Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Fishing for Food Security: Cambodia's Community Fish Refuges

In rural Cambodia, as in many other coastal countries, fish is an important source of food and income to millions of people. An abundant superfood, fish provides over 80 percent of the animal protein in the national diet and is an essential source of vitamins and micronutrients. Generating income from fisheries requires relatively little capital investment and no land ownership, which makes fishing a viable livelihood option for poor people. Notably, nearly all rural households in Cambodia engage in fishing in seasonally inundated rice fields for both income and food.

However, fish populations in such natural wetlands are under threat from the degradation of aquatic habitat, illegal fishing, increasing population, demand for fish and harmful pesticides from agricultural runoff. WorldFish’s Rice Field Fisheries Enhancement Project (RFFEP) worked to rebuild and protect fish populations by working with rural communities to sustainably strengthen rice field fisheries through protected habitats called "community fish refuges."

The rice field fisheries agro-ecosystem is made up of three domains: the rice fields, the CFRs and the connecting channels. All are habitats for fish and other aquatic life. Community Fish Refuges (CFRs) can be natural or artificial, but, importantly, they retain water and fish year-round. While fishing in CFRs is prohibited during the dry season, providing safe refuges for fish off-season helps to stabilize and revitalize fish populations in the rice fields.

Agrilinks caught up with WorldFish’s Blake Ratner, Director of Research, and Dr. Shakuntala Thilsted, Program Leader for Value Chains and Nutrition, during the USAID Global Learning and Evidence Exchange on Climate-Smart Agriculture held in Siem Reap, Cambodia last December to learn about the approach.

View “Fishing for Food Security: Cambodia’s Community Fish Refuges” below to learn more and view some bonus content from our interviews here. This report also offers important lessons learned from the program.