Human Ecology

, Volume 41, Issue 5, pp 737–747 | Cite as

Fishing Farmers: Fishing, Livelihood Diversification and Poverty in Rural Laos

  • Sarah M. Martin
  • Kai Lorenzen
  • Nils Bunnefeld


The relationship between fishing, livelihood diversification and poverty was investigated in the lower Mekong basin, in Laos, where fishing forms an important, but usually secondary part of rural livelihoods. Results from a household survey show that participation in fishing is common and positively associated with higher occupational diversity and more agricultural activities. This is likely due to the low opportunity costs associated with many forms of fishing and factors such as tradition, enjoyment of fishing, underutilised labour and low capital requirements. Alternative livelihoods within the rural setting are therefore unlikely to cause fishers to leave the fishery, but instead strengthen the livelihood portfolio as a supplementary activity. Fishing is not an activity only for the very poorest households, but is undertaken by all wealth groups. However, fishing forms a greater proportion of income, employment and food security for the poor and is important in households with poor quality farm land.


Inland fisheries Alternative livelihood Diversification Poverty Laos Mekong 



This research was jointly funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council. The authors would like to thank the Department of Livestock and Fisheries in Savannakhet and the Wetlands Alliance for providing field support with particular thanks to Lamgneun Phengsikeo. This manuscript also benefitted greatly from comments from two anonymous reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah M. Martin
    • 1
    • 2
  • Kai Lorenzen
    • 3
  • Nils Bunnefeld
    • 2
    • 4
  1. 1.MRAG LtdLondonUK
  2. 2.Department of Life SciencesImperial College London, Silwood ParkAscotUK
  3. 3.School of Forest Resources and ConservationUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  4. 4.Biological and Environmental SciencesSchool of Natural Sciences, University of StirlingStirlingUK

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