Improving Community Fish Refuge Management, Improving Livelihood of the Poor

Landless and smallholder farmers, who are living the rural Cambodia, are generally categorized as poor or poorest household groups and they are highly risks to agriculture productions, household food security and welfare. Ms. So Mom, 61 years old, is one of smallholder farmers who are living in Robors Mongkoul commune of Battambang province. She has 8 members in her family, and her family’s livelihood mainly depended on rice farming and seasonal fishing. The incomes, rice productions and other food stuffs from her farm, open fields and fishing grounds was just enough to feed her family in a good year; but her family were facing to insufficient food consumption several years. Her family was therefore fallen into debt and below poverty line which she is now holding ID poor II.

Engaging different groups of people (men, women, youth and children) to understand different needs and responsibilities

In addition, her family, as well as other households in her village were challenging to access to domestic water uses and household food consumptions, especially among the poor and vulnerable where they have no enough money to access nutrition food from the local market. The Anlous Duong pond where is a main source of water to supply the domestic uses in this village, there was not a proper management and arrangement in place. The water in the pond was polluted by wastes from cattle, human and too much aquatic plants. Evidence shown that the illegal fishing was found very often in the pond and some farmers tried to maximize pond water for their irrigations. This pond, therefore, experienced dry out in some years.

Throughout the consultation process with local villagers, village, commune authorities and provincial Fishery

Administration (FiA), Anlous Duong pond was selected as Community Fish Refuge pond in 2012. This project aims to improve fishery productivities in the rice field and CFR pond, it is implemented by WorldFish in partnership with Village Support Group (VSG) and FiAC under fund support from USAID. This project started with understanding the issues of pond management and local demands of different groups of farmers, i.e. landless households, fishing household, smallholder households and better off households. Then followed by participatory planning development which engaged different farmer groups, community leaders, FiAC, village and commune authorities. Based on work-plan several interventions have been taken place since 2013 including raising the awareness on advantage of CFR pond, provision the trainings to villagers and committees, installing and improving water gates and connectivity for fish migrations, removing some aquatic plants from the pond and installing the boundary and demarcation of non-fishing zone. Ms. So Mom’s family as well as other families in her village participated in various activities of interventions. For instance, Ms. So Mom participated in planning process, trainings, boundary demarcations and removing aquatic plants, and so on. “I did not have much money to contribute into this project, but I contributed my labors for it such removing the weeds and aquatic plants from the pond” said Ms. Mom.

Since the CFR initiative participatory management is in place, cattle, clothes washing, waste throwing and illegal and destructive fishing in the CFR pond are strictly banned; while water for irrigation are also closely controlled to ensure water level maintains at sufficient level for fish in the CFR pond. As a result, the water in pond is increased quantity and improved in term of quality and accessibility; and around 800 households, who are living in this village and other 3 adjacent villages, have been accessing to pond water for domestic use especially in dry season.
Consequently, fish and other aquatic animals in the CFR pond are recovered and those migrate out widely to rice fields where the main fishing grounds of local villagers, especially Ms. Mon are. The findings shown that fish catch in the rice fields increases significantly. “In the period of 2010-2011, I caught 0.2-0.3 kg of fish only from rice field, but now I catch about 1kg of fish and up to 3-4kg of fish from rice field during high peak season” said Ms. Mom.
Moreover, the aquatic plants and animals, including water lily, lotus, lotus flower and snail, in CFR provide a great benefit as food sources and incomes to landless farmers and poor households. Ms. Mom’s family, one of poor households who highly depend on aquatic plants, can make money daily from aquatic plants between 20,000-30,000 Riel (5-7.5US$) in rainy season and 30,000-40,000 Riel (7.5-10US$) in dry season. She used this money has been contributed to cover her grandchildren school, medications, fishing gears and other foodstuffs. She added “I feel this pond as a bank that provides incomes – and nutrition food to my family and as a model of awareness raising”. She also continues to participate with the performance of CFR management behavior for sustainable of fish – biodiversity conservation.

Generally, local villagers and village and commune authority are very happy with the progress results of CFR pond management system since it contributes to food security, farmers’ incomes and social networks as well. The CFR committees, villagers and authority commit strongly to maintain this management system; and commune authority aims expand this approach to other villages. “On behalf of commune I am so glad to see our farmers can earn some incomes and food stuffs from improved community fishery refuge pond management; and we continue to support this work. And we all are here thankful to VSG-WorldFish who brought this knowledge for CFR and we also take this opportunity to thank for government that developed strategic plan to increase and create CFR in each commune.” said Mr. Ban Khoeun, commune councilor, Robors Mongkoul commune.

Articled: Mr. Yip Phanith – RFFP II

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