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Title: A strategy towards improved fish hatchery management in Northeast Thailand
Authors: MacNiven, Angus M.
Supervisor(s): Little, David C.
Muir, James F.
Keywords: aquaculture
participatory action research
fish seed
hatchery management
technology transfer
participatory research
sustainable livelihoods
Issue Date: 2005
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: This report addresses the problem: how to improve approaches to fish seed production in smallholder aquaculture systems of Northeast Thailand? The work was carried out as a component of the U.K. Government Department for International Development Aquaculture Research Programme funded project, R7052: Improving freshwater fish seed supply and performance in smallholder aquaculture systems in Asia. From 1997 to 2003 the project worked in collaboration with regional partners in Bangladesh, Laos P.D.R., Thailand and Vietnam on constraints to seed production and distribution. The research problem called for improvement, implying that change was required in the way that seed was produced. The hypothesis that active collaboration in research by seed producers and institutional partners, facilitated by project staff would enable all participants to extend their understanding of the situation, contribute to the knowledge base and that resulting accommodations would lead to a continuous process of planning, action and reflection toward changes required for improvement. Reflection on the project outputs indicated that quality of fish seed was variable but there was no agreement on the nature of the problem among stakeholders. The decision was made to shift the research focus away from looking for technical problems and to focus instead on examining ways that existing knowledge could be integrated in a learning process with key stakeholders. The research problem then became to find an appropriate, effective and efficient methodology to achieve this; participatory action research was chosen for evaluation. Participatory action research is a collaborative approach involving the researcher in a facilitative role working with stakeholder groups to enable systematic investigation of issues, planning and action to resolve the issues. Outcomes should be action and public knowledge that feed in to further reflection and action in an ongoing learning cycle. Implementation of the methodology was carried out over two stages; the first planned set of activities involved extension of the existing collaborative arrangement with the Thai Government Department of Fisheries (DoF) and the Asian Institute of Technology Aqua Outreach Programme (AOP) in order to prepare a field research team and plan for field activities. The second stage was participatory action research field work which involved invitations to collaborate being extended to four formal groups and one informal group of hatchery operators in two Provinces of Northeast Thailand. Research facilitated by the research team used a range of participatory methods for identification and prioritisation issues, analysis, action planning, monitoring and evaluation. Actions were supported by the project logistically and financially. The exploratory approach to project planning meant that monitoring processes was as important as monitoring specific indicators. The output of the first set of activities was a formal agreement to collaborate however the strength of the collaboration was indicated by the low level of commitment shown by the DoF and AOP representatives in planning and team building. The lack of commitment had important implications for impact and sustainability of the research. Greater attention to the partnership process was an important lesson. Four of the hatchery operators’ groups approached accepted the invitation to collaborate with the project. This collaboration resulted in a range of knowledge outcomes, the development of social relations horizontally within the hatchery groups and vertically to include individuals from service providing agencies in the local administration. Participatory evaluation by participants and the DoF partners was positive. Evaluation of the project indicated that the approach was; appropriate in terms of the needs of primary stakeholders, the requirements of the donor and the circumstances under which it was carried out; effective in achieving knowledge outcomes that contributed to gains in livelihood assets for participants but ineffective in influencing the policies, institutions and processes that would have ensured sustainable impact from the collaboration as a result of the shortcomings in the institutional partnership arrangements; efficient in terms of resource use to obtain outputs and also in emergence of lessons to inform future practice.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation
Affiliation: School of Natural Sciences

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