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Lao DPR. Climate Change Adaptation in Wetlands Areas
by Xavier Bouan
The Lum Pa practice: a traditional fish trap in Beung Kiat Ngong Ramsar Site
Beung Kiat Ngong Ramsar Site is an important wetland complex that includes swamps, lakes and marshes and is the only place in Lao where peatland areas are found. This tributary of the Xe Khampho River supports up to 200-300 fish species and is important for fish spawning. The large number of semi-natural fish pits (lum pa) owned by the local Oy villagers in the wetland is a notable cultural feature of the Ramsar Site.
Lum pa are small 2-3 m deep wood-lined pits dug into rice paddies, wetlands, or house ponds to provide a refuge for aquatic species. They are filled with vegetation, and as the wetlands dry out fish concentrate in these refuge holes from where villagers can harvest them. Pits can be dug by hand and framed in a matter of days. They take up less space than ponds and are easier to secure against theft.
[[File:|228x168px]]Lum pa provide tangible evidence of the Oy people’s unique and intimate relationship with wet rice cultivation and the natural environment. Farmers explain that lum pa are constructed to provide for a spirit, and a good spirit will ensure both the wellbeing of the rice fields and of the family who constructed it.
A Global Environment Facility/UN project on Climate Change Adaptation in Wetland areas in Lao PDR is exploring ways to introduce this old practice into new wetland areas. While there is considerable potential, the current ownership of this practice should not be compromised. For the Oy, the lum pa practice is not simply an agricultural technique, but an important part of their spiritual belief system. As Oy farmers explain, similar pits could be constructed by other communities, but without the presence of Oy spirits and traditions, they are doubtful the fish would come.
The lum pa practice is emblematic of the integration of wild fisheries management into traditional rice-fish farming systems of local farmers. It illustrates how traditional knowledge has developed to sustainably exploit the natural wetland environments of the Mekong River. These refuge areas can be exploited both as a source of food and for conservation of wild brood stock to restock the wetland species. Climate change in the region has caused disruption in rain flows and droughts, but rice farmers with lump pa have added protection against such unpredictability since fish find refuge in the pits when water levels decline.
Xavier Bouan, Chief Technical Advisor CAWA, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Xavier.firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos below: lump pa in rainy season in Beung Kiat Ngong. Above lump pa end for dry season