Last weekend SFS Living Mekong students were once again out on the great Tonle Sap Lake – the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. During this trip students visited Kampong Phluk, a series of three stilted villages located where the Roluos River meets the great lake. On the trip students met with representatives from community based organisations and community fisheries.

During the morning, students learned about important changes in fisheries within the lake and the recent development of conservation areas. Mr. Ruerm and Mr. Longdy explained the role that community members have in patrolling the conservation areas and sharing information about appropriate fishing practices both in the open lake and around the conservation areas. The awareness-raising campaigns run by these community members encourage the use of subsistence fishing gear to protect fishing stocks and ensure long-term sustainability of the many fish species. We visited one conservation area which was demarcated in 2013 with support from IUCN. The community fisheries representatives enthusiastically shared with the students their plans to protect fish stocks in this area and their hopes that it will lead to a great increase in fish numbers in the future.

In the afternoon students conducted livelihood interviews to learn about alternative livelihood activities in Kampong Phluk. These included pig and chicken raising (using floating pens on the water!), aquaculture, and the planting of home gardens on floating pontoons. Community representatives also shared information about tourism in the village. It was a very interesting trip which gave students a greater understanding of how lake communities utilise the natural resources of the area and generate income for their families.