M-POWER has helped raise the profile of fisheries and fisher livelihoods in national and transboundary debates. Our work has reiterated the importance of ecosystem processes such as flood pulses and ecosystems like floodplains and wetlands to rural livelihoods and exposed flaws and gaps in fishery and aquaculture policies and programs.
Our efforts have helped to create a new forum for critical debate – moving away from the established approach in the region, of taking fisheries ecology as the starting point – and replacing it with an approach starting from the discourse and narratives surrounding fisheries (and related livelihoods) in policy debates and expert writing. We have then substantiated this with field research on management practices in critical parts of the Mekong Region.
By deconstructing the directions of current policy and practice we opened the debate for how fisheries can contribute to an alternative, but viable development pathway. There is, for example, an established narrative of doom and crisis for the region’s fisheries that underpins much policy, research and debate. This narrative has a long history. After several years of collaboration in the Mekong Region there is now a well-established network of committed fisheries scientists and governance scholars with strong links to local fishers groups, government agencies and regional actors.
The challenge for the future will lie in providing direction for how fisheries can contribute to positive development, in continuing the critique of current development pathways, and in changing some of the most destructive policies and projects.