The FAO GCP/VIE/029/ITA IMOLA Project: Integrated Management of Lagoon Activities in Thua Thien Hue

Place: vietnam, Asia
Sustainable development of small rural communities Sustainable development of small rural communities
Total Budget: € 2.652.250,00 | Period: From August 2005 To December 2012


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 - Italy

Lead 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 - Vietnam

Initiative 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 - Italy

Initiative 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 - Italy

Initiative 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 - Italy

Initiative 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.

Innovative participatory mapping Participatory mapping was a new method of compiling and amending lagoon planning maps through focused-group and plenary discussions among fishers, utilizing GIS-based map computer-generated by the project. Map visualization enhanced the spatial perception of the aquatic locale by fishers and understanding of the impact of lagoon activities.
Installation of pole, Cau Hai Upon decision of local authorities, fishers belonging to a newly established fishery association in Loc Dien commune (Cau Hai lagoon) are granted the right to install concrete poles as visible signpost to demarcate their fishing exclusive area. Coordinates, established by GPS and recorded in the official commune maps, officially designate pole positions. The project assisted in the definition of fishing areas of competence of each Fishery Association and mapping.
Presentation of lagoon map by FA The final instants of a ceremony convened to celebrate the granting of fishing rights to a fishery association of the Phu Vang District (Thuy Tu lagoon) by local authorities. The Executive Board members hold for the assembly of members the map of their fishing area. Based on the map and related specific regulations set up for each association, rights to fish and to use the resources are assigned, along with specific duties relating to management, monitoring, surveillance and control.
Surveyor operating pond census Local fishermen assisted by project technical staffs were trained to perform surveys and mapping. A project surveyor stands in front of a dried pond recording pond data relating to use, species farmed, state of use and pond conditions, disease occurrence, productivity and income (total 26 environmental and socio-economic parameter).

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.

Lagoon map and commune location The lagoon of Tam Giang- Cau Hai stretches along the coast of The Thua Thien Hue Province for 68 kilometer. It consists of several independent basins: the Tam Giang lagoon to the north (administratively belonging to the districts of Phong Dien, Quang Dien and Huong Tra), the Sam Chuon and Thuy Tu lagoons (Phu Vang district) and the Cau Hai basin belonging to the Phu Loc district. 33 communes border the lagoon shores, with boundaries indicated by red lines. The Eastern Sea lays to the northeast.
Land-use 3D rendering The image is a false-color three-dimensional rendering of a land-use map of the Thua Thien Hue Province, showing the geographical context where the Tam Giang Cau Hai lagoon (dark blue) lays, between coastal sand dunes (greenish and yellowish white areas) and the agricultural land (purple tints). Brown colored relief represents the Annamite mountain range. The Thua Thien Hue Province, yet extended inland as far as the Lao border, lives and produces on its narrow coastal plain.
Panorama of Thuy Tu lagoon Aerial panorama view of the Thuy Tu lagoon viewing southeast towards Cau Hai. In the foreground to the right, shrimp ponds bordering the lagoon shores are visible, partly built enclosing former agricultural land by mean of manmade earthen dikes (right next to the bridge), partly encroaching the lagoon water surface. The original lagoon coastline is unrecognizable and the pristine mangrove wetland forest and coastal prairies, once developed there, were largely removed.
Tam Giang-Cau Hai overview and strategy The lagoon environment and its inhabitants are presented through images and captions. The movie clip describes in concise terms what the scope of the project was and what were the strategies to achieve, in the turn of a decade, goals of sustainability, environment improvements and social welfare through inclusion and participation.

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.

Cau Hai lagoon zoning The map illustrates the zoning plan of the Cau Hai lagoon under the management plan developed for the Fishery Associations. To enable the area-based management, Fishery Associations have been established and operationalized, and the water surface has been demarcated for resource use, under management of each association.
Fishing rights paper, zoning map Idealized sketch and map of the policy paper elaborated by each fishery association, with the assistance of the project, in order to become eligible of fishing rights allocation. The documents lists, in the format of a legal codex, duties and responsibilities the fishery associations are granted in order to maintain their legal rights to fish. Duties include management of capture zones, protection of spawning ground, maintenance of navigation routes, functions of monitoring and surveillance.
Re-planning of fishing gears, Cau Hai This movie (part one) visually summarizes the sources of the problems in the Cau Hai lagoon due to uncontrolled deployment of fishing traps in the past. Negative impacts related to circulation, abusive occupation of navigation routes, water quality and pressure on the wild fish stock. Resource depletion was the cause of poverty and nutrition insecurity.
Re-planning of fishing gears, Cau Hai This movie (part two) describes solutions adopted for Cau Hai, through re-planning and reduction of fishery activities. The deployment of GIS and introducing participatory planning promoted collaborative work between fishers and communal authorities (co-management), facilitated by the project. Over 700 stake traps were mapped, censused and repositioned or removed, based on a management plan developed in a participatory way. Reduction of number/size of the fish traps ranged from 37%-48%.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Fishery Association statistics The document includes frames excerpted from monitoring reports, portraying Fishery Association descriptive statistics and the progress of mobilization work, up to 2010. The first frame lists Fishery Associations presently existing in Thua Thien Hue; those established and assisted by the project in 2005-2010 are in darker green and those in 2011-2012, are paler green. The second and third frames represents organizational steps and the fourth, representation rates in absolute and relative values.

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.

Assembly of fishermen in Phu Dien Consultation sessions with the grass-root beneficiaries were held regularly, most often to discuss issues relating to zoning of the water surface. The event portrayed in the image relates to the consultation held in Phu Dien commune, Phu Vang district in 2012 on the zoning maps prepared by the project. Mr Nguyen Van Bon, a provincial government officer leads the discussion; convened fishers are requested to verify the correctness of the zoning plans and propose amendments.
Decision making by fishermen The decision-making by fishermen was a novel introduction in fishery associations’ practice. Discussed issues were ratified by the assembly through hand rising, once reached general consent – an application of basic democracy that effectively contributed to their sense of inclusion and participation.
FA Executive Board, Phu Thanh Fishery association plenary congresses were held yearly to discuss issues relating to management, finance, budget and future prospects. Congresses terminated with the election of the executive board and the salute to the assembly by the newly elected members, remaining in charge for a three-year term. Needs of fishermen were addressed at congresses and issues assigned to the executive board, for reporting to local authorities through the co-management body.
Sharing knowledge in province Technical issues and project achievements are shared with stakeholders and local government authorities at yearly consultation workshops. At the plenary session of IMOLA Workshop, attendance included representatives from FAO, the Government of Italy, and of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Vietnam. Sharing knowledge at public meeting contributed to better understanding of results and methods, to project ownership and better responsiveness of higher-ranking beneficiaries.
Beneficiaries at work Beneficiaries are convened at relevant meeting concerning their professional activity: members of the FAs of Phu Loc and Huong Tra participate to fishing-rights allocation ceremonies chaired by GoV authorities, ratifying the acts that legalizes area-based management. The scene represents a further important milestone in the fishers’ career: the signature of the co-management agreement by communal authorities and fishery associations of Loc Binh. Fishers legally become co-management partners.
Fishers of Cau Hai Fishery associations of Cau Hai are assisted by the project and are provided technical guidance to help them making better decision. In the clip, fishers remove their stake traps to redeploy them later, reduced in number and size, and according to a rational plan. Seven years after, fishers’ reports are that productivity has increased and fishers catch more and bigger fishes, a signal that fish stock has recovered.

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.

People that made the project In the attempt to grant recognition to all those who contributed to the project, random clips are spliced into this video, to offer a visual gallery of faces and people at work. Not all of the many contributors are herewith included, because of accidental lack of footage. Deep gratitude is granted to all for their effort and dedication.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Project Organigram The project received inputs from many personnel units, from many different countries (Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Southeast Asia among others) and, numerous, from the beneficiary country, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – too many to be listed individually. The project staff composition changed through the years but the basic implementing structure is that described in the document.

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. 

Tribute to Chairman Ha Liaising Government directives towards socio-economic development and communities’ responsiveness is a challenge in Vietnam: this is where personal capacities, sense of equity and presence among people can make a difference. Chairman Ha of the Phu Loc District demonstrated his leading role during the most demanding tasks in Phu Loc’s Cau Hai lagoon, side by side and backing up project initiatives whenever necessary, aiming towards a shared goal.

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.

Dredging at the Tu Hien inlet Based on hydrological modeling and studies of bottom morphology, in order to re-establish the efficiency of Tu Hien inlet, a dredging plan has been developed. The planimetric representation depicts the dredging scheme by years, with a calculated removal of 300,000 cubic meters of sediment, to allow sufficient daily seawater exchange though tides. Positive Impacts relate to the restoration of the lagoon natural and biological cycles and to the flushing of pollutant.
Inlet bathymetry To explore remedies to promote water circulation in Cau Hai lagoon, the project has undertaken bathymetric surveys, based on which engineering interventions were prospected. Dredging of the inlet and inner canals is a necessary measure to enhance water mixing, to flush out organic pollutants released from aquaculture and excess sediment supplied by rivers. The bathymetric chart is a tool to engineer the dredging and calculate the amount of occluding sediment to be removed.
Stagnant lagoon waters Lacking circulation, water becomes increasingly polluted, depleted of oxygen and infested by weeds, turning unsuitable to animal life. This is one of the causes of impoverished stock that so severely affect lives of fishers. Fine-mesh net in the background of the image are responsible of the situation, inhibiting even the flimsiest current. Siltation makes the lagoon shallower, such that fishers can walk large expanses: this may be the final stage of the existence of the lagoon unless remedies are found.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf IMOLA map atlas and statistics This document is an excerpt from a map atlas and descriptive statistics of lagoon fishery and environment (16 pages in this file, out of total 124). It was prepared by the IMOLA Project in the format of an e-book, deliverable through the internet, for use of local planners and to the advantage of other development project worldwide, as a replicable example of GIS-aided territorial planning.

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.

Philippines interested in IMOLA October 2014: a group of six Filipino officers from RARE and a team leader from Environmental Defense Fund (EDF, New York) visited the IMOLA Project to learn how Vietnamese fishers successfully applied TURF (Territorial User Rights for Fishers). A field session was held at Loc Binh’s Mai Gia Phuong Fishery Association, hosted by the Chairman, Mr Pham Van Loi. The former CTA, the Chairman of Provincial Fishery Association and the former IMOLA technical staff, Bui Duc Be chaired the session.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf The IMOLA Project showcase at FAO The document is a pamphlet produced by the FAO in the occasion of the 38th FAO Conference (June 2013), under the programme “Partnering for results” aimed to enhance the results of collaborative works of selected FAO project worldwide.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf World Fish looks at IMOLA / Operationalizing co-management link web

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.

A farmer story This three-minute clip relates to the IMOLA story, subject of a documentary produced by VTC16 (National rural-development cable television of Vietnam). The movie (30 minutes long) won the Third Prize for the Vietnam National Press Award 2010. A shortened version (10 minutes) was shown at the IMOLA Project Showcase, 38th FAO Conference in Rome (June 2013).
Cau Hai lagoon clean up, Earth Day 2009 Awareness-raising activities promoted by the project included lagoon clean-ups – the one reported by TRT was in Vinh Hien commune of Cau Hai lagoon – targeting the younger generation, to enhance concern on safe, clean and healthy environment. Inaugurating the event, District DARD authorities and the National Project Director (delivering the speech). Protagonists are the school children of Vinh Hien.
TRT broadcasts IMOLA Project milestones were regularly reported by television networks. The clip broadcasted by Thua Thien Hue television (TRT) records the signing ceremony of the co-management agreement between the authorities and the FAs representatives in the Loc Binh commune. The closing scene shows the instant of the signature by the Chairman of the commune (right), the project CTA (Center) and the Deputy Director of the District DARD (left). The Vice Director of the Provincial DARD witnesses, standing.
VTV1 broadcasts IMOLA The IMOLA project received attention from national television networks during its implementation. Represented in this video is an excerpt from a longer documentary produced by a companion rural development dedicated network (VTC16) on IMOLA achievements in the fields of fishery management in Cau Hai lagoon.