Social learning in natural resource management: an empirical case study on the "community fish refuge" project in Kampong Thom, Cambodia

Share this to :

In rural Cambodia, inland freshwater and rice field fisheries are key sources of income, animal protein, and other important ecosystem services. Community Fish Refuges (CFRs), designated conservation areas within community-owned fish ponds, hold promise not only for sustaining fish stocks, preserving aquatic biodiversity, and securing water for agriculture and husbandry, but also for enhancing collective management practices. However, it is not only ecological sustainability that poses a challenge for common pool resources, but also social sustainability. To explore how CFRs can promote social and ecological change, we investigated two CFRs that were established in 2016 by local and international NGOs, as well as authorities of the Kampong Thom Province, Cambodia. The objective of this study is to examine the extent to which the creation of CFRs is characterized by and promotes social learning processes. To do so, a qualitative case study was conducted from March to May 2023 in two CFR locations in the Kampong Thom Province. Semi-structured interviews (n=101) were conducted with different local actors connected to the resource. In order to gain insight into nuanced dynamics of social learning, the HarmoniCOP framework has been employed as an analytical framework. Community-based approaches face numerous challenges in this context, leading to limited possibilities for social learning. Factors such as power centralization, short project cycles, limited freedom of assembly and speech, societal norms, and a limited history of grassroots movements in a post-conflict society contribute to configurations that hinder the occurrence of social learning as understood by the HarmoniCOP framework. Nevertheless, the CFR initiative supports the ongoing decentralization process in the country and offers a potential pathway to transition from open to limited access resources, addressing future challenges related to water security.


Gleich, P. 2024. Social learning in natural resource management: an empirical case study on the “community fish refuge” project in Kampong Thom, Cambodia. [Thesis funded by the CGIAR Initiative on Aquatic Foods and CGIAR Initiative on Asian Mega-Deltas]. Thesis submitted to the Albrecht Daniel Thaer-Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Sciences, Faculty of Life Sciences, Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany, in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the Master of Science. 100p.

cg.contributor.initiative: Aquatic Foods; Asian Mega-Deltas

Share this to :