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The effects of sustainable aquaculture certification on the production, social and economic performance of small-scale prawn farmers in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam

Nguyen, TD ORCID: 0000-0001-6384-2465 2020 , 'The effects of sustainable aquaculture certification on the production, social and economic performance of small-scale prawn farmers in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

Prawn farming has become an important livelihood for small-scale farmers in coastal areas in the Mekong Delta as it provides food, jobs, income, and therefore a means of poverty alleviation for local communities. However, rapid expansion and intensification of prawn farming have caused negative impacts on local environments (e.g. deforestation, pollution, salinization, and alteration of ecosystem) and socio-economic performance (e.g. increased disease outbreaks causing loss of production, conflicts over resource access and usage) – all of which reduce the potential positive impact of prawn farming.
In response to challenges posed by prawn farming on local environmental, social and economic conditions, third-party certification schemes for farming responsible prawn product have been established through partnerships between governments from importing countries and non-governmental organisms (NGOs). Certification schemes have become effectively mandatory for market access for large-scale prawn farmers but they have not been accessible to small scale farmers until 2015. As such, how they can made accessible, and whether they achieve improved levels of sustainability and deliver benefits for small-scale farmers, beyond market access, is unclear.
This dissertation will measure the impacts of certification on small-scale prawn farmers, focusing on intensive and improved extensive farming systems in the Mekong Delta. It assesses the effects of Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certification on production, social, economic performance of small-scale farmers in Ca Mau, Soc Trang and Bac Lieu province as well as determine how ASC certification intervention helps farmers successfully integrate into the global value chain for responsibly produced farmed prawns in the three provinces of the Mekong Delta.
Results from this study showed ASC certification improved the production outputs of small-scale farms. ASC farms had a lower stocking density but obtained higher prawn survival rates than non-ASC farms (pMANOVA < 0.05). This is despite farms obtaining post-larvae (PLs) at the same age, and achieving similar food conversion ratios, yields and harvest size over the same duration. ASC certification was found to improve prawn farming practices through improved management and monitoring techniques, utilising appropriate stocking density, and enhanced biosecurity approaches to increase the performance of prawn farms.
ASC certification improved the social performance of certified farmers by demonstrating farmers’ socially and environmentally responsible farming practises to local communities. This included that farmers implemented the participatory Social Impact Assessment (pSIA) framework that helped ASC farmers (farmers who adopted ASC certification) to record and resolve conflicts with local communities. Other responsible practises included: treating effluent before discharge, reporting disease outbreaks to local authorities and communities, and participation in training for gender equity and labour welfare, showing ASC farmers’ responsibilities in mitigating negative impacts of their farming to members of supporting regional communities.
Analysis of economic data collected from ASC and non-ASC farmers in the three regions found that achieving ASC certification produced positive economic outcomes for producers as they would obtain improved market access and a price premium from the contract with seafood processors; therefore, significantly increasing their gross returns. The cost for ASC certification adoption in this study is not an economic constraint for small-scale farmers because the cost is currently covered by the WWF-Vietnam ASC-assisted donor program. However, ASC certification adoption cost would become an economic burden in a scenario where this cost was paid by small-scale farmers, as the cost would account for a large proportion of farmers’ operating costs; 5% and 48% of the total operating cost for intensive and improved extensive farming systems respectively. Should the donor program end, this cost is likely to disincentivise future adoption of ASC certification by small-scale farmers, particularly improved extensive small-scale farmers, and may become ineffective as an instrument to improve livelihood of small-scale farmers in coastal areas.
ASC certified farmers can create vertical linkages with hatcheries, chemical suppliers, and guaranteed contracts with seafood processors. Contracts between ASC certified farmers and seed and drug suppliers ensure farmers achieve high quality products that meet ASC’s requirements for responsible farming practices and traceability for export market requirements. Both donor program support and access to contract arrangements between ASC certified farmers and seafood processors are necessary to ensure that ASC certified farmers have the capacity, technical resources and incoming financial capital to deal with complex requirements and procedures for adoption of ASC certification.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Nguyen, TD
Keywords: ASC certification, small-scale prawn farmers, Mekong Delta, value chains
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Copyright 2020 the author

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