Sustainable ecosystem services and livelihoods through aquaculture development – "ECOLIVA"
The "ECOLIVA" project investigated the linkages between the provision and valuation of ecosystem services, aquaculture development and sustainable livelihoods, using the case of shrimp farming in two coastal sites of southern Thailand. The project was funded by the European Union under Framework Programme 7 and implemented in 2010-11 as a Marie-Curie Intra-European Fellowship hosted by the Stockholm Environment Institute in York, UK.
The project addressed the following questions through a range of methodological approaches that enabled to comprehend the complexity of the linkages and document the sustainability issues at stake:
1. What is the impact of aquaculture development on the resilience of the social-ecological systems studied? This was addressed by piloting a resilience approach on Samroyiot, in Prachuap Kiri Khan Province, where small shrimp producers are organised in clusters and located in the vicinity of a Ramsar site and National Park. Results were presented in an e-poster at the 6th World Fisheries Congress, Edinburgh, UK, 8-11 May 2012.
2. How to account for ecosystem values and stakeholder preferences in decisions related to the development or conservation of coastal areas? This was addressed through the development of a Bayesian Belief Network (BBN) as a decision-support system involving the opinions of international and Thai shrimp aquaculture experts and the use of primary and secondary data to populate the network and quantify the trade-offs associated with a range of shrimp farm management and policy development scenarios. Findings from the capture of ecosystem services, stakeholder preferences and trade-offs in coastal aquaculture decisions were published in PLOS One in 2012. The paper is freely available here. Results were also presented at the 6th World Fisheries Congress, Edinburgh, UK, 8-11 May 2012, and at the Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP) Conference, Wageningen, The Netherlands, 4-7 October 2011.
3. What is the potential for payment for ecosystem services (PES) in the context of shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei) farming development? In order to assess this potential and figure out “how much” farmers should be paid to implement more environmentally-friendly shrimp production practices, an approach based on the calculation of opportunity costs associated with different management options was used. Secondary and primary data from the site of Samroyiot and from a second site in Surat Thani Province (an intensive shrimp production area) was used. This was further supported by an analysis of the institutional arrangements needed to support the implementation of PES in coastal areas of Thailand. Results were presented at the CIVILand International Conference on Payments for Ecosystem Services and their Institutional Dimensions. Berlin, Germany, 10-12 November 2011.
4. Do better management practices (BMPs) have an impact on the sustainability of production systems and value chains? To address this question, a comparative analysis of value chains was piloted, using primary data collected from farmers in both extensive and intensive production areas. Findings were shared with two shrimp exporters working closely with a group of extensive farmers to help them attain certification of their production.
The ECOLIVA research showed the complexity of the relationship between ecosystem services, sustainable livelihoods and production of a valuable aquatic commodity. It also showed that, with appropriate incentives and decision-support tools, and a close examination of local contexts and system dynamics, sustainable shrimp aquaculture can allow simultaneous ecosystem services provision and livelihood improvements. The project findings are of direct interest to policy makers in both Thailand and other countries where coastal aquaculture is an important economic activity, as well as in international organizations in their advice and promotion of sustainable aquaculture development. They are also of interest to the private sector (import-export) and NGOs who both also have a role to play in strengthening farmers’ organisations and the sustainability of shrimp production to better respond to demand for more environmentally and ethically produced commodities. Finally, the research findings and the piloting of novel approaches have contributed to better understand the interactions and trade-offs between ecosystem services and economic activities in systems in constant evolution.
A summary of the project findings can be downloaded here.
The project developed partnerships with local shrimp farmers and stakeholders in the country: the Coastal Resources Institute (CORIN-ASIA), the Network of Aquaculture Centers in Asia and the Pacific (NACA), and with SeaFresh Ltd, a Thai shrimp exporter and AquaStar Ltd, a UK-based shrimp importer.