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Participation in fisheries urged

Participation in fisheries urged

After six months working as the chief of the fisheries community in Meanrith village

in Kampong Chhnang province, Pal Khun has found that a lack of participation by villagers

has made his job impossible.

"I no longer bother to crack down on illegal activities," he said. "I

have no support from the villagers, and sometimes those fishing illegally threaten

to kill us."

Khun was appointed local head of the fisheries community six months ago at a selection

ceremony. The villagers were asked to vote, but Khun said it had become apparent

that they knew nothing about it. They told Khun that the fisheries community belonged

only to those few who were committee members.

"When we ask them to come to meetings or to help crack down on illegal activities,

they simply tell us is it not their job," said Khun, repeating the villagers

words, "This job belongs to you."

Fish is an essential source of protein for most Cambodians. Just over a year ago

the government handed control of some fisheries to local communities to manage. Prior

to that, most had been in the hands of rich businessmen. However, the entire process

has been marred by problems throughout its short life.

The newly elected deputy commune chief of Kampong Trolach, Srey Sokhoeun, said the

process would not work unless villagers understood what it entailed and believed

it would benefit them. He said the solution was for NGOs to educate them.

The lack of help, Khun said, had resulted in his team no longer bothering to enforce

the law either. They had not been paid, and did not even get funds for fuel to help

monitor illegal fishing on the lake. Khun suggested that those working in enforcement

should be properly paid, since they were no longer able to provide a living for their

families.

Dr Yang Saing Koma is executive director of Center d'Etude et de Développement

Agricole Cambodgien (CEDAC), which has been running feasibility studies in the district.

He said success required increased awareness and participation from villagers. Selection

of the fisheries community chief and committee members should be done in a transparent

and democratic way. "This process takes time," said Dr Yang. "We cannot

set up community fisheries effectively if the people still don't know what it all

means."

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