Aquaculture for social benefit
Whether a project is intended to meet fully or partly the socio-economic needs of a community, it is necessary to design it carefully to provide the expected outputs. On the assumption that the potential for aquaculture development in the area is established, priority has to be given to the study of the community. It should aim at identifying the basic needs to be fulfilled and those that can be met through an aquaculture programme. For example, if an increase in family income is needed to afford the specified basic necessities, the project has to be designed to yield at least that minimum required income. A knowledge of the level of human, economic and social infrastructure development, and the cultural and political context in which the programme has to be implemented, is necessary for appropriate project design.
The technology or the farming system to be adopted will have to be carefully selected, not only on the basis of the agro-climatic and hydrological conditions of the area, but also the skills and educational background of the target population and their socio-cultural system. As it is often not practicable for those concerned with the project design to live long enough among the target community to learn all that needs to be learnt, adequate flexibility should be built in. It should be possible to make necessary project changes later, based on field tests and the results of the early-phase activities.
The need for the participation of the local community in planning and implementation in rural development projects is a widely accepted ideal. Where agriculture and allied industries are organized through cooperatives or communes, there are established mechanisms for broad participation in decision making and benefit sharing. Even though the ideal is seldom reached, people get opportunities to express their views and influence decisions. But in the majority of developing countries most people belong to what is called atomistic societies, characterized by extreme individualism, great reliance upon household members, and general distrust of others outside the household. Tribal, communal or plantation communities have more cohesive social organization, but these form only a minority in the global context. Government-sponsored cooperatives in unreg-imented societies have a rather poor performance record in most countries. Success rates tend to be higher when the members have reached a certain socio-economic status.
So the option is either to concentrate on individuals or family units or to form or seek the intervention of non-governmental voluntary agencies.
Many of the basic needs of a community could be factored into individual or family needs, and an activity that meets these needs, and leads to improvement in their standard of living in the aggregate, may constitute a social benefit to the community as a whole. The improvements in the economic well-being of the individuals and families can be expected to result in greater political clout and assertiveness to demand from the State social services that they themselves cannot develop. Such an approach, however, may sometimes lead to the accumulation of the benefits of development in a few hands, and thus alter the social structure. The assumption that the success of receptive and progressive individuals will motivate the rest of the community to adopt the productive activities may not always prove true.
The alternative of close involvement of a non-governmental voluntary agency has the potential to reach the community and its individuals more easily and motivate them to adopt development activities. However, the effectiveness of such agencies will depend largely on their organization, objectives and the motivation and dedication of their workers. In cases where no such agencies exist, it will be necessary to promote their formation. The need for such agencies is greater, and their involvement more valuable, when the project activities are intended to benefit rural women. In traditional rural societies, government agents, especially men, may find it very difficult to reach and establish rapport with the women’s groups. Suitably trained women volunteers would have a better chance of achieving this.
Ideally, people’s participation should be spontaneous and by the free will of the community. However, in practice it has often to be achieved through effective education, persuasion and demonstration of benefits. Participation is needed not only at the initial decision-making stage, but also during implementation, including decisions about benefit sharing. Educating the target group for proper understanding and appreciation of the development programme and national policies and procedures relating to financing and credit are essential to enable meaningful participation.