In 2005, the largest lagoon ecosystem in Southeast Asia was in biological, social and economic disarray. Ponds were constructed illegally or in areas that constricted the lagoon’s tidal circulation, mangroves had been cut to make room for aquaculture development, and unregulated fishing had led to overfishing and depletion. In short, the situation threatened the food, nutrition and income security of the 300 000 people in Viet Nam’s Hue province who relied on the lagoon. Today, thanks to the response of local people, and capacity development in the FAO Integrated Management of Lagoon Activities (IMOLA) project, a lagoon-wide census has set targets for reducing the number of aquaculture ponds, and essential habitats such as mangroves are being replanted. Meanwhile fishery associations have developed plans that enable locals to manage their activities collaboratively, using approaches that allow the fish population to rebuild while still providing fishers with the catches they need.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs -Directorate General for Development Cooperation - ItalyLead applicant
L’organizzazione delle attività di Cooperazione allo Sviluppo, componente essenziale della politica internazionale dell'Italia, fa parte dei compiti del Ministero degli Affari Esteri (MAE), che demanda tali attività alla Direzione Generale per la Cooperazione allo Sviluppo (DGCS) che è l’organo preposto ad attuare tale politica, in attuazione della legge n.49/87. La DGCS attua le linee di cooperazione e le politiche di settore nei diversi Paesi, stabilisce rapporti con le Organizzazioni Internazionali, con l’Unione Europea e con le Organizzazioni non governative; programma, elabora ed applica gli indirizzi della politica di cooperazione e le politiche di settore tra cui sanità, ambiente e sviluppo imprenditoria locale; realizza iniziative e progetti nei Pvs; effettua interventi di emergenza e fornisce aiuti alimentari; gestisce la cooperazione finanziaria e il sostegno all’imprenditoria privata e alla bilancia dei pagamenti dei Pvs; promuove e realizza la cooperazione universitaria.
Fishery Association of the Thua Thien Hue Province - VietnamInitiative partner
Provide advice and support to local fishery communities on livelihood, financial matter, technical issues on protection and development of lagoon and marine fishery resources, in order to enhance capacity of fishers and promote their welfare. Among the PFA functions are, ensure safety at sea, protection practices against climate emergencies and techniques how to protect lives and assets from typhoon and floods. The PFA support the development of professional fisherman groups (local Fishery Associations), to enhance their capacity on performing co-management functions and sustainable resource use: it organizes communities to work in close relationship to each other, to maximize their economic success while preserving local culture, traditional laws and nature.
Ca' Vendramin Foundation - ItalyInitiative partner
The Foundation was established in Adria (Rovigo, Italy) on October 30th 2009, index no. 113.919, with the signing of the memorandum by the representatives of the founding organizations: the Veneto Region, the Land Reclamation Delta Po Adige, the Province of Rovigo and the regional agency Park of the Po Delta. The Foundation is headquartered in Taglio di Po (Rovigo), Frazione Ca’ Vendramin, and aims to promote research on the delta, lagoons and wetlands in the Mediterranean and other countries around the world, and participates with international organizations to deal with themes of hydraulic nature, coastal, environmental, economic and social issues related to the same habitats and its associated human settlements, with the collaboration of its International Laboratory of Deltas and Lagoons."
Polytechnic University of Marche - ItalyInitiative partner
The Polytechnic University of Marche is a center of excellence for technological disciplines and a fertile environment for students, offering optimal conditions for study and research in a stimulating and comfortable environment. It is a point of reference in the region for training of both Italian and foreign students. Centre of excellence for scientific research and teaching, UNIVPM is a "student-oriented" university, focused on an international dimension.
Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations - ItalyInitiative partner
Achieving food security for all is at the heart of FAO's efforts – to make sure people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives. FAO's three main goals are: the eradication of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition; the elimination of poverty and the driving forward of economic and social progress for all; and, the sustainable management and utilization of natural resources, including land, water, air, climate and genetic resources for the benefit of present and future generations.
Asia’s largest lagoon now on sustainable course for the future. In 2005, the Tam Giang-Cau Hai in Viet Nam’s Hue province was poorly managed, with few regulations governing the many aspects of lagoon use. Mangroves, the crucial habitat for many aquatic species, had been cut to make room for aquaculture ponds. In turn, overly intensive aquaculture had caused pollution from excessive feed, organic waste and untreated wastewater. Ponds, many of which illegal, interfered with the tidal circulation indispensable for mixing lagoon and seawaters. Unregulated trap fishing had depleted fisheries resources beyond any chance of resilience. The FAO IMOLA project adopted a bottom-up ecosystem approach to fisheries management, which included working with communities to raise their awareness – not just of the importance of establishing fisheries management plans, but also that their fishery activities were a key part of a much larger world of environmental, economic, social and governance issues.
Aided by Geographic Information System (GIS) technology and global-positioning (GPS), the fishers and government agencies made master maps and re-planned the uses of the lagoon, creating areas designated for nurseries, capture fisheries and aquaculture. The project introduced the method of participatory mapping to facilitate fishers’ consultations and settle conflicts, thanks to which the concept of territorial user rights was introduced, in replacement of the prevailing unregulated open access. Nowadays, concrete demarcation markers stand as visible signposts, designating the use local people have assigned to specific areas, allowing the many communities who share this expanse of water to operate in a way that sustains both their livelihoods and the many natural resources. During lagoon mapping, more than 6.000 ponds built around the shores were censused, with environmental and socio-economic information entered into a computerized database and used to develop a modern master plan.
The coastal zone of the Hue Province makes up 34% of its total area and 81% of its population; it is where most economic activities are concentrated. The Tam Giang-Cau Hai lagoon, is part of it and a community of over 300,000 farmers and fishers, live on its resources. There was a latent need of management for the lagoon and inshore marine resource: environmental degradation and increased pressure on aquatic life, together with typhoons, floods and droughts that yearly strike the province, concurred in creating a situation of particular vulnerability for people living on and around it. This situation of persistent threat and creeping decline became a matter of concern and interventions to set back the future lagoon course into sustainable levels were urgently planned. While the Provincial authorities recognized the need for effective management, they had neither the human nor the financial capacities for such effort; hence the need to seek the active participation of their communities.
The project helped communities to set up 26 fishery associations and supported the improvement of 9 that already existed, creating means of managing activities that covered 80% of the lagoon’s area. Working together, the associations have established a representative body that works with government authorities to manage people’s activities and the lagoon environment. When the government granted control over fishing activities to the local associations, the latter reduced their members’ capture by some 30-40 percent, as part of their management plans. Gear re-planning took place and the cutback actually allowed resources to rebuild: now, using fewer traps, they are catching bigger fish and in a more efficient way. Production increased and enhanced circulation helped to reduce pollution and ventilate waters. By improving governance of tenure, fishery activities were regulated in a way that will allow production and growth that are both environmentally friendly and sustainable.
The direct beneficiaries of the project were the disadvantaged fishers of the Hue lagoon who faced hardship because of declining catch, unstable income and nutrition insecurity. Paradoxically, a recommendation to fishers was to fish less, less efficiently and more considerately, in order to allow the resource to recover. Nowadays, thanks to management measures, productivity has increased and fishers learned a lesson that virtuous practices pay off. Although the aim of the project was to improve livelihoods of those who depend on the lagoon, adopting sustainable fishery plans had an added benefit for the Province: the lagoon and its communities are more resilient to recurring natural disasters and floods that are predicted to worsen with climate change. The project’s long-term legacy is that across all lagoon activities, this body of water will continue to provide livelihoods for its people, in a way that will sustain its many economic, social and natural resources for the future.
As many as twenty local technical staffs with socio-economic background, recruited and trained by the project, provided their daily assistance to the fishermen, in order to gradually organize them into professional groups and then into formalized Fishery Associations. One project coordinator and one chief technical advisor assisted the field officers; their activities benefited from government backup though the Provincial Fishery Association and local authorities. Technical fishery and environmental issues, and planning technologies were dealt with by senior expert project staff or by external consultants from FAO and from local and foreign universities. GIS practical training and GPS use, monitoring and surveying were made possible thanks to contributions in kind from foreign institutions and private foundation, who provided professional expertise (professors, resource persons, trainers) and technological equipment in support of activities' implementation.
In Vietnam, the Government mechanism of vertical coordination contrasts with communities’ traditional practices and customary laws, most often deliberately ignoring National laws and local-government decisions. An inconsistent set of norms and contradictory measures imparted from top governance, made communities largely unresponsive toward the adoption of considerate fishing practices. Under these circumstances, the dialogue between the Government and people has been difficult, so that ultimately, compliance to regulations was obtained by a mere top-down imposition. Enacting co-management – a system of horizontal coordination between communal authorities and organized communities (Fishery Associations) – has revealed an effective method to bridge the gap between people and its governing bodies, to ensure people participation and to overcome behavioral flaws, such as illegal and unregulated practices. Ensuring the effectiveness of the dialogue was a challenging task for the project.
A severe limitation for the aquatic environment of the Hue lagoon is the hindrance of circulation, caused by insufficient force of tides. Inlet occlusion, the construction of shrimp ponds and the deployment of dense fishing nets have contributed to worsen the situation. Reorganizing fishing nets and reducing the acreage of occupied water surface, helped to diminish people’s fishing capacity and pressure over a depleted fish stock, allowing it to recover. Opening waterways among gears promoted wind-driven circulation contributing to ventilate stagnant waters, to the advantage of creatures living in it. Re-establishing the connection with the sea and establishing coastal protection zones managed by the Fishery Associations helped to restore the biological cycle of fishes spawning in the lagoon, preventing biodiversity loss. A reported tangible result is a three-fold increase of fish catch in the lagoon within the period of five years, indicating an effective recovery of the biota.
The project worked for fishers’ communities of Tam Giang–Cau Hai, to promote their commitment to ensure sustainable use of the lagoon. The aim was to instill the notion of collaborative work as a method to collectively overcome difficulties and maximize benefits. The project worked with both the nascent fishery associations, local and provincial governments under the motto “partnering for results”; it assisted communities and local governments in piloting the co-management, as a pre-requisite to have formal associations of fishers recognized as management partners. At first, the concept was new and accepted with mistrust that it could really bring tangible benefits. Lately, the cooperative movement gained momentum and the process became self-driven, thanks to the willingness of fishers to accept management responsibilities, to increased opportunities of income, benefiting from to the continued support by authorities – a tangible sign that the process could be sustained for the future.
To maximize the impact of project activities among the beneficiaries, given the low level of education of fishers and farmers, and lack of access to modern information technology, television broadcasting revealed as a powerful too, effectively disseminating information among community members and making people aware of achievements in improving social and economic welfare. News announcements, video clips and documentary were produced and broadcasted by local television networks (TRT VTV Hue, HTV) in order to bring management efforts into the mainstream of daily communication. Relevant project milestones were granted National attention through television thematic channels (e.g. VTC16), in the form of documentary films and docu-dramas, to access a broad audience. Project results were disseminated at international conventions, gathering interest from specialists and international agencies in the region: international focus contributed to communities’ sense of pride and accomplishment.