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Income, Food Security, and Poverty Reduction: Case Studies of Functioning
Clusters of Successful Small-Scale Aquaculture Producers
Food Security Research 1 (10FSR1)/Study/Honduras
Escuela Agrícola Panamericana, Zamorano, Honduras
Daniel E. Meyer
Joseph J. Molnar
University of Georgia
E. William Tollner
George Pilz, Escuela Agrícola Panamericana, Zamorano, Honduras
1) Identify clusters of small- and medium-scale producers that have engaged in repeated cycles of tilapia production in Santa Barbara and El Paraiso, Honduras.
2) Elucidate the circumstances and conditions that contribute to successful implementation and continued practice of tilapia culture.
3) Formulate principles and guidelines for providing technical assistance and research support for small- and medium scale tilapia farmers in Honduras.
Aquaculture plays an identifiable role in helping rural Hondurans achieve food and income security1, but there is a need for better understanding of how aquaculture works at the village level (Molnar and Lovshin, 1995). Lessons learned from actual circumstances where tilapia culture is a regularized component of local farming systems could provide realistic guidance for the network of national and regional institutions dedicated to advancing aquacultural development. Another constituency for this information lays in the broader aggregate of agencies and organizations that feature aquaculture as one component in their array of development interventions. Understandings gained from case studies of successful clusters of practicing fish farmers can contribute to the goal of better directing aquaculture's inclusion in current and future integrated community development initiatives.
Small-scale aquaculture in Central America has often failed since efforts began over more than two decades ago (Lovshin et al., 2000). Enough abandoned ponds exist that one might be tempted to question whether aquaculture has proven to be an inappropriate tool for reaching development goals in Honduras. However, some small farmers have experienced remarkable success, and their ponds have provided real food security and income benefits for the families involved. This study will identify how clusters of practicing tilapia small farmers manage and sustain their fishponds and describe the experiences, circumstances, and resources that enable their successful realization of the enterprise.
Implementing small and medium scale aquaculture on a widespread and sustained basis is a long-term process (Molnar et al., 1991; Harrison, 1993). In Honduras, tilapia development has taken place during an extended period of administrative reorganization and political uncertainty that is directly related to the low quality of government services that are available to the rural sector (Mendez, 1986). The tilapia industry is still recovering its growth pattern after hurricane Mitch, but has more recently had to deal with fingerling shortages and disease problems. Many regard progress as inadequate and no large-scale donor-support for technical assistance is likely to emerge. Thus, it is vital that this project fortifies Zamorano's ability to sustain aquaculture development in Honduras because other sources of technical assistance have diminished and farmers must learn to utilize private firms and nongovernmental organizations for services and technical assistance. 2
Despite setbacks and disappointments, some small- and medium scale producers have incorporated tilapia culture into their farming systems. Knowledge of actual "secrets to success" may lead the many public and private nonprofit agencies endeavoring work with Honduras communities to better understand the proper role of aquaculture in Central American rural development. These insights may help donors and practitioners to incorporate aquaculture effectively into current and future development programs. Many nongovernmental organizations have resources and personnel trained in tilapia farming and fish farming already is a part of the portfolio of activities which local advisors are prepared to provide technical advice. The findings may facilitate realistic consideration of the prospects for promoting fish culture as a farm enterprise in some locales and discouraging investments in pond construction and land diversion in other. The results of the case studies will identify the configurations of circumstances that enhance the viability of the enterprise where it presently is an established and productive activity for clusters of successful farmers3.
There may be elements of mutual support and collaboration that enable groups of farmers to be more successful collectively than they would otherwise be individually. Neighbors may provide information and problem solving to one another in the absence of adept technical assistance from public and private sources. What extension assistance is available may resonate among a cluster of farmers more effectively than if delivered to an individual producer, as such information is often subject to local interpretation and refinement before it can actually solve a farmer's problem or advance the production process.
Rural communities in Honduras have experienced little support and many inadequacies in the performance of their government (Stonich, 1991, 1992). With USAID encouragement, Honduras undertook a land-titling project in 1982 with the expectation of increased access to credit for small farmers, and subsequently, increased on-farm investment and enhanced tenure security. Larson et al. (1999) suggest that titling by itself did not bring the intended outcomes, and that institutional factors had more immediate effects on the ability of small farmers to improve their farming systems. Factors found to have a significantly positive effect on technical efficiency, directly or indirectly, were education, technical assistance and credit. The dummy variable for land titling was consistently non-significant.
Fingerling production is critical concern for small and medium scale fish farmers seeking to restock ponds and begin another cycle of production. Some communities may feature a lead producer who is particularly adept at managing broodstock and organizing the reproduction process. Such lead producers may support their neighbors by ensuring the availability of quality seedstock at predictable intervals that enables repeated cycles of production. Case studies of successful clusters of producers may elucidate the ways these core producers induce other farmers to build and stock ponds with tilapia. Results of past studies show that human capital (e.g., schooling, literacy), wealth, and security of land tenure help farmers adopt new farm technologies. These studies have focused on villages with tight links to the market and little land. Gorday et al. (2000) considered whether these patterns also apply to more self-sufficient economies with ample land. Their analysis of 101 Tawahka Indians households in Honduras's rain forest suggests that education and knowledge of Spanish enhance adoption by facilitating the flow of information into the household and by making it easier for people to judge the quality of the technology.
Certain agglomeration advantages may accrue to clusters of producers who are better able to respond to market demand for fish and facilitate connections to buyers seeking fish for resale, restaurant use, or home consumption. "Coyotes" or middlemen who supply tilapia to urban markets may find it more useful to call on known clusters of producers with greater likelihood of finding available quantities of desired sizes of fish. Again, some lead producers in a community may have connections to processors, resellers, or others in distant markets that increase the reliability of marketing harvests at anticipated prices. Thus, clusters of producers may experience certain advantages in production, restocking, and the outlined program of case studies can clarify the role of marketing in sustaining the practice of fish culture.
Ruben and van den Berg (2000) examined wage income as a major element of the rural livelihood strategy that permits the maintenance of a survival strategy based on the combination of a number of complementary activities. This enables small farmers better to overcome limitations in the access to markets and favors the adoption of risk-sharing strategies that are considered typical for resource-poor households operating under conditions of selective market failure. Their work in Honduras suggests that one segment of small farmers may view fish culture less as a livelihood and more as a lifeline, i.e., a source of diversification and risk reduction.
Kurbis (1997) identified several conditions contributing to successful fish farming in Honduras. The US Peace Corps, through which plans were made to effectively utilize the research results, ceased their aquaculture efforts after 1995 budget cuts. Even more confounding, other extension agencies involved in aquaculture were found to have neither the organization nor the resources to effectively promote aquaculture. This proved difficult to overcome because biological research results typically outline the biological, and sometimes economic, circumstances under which sustainable success is likely. It is also often assumed that extension already understands the basics of the technology. Detailed prescriptions for fish culture often are less than useful to extensionists whose expertise lies in other areas and who have had only piecemeal training in aquaculture.
Buckles (1999) found that the relative profitability of velvet bean (mucuna) in Honduras was enhanced by seasonally high maize prices during the second season when maize is harvested. Relatively easy access to land through inexpensive land ownership and land rental markets has made it possible for even small-scale farmers to dedicate land to this farming system. In a parallel fashion, farmer perceptions of tilapia culture as viable livelihood may be the primary factor in farmers' decision making about the adoption of fish as a component of their farming systems. Case studies may reveal the material circumstances that lead to perceptions of viability, as well as the organizational and contextual factors that support the practice of fish culture.
Institutional inadequacies in the kind of research and extension support provided to the aquaculture sector in Honduras cannot be ignored. Kurbis (1997) found it very frustrating to have gone to great lengths to complete research only to find that it could not be used effectively because insufficient government resources were devoted to aquaculture. He concluded that future initiatives that combine competent extension with effective targeting could help tilapia culture to realize its potential for improved food and income security in rural Honduras. It is not realistic to expect a dramatic change in the quality of assistance available from the public sector in Honduras. Nonetheless, the capability of nongovernmental organizations providing technical assistance in aquaculture is improving, in part due to the previous two years of effort by a PD/A CRSP project (Verma et al., 1999). Loker (2000) reviews the problems associated with a newly implemented development project in Santa Barbara, exploring explores the social causes of project failure.
Quantified Anticipated Benefits
Aquacultural development may generate both direct and indirect benefits. Benefits accrue directly to participants by increasing their access to food, income, and nutritional assets, by increasing their human capital (through training, better health status, finishing more years in school, etc.), and by increasing both household and community social capital (increasing community cohesion, increasing community propensity to act jointly for the benefit of members of the community, trust and empowerment). It may also provide such benefits as decreasing the time spent on less productive farm activities, decrease the cost to households of obtaining protein, among others. It is important to note that a single fish culture intervention can have many of these positive effects. For instance, a pond rehabilitation and expansion investment can improve the capacity and physical environment of a community, can increase food availability, income, and nutritional security. Aquacultural development can increase social capital through the skills, networks and confidence gained by the producers' interactions with other producers and input suppliers associated with the implementation of their fish culture enterprise. There are also indirect benefits, such as more positive and beneficial interactions between producers and their communities.
To address these issues, the study will conduct case studies in communities that have experience with aquacultural development. Based on reviews of available documents, interviews with officials, extended conversations with fish farmers, and other sources of information cases studies will be developed. The objective is to conduct an in-depth analysis of the impact of aquacultural development in selected communities in two Honduras departmentsEl Paraiso and Santa Barbara. Because aquacultural development may operate in different ways in different regions, an attempt has been made to choose locations that are geographically dispersed and represent diversity in rainfall and elevation.
Both locales have known clusters of successful tilapia producers; yet represent contrasting physical and social environments reflecting the diversity of social and physical conditions in Honduras. A cattle and basic grain-growing area, El Paraiso represents the lower elevations, broad valleys and low mountains of the Choluteca river and its tributaries. A coffee-producing region, Santa Barbara represents conditions of higher elevations, sharper valleys, and more evenly distributed rainfall. A higher proportion of the population of Santa Barbara is descended from indigenous peoples.
The study will produce a foundation report that presents detailed case study findings, their implications for NGO and governmental efforts to provide technical assistance. In additional, a Spanish-language leaflet will be produced that summarizes, illustrates, and highlights the study findings. This publication will be widely distributed in Honduras and Central America as a means for providing baseline principles for initiating and guiding technical assistance in aquacultural development. Both publications will be made available on the web site established during the previous project period.
The proposed research will integrate with regional plans in a number of fundamental ways. It will seek to implement its work in consultation with CIAT and PRADEPESCA, the regional FAO-sponsored entity for fisheries and aquaculture. The study results will be made available to NGOs and government agencies in Central America that are positioned to implement its recommendations for reaching, stimulating, and supporting small- and medium-scale producers in the region. The results will be used to guide the other components of this project in terms of providing its key insights to NGOs and others that are considering augmenting or adding their capability to provide technical assistance in tilapia culture.
Preparation (background, selection of case study communities): July 2001 November 2002
Data collection and analysis: September 2001 May 2002
Analysis and writing: June 2002 January 2003
Completion of case studies: January 2003
Completion of synthesis report (printed leaflets): March 2003
Dissemination of synthesis report and printed leaflets: April 2003
Final report to be submitted no later than April 30, 2003.
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Harrison, E., 1991. Aquaculture in Africa: Socioeconomic Dimensions. A Review of the Literature. School of African and Asian Studies, University of Sussex, England.
Kurbis, G., 1997. Smallholder aquaculture and food security in Honduras. Abstract of project report. (CBIE-CP7231). Canadian International Development Agency, Ottawa.
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Molnar, J.J. and L. Lovshin, 1995. Prospects for the Sustained Practice of Tilapia Culture in Honduras: Factors Inhibiting Full Realization of the Enterprise. Mimeo. International Center for Aquaculture and Aquatic Environments, Auburn University, Alabama.
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1 Vitamin A deficiency) and iron deficiency anemia have been recognized as public health problems in Honduras for over 30 years. The dietary Fe status of the population in rural west of Honduras was found to be very poor. Extremely low intakes of fruits and vegetables and of meats, coupled with significant intake of coffee by all age groups, further limits the availability of dietary Fe in the Honduran population. (Ohri-Vachaspati and Swindale, 1999). Tilapia culture could ameliorate dietary inadequacies in communities containing clusters of producers that ensure availability of fish to women and children, but Bergeron and Banegas (1998) suggest that cross-sectional, group interviews are not reliable means for assessing levels of, or changes in, food security.
2 Honduran rural women play an important role in agriculture, especially in the peasant and small farmer sectors, working an average of four hours a day in crop and livestock activities. Women are responsible for establishing a survival strategy for the household unit. Women, who bear the entire responsibility for agricultural production, head about 20% of rural households. Development policies, however, still consider men as producers and women as responsible only for household tasks. Women are primarily responsible for vegetable gardening and small livestock - poultry, pigs and goats. While little data is available on the gender division of labor in agriculture, women take part in most activities and predominate in food processing. In fisheries, women also work primarily in processing activities. Women are responsible for household tasks, including water supply. Men contribute significantly to fuel wood collection. In households in which women are active in agricultural production, men and women often share the decision-making. Men predominate in decisions in regard to type of crops, varieties, and fertilizers, while women generally have a greater say in family expenses and pricing of produce (Fleck, 1996). www.fao.org/sd/wpdirect/WPan0005.htm
3 Based on a survey of 48 communities in central Honduras, Pender et al. (1999) identified six major pathways of development in central Honduras since the mid-1970s: basic grains expansion communities; basic grains stagnation communities; coffee expansion communities; horticultural expansion communities; forestry specialization communities; non-farm employment communities. Tilapia culture is most likely to complement farming systems in coffee and horticulture-based communities. The pathways were distinguished by factors determining comparative advantage, including agricultural potential, population density, and access to markets and technology. Pender et al. (1999) maintain that the key causes of change in productivity and resource management are different and more pathway-dependent than the key causes of change in poverty, which depends to a great extent on provision of public services. Basic infrastructure and public services are badly needed throughout most of central Honduras, while efforts to address sustainable agricultural development may not be sufficient to solve poverty problems. There may not be large tradeoffs between achieving more sustainable development and reducing poverty, since the causes are different.
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