The purpose of this project was to increase understanding of the technical, social and economic constraints to rice-fish culture in Lao PDR, emphasising women's involvement, through investigation of the resource management and communications systems and participatory research to investigate how to maximise profit from rice fish systems. It was conceived as an opportunity to expand understanding of the biological and social dimensions of aquatic resources management to underpin the development of less intensive forms of aquaculture which can play a role in securing and enhancing the livelihoods of poor people in the region.
The outputs of the project contribute to the DFID development goal of a sustainable increase in yields from small-scale semi-intensive and extensive aquaculture systems through improved management via products to improve productivity and influence policy. The contribution of the outputs offered to beneficiaries by this project is embodied in a strategic approach to designing and implementing a system which takes account of the complexity and diversity in natural resources, and the risk faced by individual farm families. The system represents a unique mechanism, designed through an iterative and interactive research process in which farmers and local institutions are collaborative partners. Through the conduct of trials, farmers and extension institutions have developed experience in participatory research and the capacity to work in concert with each other and with research and development institutions (both local and remote). The development of communications channels between farmers and institutions reduces farmers' transaction costs in the adoption of fish production in rice fields. Fish yield increments of 200-300% have been observed on farms and the impacts of technology express themselves in income changes, which have been identified and measured for households. Access to technology for the poorest (a small number of whom volunteered for the trials along with self-sufficient and surplus wealth-category farmers), who do not have access to savings, was possible by substituting their labour for financial investments. The project defines roles for key players devolving the research and development to farmers and field workers. It values local knowledge whilst acknowledging roles for outsiders. Sustainable impact is attempted through the instigation of an iterative process, which leads towards the refinement of the existing system of research and development at a rate consistent with local capacity.
The specific a priori emphasis on the involvement of a women's organisation with a wide geographic influence and institutional cohesion (the Loa Women's Union) as a key target group in natural resources research is an effective method to support the active participation of women.
Addressing technical, social and economic constraints to rice fish culture in Laos, emphasising women’s involvement. Final Project Report, University of Stirling, Scotland, 83 pp.