Oxfam Mangrove Rehabilitation Helps Vietnam Aquaculture


Linda Salim, for SeafoodSource from Surabaya, Indonesia

Published on
June 19, 2008

Oxfam America, a Boston-based organization committed to end global poverty and hunger, has been working with Can Tho University in Vietnam to rehabilitate mangrove forestry along the Mekong Delta. To get around rampant logging, the project offered to provide communities with aquaculture skills.

The project started three years ago when Can Tho proposed its plan to recreate mangrove forests to create a natural defense against common weather catastrophes in the tropics. Mangrove has strong roots and is capable of adapting in both saltwater and freshwater.

Traditionally, mangrove grew densely in Vietnam but disappeared due to illegal logging and overly aggressive aquaculture, says Chiem Nguyen Huu, head of Can Tho University's Department of Environment & Natural Resources. Sprawling urbanization made matters worse.

When the project was launched, it didn't have community support. Nearby communities are low-income fishing families desperate enough to exploit what resources are left. The fishermen used to fish in coastal waters where mangrove grew, destroying the forests in the process, says Chiem.

To stop them from perpetuating the damage, Oxfam made a deal with the community. Instead of fishing in the coastal water, Oxfam taught the communities to build backyard ponds filled with spillover water from mangrove forests on high tides, transporting fish, shrimp and crab to the ponds.

Chiem reported that the University discovered from Thailand that mangrove shrimping destroyed forests in three years. His team promised to double the community's income with more sustainable fish farming.

Initially doubtful, first generation farmers who participated in the program experienced how their newly acquired knowledge changed their lives. Tran Huu Tri, one participant of the Oxfam program, says both his income and shrimp output doubled within a few years of taking part in the program.

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