In 2011, Viet Nam’s shrimp industry faces unprecedented loss in the rearing area and production. In addition to the polluted environment and bad seed quality, the poor coordination and communication between government agencies and farmers was also a major factor, resulting in the slow response of the authorities to the disaster.
The situation underscores the need for a form of comanagement, which promotes stronger linkages among relevant stakeholders and increases the two-way communication between the managers and producers so that any serious problems such as sudden weather/environmental change, disease outbreak, etc can be addressed without delay.
MBCAA takes that comanagement approach. It involves the participation of the producers, government agencies and other components of the value chain. It is authorized by the local government to handle certain violations in aquaculture operations in its area of jurisdiction.
Trial application of MBCAA in some provinces in recent years has demonstrated that this model can fill the gaps of aquaculture management.
The what, where, how and why of MBCAA
MBCAA is established in the intensive farming areas with the voluntary participation of all the farmers and other relevant stakeholders. The aim is to ensure the uniformity and consistency in aquaculture practices and management, particularly in aquaculture area planning, selection of crops and farmed species, application of proper farming procedures, environment monitoring, disease prevention, etc.
MBCAA personnel are made up of elected representatives from all the participating groups and operate under the regulations and rules of the community. They are trained and empowered to enforce certain laws and handle certain violations. At the same time, MBCAA bears joint responsibility for any loss or damage that occurs to the producers in the farming areas.
Co-management is an arrangement in which the government authority share part of its management responsibility with the community. MBCAA is the one that ensure the sustainable development of the aquaculture industry by taking part in the formation of mechanisms and organizations, contributing to the process of policies making, promoting the environmental management, providing capacity building for government agencies at all levels and community members, and identify the powers delegated.
The management boards of shrimp farming areas in the province of Ben Tre demonstrated a typical model of MBCAA. They hold both regular and ad-hoc meeting with the farmers in the area to inform them about the management measures, spreading diseases, environmental monitoring results. They seek advice from experts and extension staffs to help farmers better manage their pond and minimize the damage caused by diseases. They also disseminate information on markets and harvest time while working with buyers to boost sales.
Obstacles to the MBCAA
The establishment and functioning of MBCAA is not simple. That is why this model has not seen widespread adoption.
The biggest barrier is the awareness of farmers, according to a report on the performance of MBCAA in the province of Ben Tre MBCAA. The initial lobby for the MBCAA often faces many difficulties. A small part of the farmers do not have best sense of community. They fail to abide by the laws and community rules. Some of them may still discharge the polluted water into the surrounding environment, pump the pond mud directly into natural waterways, broken the crop schedule, and using unquarantined shrimp seed. Some cannot meet the food safety standards so they do not want to participate in the MBCAA.
On the other hand, since the model is quite new, the board staff themselves are inexperienced, inactive and confused. They are not willing to handle any violations for fear of making enemy or aggressively request the members to comply with the regulations, especially those related to environment and epidemic management.
Besides, the local infrastructure for aquaculture is often inadequate, e.g lack of drainage channel for each farming area. Meanwhile, the shrimp industry grows too fast, and some farming areas are too large for MBCAA to manage effectively. These setbacks make co-management more challenging. Some MBCAAs failed to fulfill their roles or encouraged the farmers to participate in the model. For their part, local authorities have not actively supported and participated in the Board activities. Besides the lack of comprehensive regulations for seafood production also made it difficult to prosecute the violations when they occur.
MBCAA leaders play very important role in the successful operation of a MBCAA. They must be experienced, devoted and highly respected by the members. MBCAA must maintain regular meetings to communicate new problems and encourage the member to abide by the laws. This activity is also necessary in a sense that it reminds people of the MBCAA existence and responsibility for the community.
Funds to maintain the operation of a MBCAA is also essential. A good example of the fun raising for MBCAA is the "Risk Fund", which is contributed by the members and used to support households in difficulty, for example affected by the disease outbreak, as well as other predetermined purposes. The amount of contribution and support may vary but the fund must be managed and used in a transparent and effective manner.
Besides contributions from farmers, MBCAA can seek the financial support of the government (from the diseasefighting fund) and other parties such as processing companies, feed dealers and buyers. Besides supporting the affected households, the fund can be used for human resources training, standard adoption, branding, and trade promotion, etc.
By DO VAN THONG
Compiled by LE QUYEN