New Report Questions Distribution of Benefits from Aquaculture

16 February 2016, at 12:00am

GLOBAL - Improved productivity of fish farming does not necessarily translate into greater income, food and nutrition security finds a new report from WorldFish.

Aquaculture has many benefits for the poor such as increasing fish available for consumption, creating jobs and income, and improving access to high-quality protein and essential micronutrients.

And, it’s often assumed that aquaculture in developing countries will achieve all these outcomes. However the new research finds that the distribution of these benefits is impacted by socio-cultural dynamics such as local customs, gender, age and religion.

The report, Socio-cultural dynamics shaping the potential of aquaculture to deliver development outcomes, finds that women receive less benefit from aquaculture and local power relations often restrict the poor’s access to land and water. Likewise, the nutritional value of fish depends on local processing and cooking methods and customs.

Socio-cultural factors are the prevailing cultural norms and values, and forms and nature of social relations within a community or country. They can be understood through axes of identity such as gender, race, ethnicity, religion, caste, age, sexual orientation, ability and health status.

These factors define the behaviour and roles of people involved in fish farming explains Principal Scientist, Jharendu Pant.

“In many communities, norms determine whether men or women perform activities in the farm, and whether men or women sell fish in the market for example.”

The study involved a review of academic studies and reports by UN bodies and NGOs over the last ten years, with a focus on Asia and Africa. It found many cases of how socio-cultural factors influence who benefits from aquaculture and how.

For example, in Kalimantan in Indonesia, pond owners agree to pay their pond managers a share of the total profits. But often, the owners don’t disclose their full profits, resulting in income being unfairly distributed.

Likewise, in countries like Thailand and Bangladesh, small fish are often sun-dried. This processing method destroys a large proportion of the vitamin A content, which reduces the nutrients in the processed fish. So despite more fish being available due to aquaculture, the nutrition benefits aren’t always realized.

The research is unique, notes Research Analyst, Surendran Rajaratnam, because it focuses on factors affecting consumption rather than productivity.

“Previous studies have looked at who participates in aquaculture and how productive they can be, with a large focus on the impact of gender norms. Our study took a new approach, by looking at how socio-cultural factors shape aquaculture’s contribution to income, nutrition and food security.”

The authors call for more context-specific studies of socio-dynamics in aquaculture production and consumption, to help policymakers and planners ensure its development outcomes are achieved.

“Aquaculture interventions should be tailored to the resource base and socio-cultural context of the target community,” says Jharendu.

“That way, it will be possible to achieve the sustainable and equitable distribution of income, food and nutrition benefits.”