Cambodians in Prey Veng Province are farming fish and improving fruit harvests to battle chronic malnutrition and to increase women’s shares in household incomes.

Ek Chen, a village model farmer in the Fish on Farms project, feeding his fish. Bartay/IDRC

Rice is a staple in the Cambodian diet. Although the country grows enough rice to meet its needs, rural households face a hidden hunger: chronic malnutrition due to a lack of vitamins and nutrients.

Since 1998, Helen Keller International has helped households diversify their diets and increase the production of nutrient-rich foods. Together with researchers from the University of British Columbia, they are now testing the benefits of adding fish farming to household food production. The aim is to enhance nutrition, food security and women’s shares in household incomes. Small fish can be raised for household consumption with larger fish sold for cash.

Researchers are testing the aquaculture-enhanced model through trials involving nearly 1,000 households in Cambodia’s Prey Veng Province. Participating households receive training and inputs such as seedlings and fish stocks through village model farms to help them increase the variety of fruits and vegetables they grow. They also receive health and nutrition advice from a specially trained village health volunteer. One group of households is combining aquaculture with plant-based agriculture. Others are focusing solely on agriculture.

Data from two initial four-month periods shows promising increases in both food production and women’s financial control. Average fruit harvests increased by more than one-third while vegetable harvests initially doubled, then rose by a further two-thirds. Among

Homestead garden: Helen Keller International

those involved in fish farming, harvests of small fish rose by one-third while the catch of larger fish increased five-fold. At the outset, only 53% of women had money they could spend without their husband’s permission. This figure rose to 68%.

Teams are now focusing on increasing the production of seeds, saplings and fish fingerlings on village model farms to ensure participating households have the inputs they need for their farming efforts.

Over two years, researchers hope to draw important lessons on using aquaculture to strengthen household food production and nutrition, empower women and improve livelihoods. Their efforts are supported by Canada’s International Development Research Centre and Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada through the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund.



For further information contact:

Isabelle Bourgeault-Tassé
International Development Research Centre, Canada