Aquaculture, poverty impacts and livelihoods

Aquaculture, poverty impacts and livelihoods

To what extent can aquaculture help poverty reduction?

Aquaculture is often viewed narrowly as intensive culture of salmon and shrimp to provide high value products for luxury markets and is often associated with environmental degradation. The promotion of aquaculture for rural development has had a poor record in many developing countries, especially in Africa. Paper shows that aquaculture does contribute to the livelihoods of the poor, particularly in areas of Asia where it is traditional practice, although a number of constraints prevent its expansion. Recent adoption of new technology suggests that, with adequate support, aquaculture could also contribute significantly to rural development in countries where it is neither a traditional nor widespread practice.

Paper makes the following observations:

  • Aquaculture comprises diverse systems of farming plants and animals in inland and coastal areas, many of which have relevance for the poor. Asia, in particular China, is dominant in global aquaculture production.
  • Social, economic and institutional issues are the most important constraints to greater contributions by aquaculture to rural development,as generic technologies already exist. Land-based culture systems in inland areas have the greatest potential because aquaculture can be integrated with the existing agricultural practice of small-scale farming households Coastal aquaculture also has relevance to poverty alleviation.

Policy recommendations are as follows:

  • A new professionalism involving changes in values among development professionals and increasing use of participatory, farming systems approaches that empower the poor and local communities are required for aquaculture to contribute more fully to livelihoods.
  • The poor need to be targeted and provided, at least initially, with public sector support although aquaculture has to function on a self-financing basis within the private sector for it to contribute sustainably to livelihoods.
  • Government needs to address both the design and implementation of policy, with feedback mechanisms allowing the poor to influence development.


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