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Overfishing in the waters off Myanmar's coast

Innovation / -

Un progetto per la sicuurezza alimentare preserverà l'attività ittica del Myanmar.

A project devised by the Oikos Institute is improving the economic conditions of the inhabitants of the Myeik Archipelago and preserving the local fishing industry.

The story concerns a stretch of open sea off the coast of southern Myanmar. A population of some 3000 people live and work in the area, which includes Lampi Marine Park, the only national park of its kind in the country. Fishing is the Myeik Archipelago community's only source of livelihood. But in recent years, numerous boats have started flocking to these waters from Thailand and other neighbouring areas during the fishing season. This increased competition for fishing space threatens the subsistence fishing livelihood of the inhabitants of Myeik and leads to illegal practices such as blast fishing.
In order to safeguard the community, in 2012 the Oikos Institute and the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (Maeci) decided to implement a project to improve the economic welfare of the local population and save the archipelago's ecosystem.
Taking action for the future
The project encourages the active participation of both the community and the local authorities in order to ensure that the plan is properly managed. The first part of the initiative is a training programme involving most of the population. In particular, it offers literacy courses (for the Moken minority) and promotes studies with a view to launching ecotourism initiatives. The second part of the project relies on help from the Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association (BANCA) of Myanmar, which makes it possible to identify the area's main natural resources and establish strategies to stop their indiscriminate and illegal exploitation. The project is also aimed at preserving the archipelago's mangroves, which are rampantly felled to produce charcoal for domestic use.
Protected marine area.
The project has led to the definition of fishing boundaries and restrictions on fishing times and techniques, so that only small-scale fishing is permitted. The overall aim is to prevent falling catches and resulting food insecurity for inhabitants. Two years after the project was launched, an ecotourism centre was opened at the marine park's office, to train up members of the local community as tour guides for nature tours around the archipelago. In addition, the main village has been equipped with a water supply system.

Five questions for Oikos Institute. Fishermen in Myanmar look after their sea

Innovation / -

Pescatori dell'arcipelago Myeik in Myanmar

It knows the lay of the land, has all the right experience and is trying to intervene in other protected areas of the country, with an eye on new forms of tourism. Oikos, which works on environmental initiatives in Africa and Asia, summarises some key points.

At Expo Milano 2015, visitors will be made aware of the OIKOS project thanks to the photo-story displayed in Pavilon Zero. What message would you like to convey with your approach to the issue of food security?
The Oikos Institute’s project in Myanmar shows how proper management of the environment and natural resources can turn into an opportunity for economic and social development. Our “good practice” was the creation of partnerships with local people, to preserve the resources of the Lampi National Park and make them usable, for example, via types of ecotourism.
What difficulties have you encountered while working on your project?
We had lots of bureaucratic and logistical difficulties getting access to the Lampi park. Every month we have to ask for permission to access the park from the government, and the journey from Yangon takes between seven and ten hours. In the field, the biggest difficulty was gaining and maintaining the confidence of local people, as well as involving them as key members of sustainable development programs.
Since the submission date, how has your project developed to date?
The project in Lampi park, which lasted a year, was completed in January 2014. It recently received a second grant from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation with various objectives: strengthening the local management capacity of the park, improving the inhabitants’ living conditions with water, waste and latrine interventions, and initiating economic mechanisms that will lead to the park’s medium- to long-term sustainability.
What are the next steps?
We are working so the Lampi park will open for tourism next year, building a visitor centre on the island of Bo Cho. We have developed an intense training programme for members of the local community to prepare them for welcoming tourists and we are evaluating various options in agreement with the local authorities and the private sector.
Do you intend to replicate the project in other countries or in other contexts?
We would love to replicate the project in the other 43 protected areas of Myanmar, but only twenty of these are effectively safeguarded at the moment. We know the national context well and we have close, lasting partnerships with the main environmental figures. There is huge potential for ecotourism in Myanmar, but so are the risks of unplanned development, which would lead to the rapid degradation of natural and cultural resources.

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