Aquaculture for rural development
Irrespective of the economic or other benefits of large-scale aquaculture operations, greater emphasis is laid on small-scale farming in developing countries. This is largely because of the opportunities it offers for part- and full-time employment, which help in sustaining peasants and fishermen in rural areas, reducing the drift of populations to urban centres.
If aquaculture has to be developed for socio-economic benefits, it has to be planned for that purpose. In view of the importance given to this subject, it will be useful to consider it in some detail.
The small size of a farm cannot alone be expected to yield the desired social benefits. The most important factor is that in this type of aquaculture the focus of development has to be the farmer or the community, and not the aquaculture product per se. So, development has to be designed on the basis of the social, economic and behavioural patterns of the community involved.
In the vast majority of people-oriented aquaculture projects, the immediate target groups are likely to be the poorest of the poor, including landless labourers and marginalized peasants. It is generally accepted that, if these groups are really to benefit, the project should be based on an adequate understanding of the needs, desires, behaviour and capacities of the people and their indigenous institutions. The basic needs of the community are considered to be food, clothing, primary housing, household equipment, sanitation, water supply, cheap mass transport, elementary education and extension services, basic medicine, simple health services, etc. It should be obvious that an aquaculture development programme by itself cannot provide these needs directly, or in most cases even indirectly. It has to be integrated with, or complemented by, other development activities. Hence the need for integrated community development programmes aimed at the required production and consumption in terms of essential goods and services, where aquaculture could play a major role.
While the ideal people-oriented aquaculture programme is an integrated one, it should be recognized that sectoral programmes can also yield major socio-economic benefits, such as improvement in the availability of protein food, enhanced income contributing to improved purchasing power of the population and better standards of living. Employment opportunities generated through aquaculture development, including production, processing, transport and marketing, can be expected to control, to some extent, the drift of rural people to urban areas. Large-scale development of aquaculture can also eventually lead to better communications in rural areas, as they are needed also for proper management of aquaculture production and distribution.
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