In the lower Mekong Basin, marginal socio-economic conditions prevail amongst rural small scale farming households which heavily depend on highly seasonal, rain-fed farming systems for their livelihood. Persistent rural poverty is aggravated by frequently occurring droughts and floods. A yearly flood-drought cycle, while essential to their household economy based on rice and fisheries, renders rural poor livelihoods vulnerable to recurrent periods of food insecurity.
This research demonstrates how a combination of publicly accessible Remote Sensing imagery and disaggregated poverty maps, within a comprehensive rural development framework, can provide an effective method to target pro-poor aquaculture development interventions at the local level. An agro-ecosystems analysis is performed in order to capture the seasonal dynamics of water- and aquatic resource exploitation. A holistic farming systems approach emphasises the potential of ponds in integrated rural smallholder systems to reduce poverty and vulnerability under rain fed conditions.
A Geographic Information System (GIS), an efficient spatial inventory tool and decision support system in resolving real world problems, is used to identify where rural poor households can potentially benefit from the integration of aquaculture into existing production systems. A time series of satellite derived vegetation index data reveals distinct agro-ecosystem seasonality over large parts of the study area, which is indicative for farming systems under rain fed conditions. The developed methodology is capable of identifying functionally different agro-ecosystems.
Socio-economic indicators for Cambodian parts of the lowland areas point to widespread rural poverty and vulnerability to recurrent food insecurity, which is directly related to agro-ecosystems seasonality and annual climate variability. Dependence of farming households on low productivity rain fed rice agro-ecosystems in Cambodia‚Äôs southern provinces is in stark contrast to the highly productive farming systems directly bordering it, in the freshwater fluvial zone of the Vietnamese Mekong Delta. A rapid increase in rice productivity in this densely populated area went hand-in hand with a considerable reduction in rural poverty. In this flood-prone but fertile area, resource competition and falling market prices of rice may have prompted the development of a range of integrated farming systems. The incorporation of ponds on farm in these systems facilitates reuse of nutrients from farm by-products for low-input aquatic resource production.
In Northeast Thailand, crop production and low-input aquaculture have been successfully integrated along a tradition of water- and living aquatic resources management in farmer managed systems under resource poor conditions. A spatially linked commune level rural development database for Sisaket province in Northeast Thailand provides a useful framework for planning of aquaculture development through systems that are appropriate and relevant to local socio-economic and agro-ecological conditions. It was concluded that the socio-economic and agro-ecological context of rural poverty in Southeast Cambodia offers scope for similar pathways to improve rural wellbeing and reduce vulnerability to poverty and food insecurity by integrating aquatic resources development in pond based systems as part of an interdisciplinary approach towards rural development.