Exchange Lessons and Experiences of Community Fish Refuge Management in Battambang Province

Feed the Future Rice Field Fisheries Project-Phase II is a USAID funded project and implemented from 2016 to 2021 by WorldFish Cambodia in collaboration with Fisheries Administration and local NGOs. The main purpose of RFF-II is to improve the management and governance of community fish refuges (CFRs) in 4 provinces around Tonle Sap, namely Battambang, Pursat, Siem Reap and Kampong Thom province.

What is Community Fish Refuges and Rice Field Fisheries?

Community fish refuges (CFRs) are water bodies, natural or human-made pond, that protect wild fish during dry periods, and give them a good place to breed, spawn and grow. They help maintain and increase fish numbers in rice fields, and support the livelihoods of many Cambodian people.

Fish is a critical food source, contributing about 75% of the animal protein intake of Cambodians; fish in the rice field systems is one of vital food sources for rural Cambodian. It was estimated production potential of 400,000 tons of fish per year from the rain-fed & flooded rice fields. Up to this point, 26 CFRs in Battambang province have been established and supported by the RFF-II project; WorldFish partners with Village Support Group (VSG) have invested in building capacities to CFR committees and members, expanding and rehabilitating the CFR ponds and connectivity, setting up the CFR boundaries and guard houses. The project also aims to enhance nutritional outcome of increased fish and other food production, particularly for women, children and vulnerable groups, through awareness raising, training and field practicing; it has undertaken to integrated with more efficient and equitable use of water in CFRs for increased food productivity such as installed and increased vegetable gardens and improved local people’s access to water for their drinks, domestic uses and cattle.

In order to improve CFR management and government as well as nutritional outcome, WorldFish and VSG organized an exchange lessons and experiences event for community fish refuge committees, members and commune authorities on 14 August 2018. This event was taken in Boeng Pean Taley CFR, located in Riang Kesey commune of Sangkae district, with 55 participants, including 6 woman representatives, from all 26 CFRs in Battambang province. The main purpose of this exchange event is to share the challenges and solution strategies, good practices and lessons learned from all individual CFR.

Key Lessons and Good Practices

The event allowed the participants to visit the ground works and demonstration sites and to interact each other. All participants generally found that fish stocks and fish catches are increased after established CFRs, improved CFR management and physical structures including CFR ponds, rice field ponds, water gates and connectivity. A common lesson indicated that CFR management is going smoothly and successfully, engagement of key stakeholders from different social groups to participate in the process and decision making is a main focus. Those stakeholders are included local authorities, private sectors, agricultural associations, religion groups, women, men and elders; social inclusion and gender demands, therefore, need to be taken into account.  

Several participants are interesting in using of pond banks for vegetable gardens in Boeng Pean Taley CFR because CFR committees have maximized the pond banks for growing different kinds of vegetables, including pumpkins, cucumbers, tomatoes, bitter melon, lemon grass, and bananas. The committees pointed that vegetable gardens are not only applied on the pond banks but they are also grown at some individual members’ backyards by using water from CFRs or its systems.

The commune chief of Riang Kesey commune, where is Boeng Pean Taley CFR located in, strongly supports the CFR establishment and management since he recognizes the benefits of CFR including fish, water and vegetable. He is encouraging other village committees to learn and apply this approach into their own villages. He plans to engage more people to involve in CFR management through requesting a couple of reproductive-age fish to release into CFR pond from a new couple when they apply for married certificate. And in order to contribute to improve rice field fishery, there are 19 other natural lakes belonging to commune property have already integrated into commune investment plan (CIP) for improvement.  The idea is supported by other committees and commune authorities, for instance, Ms. Kim Ratana, a commune councilor from Preah Phors commune said that “I think this idea is very good to sustain the CFR management which led to improve fisheries resources and food security of rural farmers”. Generally the committees and commune authorities are very impressed with the project approaches since fisheries resources and fish catches are increasing significantly. The community members get better access to water, vegetables, other food crops and nutrition.

Field visit to CFR site

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