Rural freshwater aquaculture may be defined as the farming of freshwater aquatic species, using technologies adapted to limited and locally available resources and accessible to households. Finding freshwater aquaculture development approaches and methods to promote and open up employment, income-earning, or livelihood opportunities for the rural poor remains a challenge. This site is intended to cover a number of important areas related to rural aquaculture and its potential for supporting livelihoods and reducing poverty.

The poor face many challenges, constraints and hurdles to entry into aquaculture, particularly in the context of adoption of technologies, management and other practices. These impediments are associated with such factors as lack of access to capital and resources, vulnerability, aversion to and ability to cope with risks.

Aquaculture operators require access to suitable skills, land and water, financial capital, organizational arrangements, physical facilities, and enabling infrastructure in order to adopt, operate, and sustain relevant aquatic farming practices. However, there are opportunities for the entry of poor people into aquaculture through low-cost technologies and assistance to acquire and secure access to and control of resources.

Realizing these opportunities demands a comprehensive understanding of contextual situations, operating environments, and enablers. Currently, areas of knowledge gaps are largely of environmental and social dimensions, and the livelihood perspectives of small-scale and poor aquatic farmers, including access and barriers to adoption of technology and requisites for sustained farming operations.

A number of areas that require further exploration and development include the following:

Conditions necessary for livelihoods and poverty reduction. A contextual understanding of the conditions under which freshwater aquaculture can generate incomes and employment and reduce rural poverty has become increasingly important. Barriers, requirements, and risks facing freshwater aquaculture operators are not negligible. The characteristics of small-scale farm households have often become limiting features in many dimensions. Thus, analyzing poverty features is part of the prerequisites for finding ways to make aquaculture work for the poor. In many situations, finding options for providing access to land and water is challenging. Without land and water, people are unlikely to benefit from aquatic farming. Access and tenure rights are necessary conditions.

Options for financing aquaculture operations. Access to affordable financing of investments and working capital is an important feature of farmers’ finances. While small-scale farmers in developing countries often do not borrow from formal sources of credit (such as banks), administrative requirements including the need for collateral often hinder small-scale farmers' access to credit. Alternative sources of credit have become important, particularly those that can become more readily accessible. These include supplier's credit, contract farming arrangements, and various forms of partnership that include financiers and investors. In many developing countries, microfinance can also make a difference to the poor.

Markets and marketing of aquaculture products and factors of production and their implication on small-scale farmers. For small-scale farmers and operators to remain in productive activities in the market, they need to receive adequate incentives or returns from their goods and services. An understanding of how markets have an influence on farm production, without exception to aquaculture, is an important aspect of finding sustainable livelihoods from aquaculture.

Labor market and opportunities for employment in aquaculture operations and associated chains of activities. A labor market assessment is important for analyzing formal and informal employment opportunities, labor wage rates, and other labor characteristics. This includes opportunities for labor migration and seasonal patterns that influence households’ decisions on use of labor resources and employment. Small farm households rarely have a sole income source. Livelihood diversity is common among small-scale farmers and poor households, and thus livelihood choices and sources need to be assessed and recognized to ensure that aquaculture is not analyzed in isolation as an option for livelihood.

Roles of services, facilities, and support infrastructure. Due to conditions that characterize the poor, innovative approaches are needed to enable and allow the poor better access to livelihood opportunities. State-sponsored or government agencies may continue to serve as important sources of advice for small-scale farmers, but the role of private service providers in extending advisory and information services has become equally important if not more dominant in many aspects. Aquaculture development cannot succeed in the absence of essential support services and markets. Adequate support infrastructure is important, particularly those (such as roads, transportation, and communications) that play critical roles in the flow of goods, services, and information.

The roles of public and private institutions. The role of the private sector has become more important in production, services and many aspects of market development. While public institutions can facilitate aquaculture development, the role of state-sponsored institutions should not crowd out or stifle the role of the private sector.

Policy environment and legal framework and their conditions. Applications of appropriate policies and legal instruments can address constraints and challenges to aquaculture development. Small-scale aquaculture operators and their associated agents can benefit from licensing, rules, and regulations that set the ground rules for a level playing field. This can prevent predatory practices from inadvertently harming small farmers and operators.

Aquatic resources, environment, and aquatic health. Sustainable development of aquaculture requires attention to aquatic health, the environment, and resources management. A number of factors need to be considered to ensure biosafety, disease prevention, and environmental safeguards.