Sustainable Aquaculture and Integrated Agriculture in Cambodia

Project Background

 

In July, 2011, fisheries scientist and EcoWB co-founder Cleve Steward hired Nok Kachell (Photo #1) as his tour guide for three days to show him Angkor Wat and the surrounding area. During his visit, Cleve learned from Kachhel that he had recently purchased 140 hectares of land in Oddar Meanchay Province in northern Cambodia near the border with Thailand (Photo #2). Like much of Cambodia, Oddar Meanchay Province was devastated by the violence and political turmoil that occurred in the 1970’s and ‘80’s. It has not yet recovered. A World Food Program Report on Oddar Meanchay Province indicates 27% of households in the province are below the poverty line and 35% of households fall into the poorest two national quintiles of national consumption. The incidence of malnutrition-caused mortality among its residents, especially children, is very high. Stunting, wasting, and underweight rates among children were all well-above average, indicating rampant protein deficiency in the population. The development of additional sources of food, in particular, protein, was identified as a high priority need. Increasing the production of locally grown fish in small-scale, low cost aquaculture facilities offers promise in meeting this need.

 

Project Description

 

Combining their resources, Kachhel and a cousin cleared their land of overgrown vegetation, made their first planting of cassava in 2010, and planted another crop in June of 2011. The land is reasonably productive, and because it is bisected by a small river, Kachhel believes it will be less vulnerable to extended droughts. When he mentioned that he was interested in digging a pond to raise fish, Cleve questioned him closely to learn more. The result was an agreement that Cleve would try to find people and funding through Ecologists without Borders to perform an assessment and develop a plan for sustainably raising fish on Kachhel’s land.

Since returning to the United States, Cleve has contacted Kachhel for more information. Based on feedback from Kachhel, Ecologists without Borders has agreed to help with the development of a sustainable aquaculture project. The project will demonstrate how a small-scale private aquaculture system can be developed at low cost with minimal environmental impact within a remote, poverty stricken area of Cambodia. The project will be designed so that it can be replicated by other farmers in the region. EcoWB will provide technical and financial support to Kachhel in order to ensure successful project implementation, including designing the facility, reusing or disposing of fish waste, securing production inputs, and marketing the final product. The results of the project will be widely disseminated both locally and via the internet. Special care will be taken to promote recycling and avoid environmental degradation and pollution through proper management and application of technology.

 

EcoWB Initial Project Activities

 

In December 2011, with funds raised through an agreement with the American Fisheries Society, EcoWB conducted a resource and property assessment to make a feasibility determination of pond construction and technology support for remote area aquaculture and integrated agriculture. The region of interest is very near the Thailand border and most of the region relies on the imported fish from across the border as a main source of protein. Hydraulic Engineer Pete Sturtevant, representing EcoWB partner Engineers Without Borders, along with EcoWB fish biologist, Larry Dominguez, toured a large portion of the country and surveyed the area to produce design plans for multiple fish ponds.  The site is very promising offering a high clay content to retain water during extended dry periods and local feed sources.

 

December 2011 Trip Report

 

Engineers Without Borders’ Pete Sturtevant and EcoWBs’ Larry Dominguez travelled December 8 to 17, 2011 from Seattle, WA to Siem Reap,Cambodia.

Activities included:

  • EcoWB team spent 3-days with staff of NGO Sustainable Cambodia in the town of Pursat. The EcoWB team joined agricultural extension agents and water engineers to observe the efforts of remote area bio-sand water filtration, water collection cistern production and installation, and methane digester systems that utilize manure to produce gas for home use.
  • EcoWB team participated in a field tour to agriculture center that is introducing new crops in to the region, chicken management and a demonstration aquaculture pond.  EcoWB biologist provided advice in increasing pond productivity.
  • EcoWB biologist contributed to illustration concepts for the signage used to portray the correct use of bio-sand filters.
  • The EcoWB team observed the current fishery practices in consideration for the methods needed to promote aquaculture concepts that would involve more intense management, record-keeping, and training.  Currently, rice field, lake, pond, and canal fisheries rely on flood-recruited fish from overflowing rivers and lakes into floodplains during the monsoon season and “ponds” are fished out upon receding water levels entering the dry season.
  • EcoWB learned about the shortcomings of aquaculture promotion in previous attempts and primarily they have been due to lack of follow-up, poor communication on management, no plan to expose the concepts via demonstration of successful projects. Some aquculture centers exist in more populated areas. The potential farmers are investigating regional pond management and within nearby Thailand.
  • Conducted extensive topographic survey of proposed project area including flow measurement and documentation of high water marks.
  • Met with local government officials to counsel on project and discuss water resource use issues.
  • Collected GPS coordinates for mapping and project design.
  • Discussed preliminary steps to develop this into a proposal. Preliminarily, all the resources are available to initiate a demonstration project involving aquaculture and agriculture including, heavy equipment, land and water rights, soils condition, feed sources, and property oversight. The team is produncign a concept paper that will be utilized to pursue funding. Estimated project cost will be $17 ,000- $20,000 to achieve long-term sustainability that would result from a 3-yr long start-up period.

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