Balancing options for shrimp farming. A landscape approach to investigate the future of shrimp farming in the Mekong Delta


While providing an option for development in coastal areas, shrimp farming is usually associated  with high environmental cost due to the loss of mangrove forest and high social cost as farmers suffer heavy financial losses due to disease outbreaks. Planning shrimp farming requires to integrate risk as well as social and environmental cost. This thesis, using the Mekong Delta as a case, presents an approach to investigate, with local stakeholders, options to plan a resilient and sustainable shrimp farming sector. First, Olivier Joffre analyzed the different shrimp production systems from economic point of view before analyzing farmer’s strategies and providing insights on drivers that will push or, at the opposite, constraint farmers to choose integrated mangrove shrimp systems. This knowledge was integrated in an Agent Based Model (ABM) that was calibrated using Role Playing Games (RPG).

The effect of future scenarios and different policies on the farmers’ decisions was tested using a combination of RPG and ABM. For one coastal district of the Mekong Delta, the results showed that promotion of intensification of shrimp production has a high social cost and decreases the total production in the study area after 10 years. Policies for supporting the spread of integrated mangrove-shrimp systems, such as Payment for Ecosystem Services, or access to an organic value chain, are not strong enough to influence farmers’ decision toward adopting these systems. Without any adaptation to climate change a sharp decrease of the production is expected. The approach brought local farmers’ knowledge to the attention of decision makers.