The Cambodian fish industry is vital to the nation’s food security and economy. Recent support that USAID provided has bolstered the skills, knowledge and resources of those engaged in the fish market. This action provides positive assistance to strengthen a vital system within an impoverished country.
The Importance of the Cambodian Fish Industry
Cambodia depends on the strength of its fishing industry, both for the economy and for the nourishment of the general population. It is estimated that its fisheries produce around 2.1 million tonnes of fish per year. According to Open Development Cambodia, “The country holds two world records: the highest catch of inland fisheries per capita and the highest consumption of freshwater fish per capita.” Since seafood is so ingrained in Cambodian society, growths within this field have the ability to reduce poverty and raise the quality of living for inhabitants. As of 2019, 17.8% of the population lived below the poverty line. Two separate projects that USAID produced are fostering positive growth within the Cambodian fishing industry, showing promising implications for future success.
New Fishway Development
The first of these projects reached completion on August 24, 2022. USAID funded the creation of two new fishways to increase accessibility to fishing in the Pursat Province. Prior to the official construction of the new fishways, two demonstrative fish passes were constructed in 2019 and 2021 to act as proof of concept. Because the passes correctly showed the possible impact of the final plan, USAID moved forward with the project shortly after.
These new routes will allow fish to avoid irrigation structures and travel upstream, touching communities in otherwise unreachable areas. USAID states that “These fishways also demonstrate that small-scale fish passes are a feasible, relatively inexpensive solution to the problem of declining fish stocks,” which provides a sense of optimism for future use of similar ventures. The new fishways will allow growth within the crucial Cambodian fish industry.
Nutritional Information Database
Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative, is another USAID program. A Cambodian researcher by the name of Chakriya Chum has been collecting fish samples across the country for more than a year, for the sole purpose of creating a nutritional database focused on the fishing industry. Feed the Future has supported her work in the hopes of spreading dietary knowledge across Columbia.
Because the population is so highly reliant on fish, it is important for citizens to understand the differences between each type. Chum stated that “Knowledge and research [generated with and] transferred to the community will improve health, fish processing and their livelihood.” The database includes information about best practices for preservation, which will hopefully increase national food security. In addition to the general population, policymakers and farmers can utilize this information to help them create more productive practices.
Both USAID projects provide support for the Cambodian fish industry, an important factor in national food security and economic matters. In the coming years, these programs may be able to expand to neighboring areas and expand in size to create greater change on an international level.
– Hailey Dooley