What are effective means for organizing aquaculture? A sneak preview from the field

Published on
March 16, 2017
Can area-based management governance arrangements in Southeast Asian contribute to a more effective means for organizing aquaculture? PhD-student Mariska Bottema is currently conducting fieldwork to find out. For now, it appears that among farmers in Thailand water appears to be the driving force behind the way in which they address their environment and each other.

For which research project are you currently conducting fieldwork?

'My PhD project is one of three in an NWO-funded research programme referred to as SUPERSEAS, short for ‘Supermarket supported area-based management and certification of aquaculture in Southeast Asia’. I am studying different configurations of area management in aquaculture, in order to determine what their components are and how they come together in the formation of environmental approaches which transcend farm-level management.'

Where are you conducting fieldwork? And for how long?

'I am in Asia collecting data for about 4 months. I am currently in Thailand where I studied a shrimp farmer group in Kung Kraben, Chantaburi and a tilapia farmer group in Panthong, Chonburi. I will now move to Ngoc Hien, in Ca Mau province, Vietnam to study a shrimp farmer group and I will end my field work with studying a tilapia farmer group in Hainan, China.'

What is the aim of your fieldwork trip(s)?

'I am collecting data for two different research papers. In one paper I am studying area management from the perspective of the individual aquaculture producer, and in another paper I am studying how area management arrangements constitute institutions for collective management of aquaculture by looking at governance arrangements formed at cluster level.'

What exactly does your fieldwork entail?

'On one hand, I am studying how individual shrimp farmers which are collaborating in emergent area management arrangements perceive environmental risk. For this I am interviewing about 20 individual shrimp farmers who are part of some sort of club, cooperative or institutionalised collaborative arrangement in a spatially defined area. I do this through a combination of traditional interviews and participatory mapping exercises. I try to illustrate perceived environmental risks and risk management strategies using cadastral maps and GPS in order to learn how these farmers look beyond their farm boundaries. Parallel to this I am studying how farmers organise themselves in collaborative arrangements and how these institutions respond to environmental risks. For this I am conducting interviews with representatives from farmer groups, government actors, value chain actors, NGO actors and anyone else involved in the development of these institutions, combined with focus groups with farmers themselves.'

What have you learned so far?

'So far I have studied 2 different cases: a group of shrimp farmers and a group of tilapia farmers in Thailand. The environmental risks perceived by these farmers and the strategies they apply to manage these are very different due to the nature of the species they are culturing. As a result the motivation for collaboration, and consequentially the manner in which farmers collaborate and communicate is also very different. A key similarity is water management. Water appears to be the driving force behind the way in which farmers address their environment, and at the same time it is what ties the farmers to the area in which they collaborate. I am curious to learn how this will be manifested in my next case study in Ca Mau where production systems are far more “open” and there is more environmental interaction between farms.'

You can find more information on Mariska’s research project ‘SUPERSEAS’ here.

You can find more information on ENP’s research theme ‘Marine Governance’ here.