Saturday, March 5, 2011

MSc Advanced Module 4- Livelihoods and Aquatic Resource Management

The fourth Advanced module in the MSc program at Stirling was titled ‘Livelihoods and Aquatic Resource Management’ and was taught primarily by Dave Little, with supplementary lectures from Francis Murray.  This course focused on small-scale rural communities and how aquaculture fits into the complex social and economic environment surrounding these communities.

Three days of lectures centered on such topics as livelihoods analysis at both community and household levels, aquatic resource management, and stakeholder interactions.  After these lectures, we were broken into two groups of three for our assessed projects: our group was assigned an in-depth analysis of Pangasius farming in Vietnam, and how this industry impacts the region on a social level.

Pangasius farming has absolutely exploded in Vietnam over the past ten years: many would argue production has grown so fast that regulation and legislation has not been able to keep pace, resulting in an extremely complex, and often messy, situation.  Many small producers are beginning to be outcompeted by larger, more industrialized outfits, and our assessment was to make recommendations as to how the livelihoods of these smaller farmers may be protected.
A Pangasius farm in the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam

We came to the conclusion that cooperatives, where many small farmers band together to create one larger entity, may be a potential for smaller producers.  In this way, they begin to gain more bargaining and buying power and can start to take advantage of the economies of scale that the larger producers utilize.  Additionally, education and training programs may be key to helping farmers improve their practices and ultimately optimizing their production.   Both of these methods can help farmers achieve market certification through organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund, whose Pangasius standards are gaining global recognition.

Overall, this module was thoroughly enjoyable and I feel as if I learned a great deal about the complex interactions that must be identified and considered when evaluating an aquaculture operation in context.  The next module is Epidemiology, the only veterinary course that I will be taking during this program.  

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