Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 1203–1214 | Cite as

Adapting to declining fish resources: the differentiation of livelihood systems and fishing strategies in Singkarak Lake’s fishing community, West Sumatra

Original Article


In Southeast Asia, inland fish resources are crucial for small-scale fishing households. Their decline, due to overfishing and a set of socio-ecological factors, jeopardises aquatic ecosystems and the livelihoods of fishing communities. Singkarak Lake (West Sumatra) exemplifies this sustainability challenge. The paper proposes a multi-disciplinary analysis of the situation. First, it identifies and documents the primary livelihood systems and the strategic adaptations involved in fishing communities. Based upon a sample of 200 households and the implementation of multivariate analyses, a typology is developed. Three household types are identified. Type I comprises better-off farming fishers that have high fishing capitals and income but the lowest returns on fishing and land assets. Type II includes poor fishing farmers with higher farming income; they show the highest return on land assets. Type III is composed of poorer, younger fishers with the highest return on fishing assets and fishing costs. They have little land, low farming income, and diversified livelihood sources. Second, the technical efficiency (TE) of fishing households is studied using a data envelopment analysis. The results show that the average TE is low, but marked differences exist between the types. Type I households have the lowest TE in fishing, confirming an extensification and overcapitalisation strategy. Type II households show a high technical fishing efficiency. They have developed on-farm diversification with a combined, balanced livelihood system. Type III households are the most efficient fishers. They developed an intensification strategy together with off-farm diversification. Different livelihood strategies and economic portfolio have been developed as the response to the limited resources, uncertainty, fluctuating environment and other source of vulnerability. The fishers built up their livelihood based on their assets’ ownership, access to other resource out of fishing and their socio-economic status. In this context, understanding livelihood diversity among small-scale fishers, different socio-economic, their efficiency, constraints and opportunities emerge as important factor in policy formulation to enhance support to small-scale fishing communities and improved management of both the resources and local development. Finally, the paper suggests a focus on people and community-related solutions and proposes a threefold approach of resource conservation, livelihood improvements and restructured governance.


Resource decline Livelihood systems Technical efficiency Small-scale fishers Data envelopment analysis (DEA) Singkarak Lake 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le DéveloppementUMR G-EauMontpellierFrance
  2. 2.School of Environment, Resources and DevelopmentAsian Institute of TechnologyKlong LuangThailand
  3. 3.Faculty of AgricultureAndalas UniversityPadangIndonesia

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