initiatives.
In Bangladesh, both women and men are actively involved in aquaculture. But in poor households, where average income is USD 65.25 per month, women face barriers that prevent them from catching fish, even from their own homestead ponds.
Gender-related cultural and religious expectations prohibit women from harvesting fish, a job often seen as a man’s responsibility. Women are also reluctant to enter ponds to harvest fish because they have to get their sarees wet, which then need to be washed and hung out to dry for a day.
The marine fisheries surrounding the half-island of Timor-Leste account for over 90% of the country’s total fish production. But capture fisheries alone will not be sufficient to meet the country’s growing fish demand.
In response, the Government of Timor-Leste is looking inland to boost fish supply, by encouraging rural families to farm fish for home consumption and commercial scale.
Nutrient-rich small fish such as the Mekong flying barb, yellow tail rasbora, and slender rasbora are abundant in the flooded rice fields, rivers and streams that cover the Cambodian countryside.
But a common perception among households, 80% of whom engage in fishing, is that these wild-caught fish are most useful for feeding to pigs, ducks and chickens.
“My household would catch small fish from rice fields, canals, streams, lakes, and ponds, but we’d rarely eat them,” explains Chum Dany from Aren village, Pursat province.
Through this partnership with the Government of Odisha in India, WorldFish provides support to increase the productivity of aquaculture through improvements in seed, technology and farming systems. A long-term goal is to foster a sustainable aquaculture sector in which the private sector will be more willing to invest. The partnership will also focus on improving the value chain for aquaculture products to improve nutrition security in Odisha state, where over 25% of children under five in rural areas are malnourished. Further, the partnership aims to improve the planning and management of natural resources for sustainable aquaculture and fisheries.
During the first 1,000 days of life, from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday, children are most vulnerable to the effects of undernutrition and disease. Suchana aims to reduce undernutrition and stunting in children in Bangladesh, by targeting children under two and women of reproductive age (15-45 years) from 250,000 poor households in Sylhet and Moulvibazar. The project has an integrated approach, adopting a range of market-based, gender-sensitive and nutrition-sensitive activities. Activities to improve nutrition include capacity building, teaching households to produce nutritious food such as fish, chickens and vegetables, and linking households with markets.
In Bangladesh, around 60% of the population have inadequate intake of vitamin A, which is needed for normal vision, reproduction and a good immune system. A new WorldFish study finds that a long-term commitment to the farming of mola, a small indigenous fish species, could improve the vitamin A intake of the 98% of Bangladeshis who eat fish and save 3,000 lives over an 11-year period. In this edition of the WorldFish podcast, we are joined by WorldFish Senior Scientist, Dr. Shakuntala Thilsted, to discuss this significant finding.
Aquaculture for Low Income Consumers (AquaLINC) is a project that aims to increase supplies of affordable and nutritious fish for poor consumers. It will explore innovative production methods to produce smaller tilapias, and test fish feeding approaches to improve the nutritional quality of fish for consumption. Trials will be done on farms and research stations to evaluate the economic and technical feasibility of producing smaller and more nutritious fish. AquaLINC will also survey households, retailers and consumers to understand fish buying behaviour and test acceptability of the new tilapia products.