Small waterbody fisheries and the potential for community-led enhancement : case studies in Lao PDR
Based on case studies in Lao PDR, this research investigates the importance of small waterbody fisheries to rural households, the impact of enhancement initiatives on resources and resource users, and the opportunities and constraints of communityled enhancement. Detailed biological, socio-economic, and institutional data on small water body fisheries were collected and analysed in an integrated framework. Small waterbody fisheries contributed substantially to rural livelihoods, with average household catches of 66 kg/year, equivalent in value to approximately half the household rice production (the major crop grown in the region). Poorer households caught and sold more fish than other socio-economic groups. Active management of small waterbody fisheries by stocking and the regulation of fishing had significant impacts on fish stocks, yields, and the type, magnitude and distribution of benefits to villagers. Stocked fisheries managed by and for the village showed higher standing stocks and returns to fishing effort, and thus generated substantial efficiency benefits even though yields were not significantly higher than in unmanaged fisheries. Benefits were in the form of income to the community, partially passed on to households, (equally between socio-economic groups), through reduced financial contributions to the village. Institutional analysis suggests that locally adapted rules, ownership rights, low cost monitoring and enforcement, and information about benefits are key factors in promoting and sustaining community enhancement efforts, as well as the presence of individuals with substantial leadership skills. Results suggest that communities can and do successfully set up and maintain enhancement initiatives and that enhancement of small water body fisheries can generate substantial benefits. However these will only be sustained if it corresponds to villager's objectives and coincides with conducive institutional arrangements and, crucially, an enabling external policy environment. To achieve the full potential of enhancements, research should be aimed at furthering villager's understanding of the status and potential of their resource in terms of these objectives.