Information on fisheries resources in Bangladesh and S.E. Asia is fragmented and has not taken account of poor people and their livelihoods. Research has been supply-led, resulting in limited uptake and gains for the non-poor. Often decisions are based on national level priorities, overlooking the needs of local people, especially the poor, and thus posing a severe threat to local livelihood assets including fisheries.
There is a need, as has been expressed by donors, for better information on the livelihoods of the rural poor and the linkages between livelihoods and fisheries, in order that future interventions, whether by donors, governments or research agencies, address the needs of poor fishing communities.
The project was focussed on the fisheries of the freshwater floodplains and other wetlands in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. It conducted a synthesis of available data plus focussed fieldwork in order to characterise the fisheries, and highlight the dependence of different stakeholders on them.
Constraints to livelihood enhancement and possible research priorities were identified through consultations with categories of poor people, other aquatic resource users, and secondary stakeholders. This information was matched against a classification and synthesis of fisheries resources and research to identify critical areas and researchable problems requiring further study. The project evaluated the impact of relaxing key constraints for the poor - what numbers in which categories of poor would benefit, in what way, and any further constraints there might be.
The outputs can be used by target institutions (principally government and research agencies) to design pro-poor research addressing fisheries issues and the needs of fishing communities.
The project provided an assessment of the livelihoods strategies of poor people dependent on inland fisheries in the four study countries. It also identified the trends and changes in fisheries and wetland resources, and highlighted the key challenges and constraints in maintaining and enhancing the livelihoods of the poor stakeholders in inland fisheries.
There are three principle outputs:
1) A set of livelihood, fishery resource and institutional profiles for each country based on reviews of literature and existing data, including a review of enhancement experience;
2) A set of pilot livelihoods assessments based on field assessments (PRAs) of representative villages/communities from the main inland fishery systems in each country;
3) A synthesis of these outputs into a comparative assessment of the linkages between resource bases and livelihood strategies of the poor using and dependent on wetland/capture fishery systems. This identified levels of dependence, impacting factors, key constraints and opportunities for improving livelihoods, relevant research, and critical researchable problems.
In addition the project helped strengthen networking among partners from Bangladesh and the Mekong countries, which should result in a broadening of fisheries-related organisations' perspectives to consider the resources in the context of poor people and the extent of their dependence.