participatory-researchLocal people often possess a deep ecological knowledge of their surrounding environment and can observe changes and events more frequently than a visiting researcher. In Southeast Asia, many local people also greatly depend on natural resources for subsistence, especially fish. Many people living near the Mekong and its tributaries engage in fishing for at least a small portion of their day, regardless of age or gender. Because of these relationships, FISHBIO has chosen to apply a participatory research approach that involves local villagers in our data collection efforts in the Mekong Basin. 
FISHBIO started our first participatory research endeavor by initiating a collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society of Lao PDR, government resource agencies, and the National University of Laos. We consulted with collaborators to assess their current knowledge of local fish and fisheries, and developed a field methodology based on their primary research questions and concerns. We then trained 16 villagers in Bolikhamxay Province to collect data on fishing harvests, fish consumption in households, and fish sales at markets in their home villages for 18 months. This participatory approach allows us to increase the temporal and geographic coverage of our sampling, and to engage and empower the people using the Mekong’s resources to better sustain wild fisheries.

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