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Environmental & Socio-economic Studies DOI: 10.2478/environ-2022-0001 Environ. Socio.-econ. Stud., 2022, 10, 1: 1-12 ________________________________________________________________________________________________ Original article The 2016 Vietnam marine life incident: measures of subjective resilience and livelihood implications for affected small-fishery communities 1 2 3 1 Pham Huu Ty *, Raphaël Marçon , Mucahid Mustafa Bayrak , Le Thi Hong Phuong Department of Science, International Cooperation and Library, University of Agriculture and Forestry, Hue University, 102 Phung Hung, Hue City, Vietnam Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Utrecht University, Princetonlaan 8a, 3584 CB Utrecht, The Netherlands Department of Geography, National Taiwan Normal University, 162, Section 1, Heping E. Rd., Taipei City 106, Taiwan E–mail address (*corresponding author): email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org ORCID iD: Pham Huu Ty: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2385-2233; Raphael Marcon: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7197-2091; Mucahid Mustafa Bayrak: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7699-5575; Le Thi Hong Phuong: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9806-6061 ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ A B S T R A C T In April 2016, four provinces of Vietnam were struck by one of the largest manmade environmental incidents in Vietnam. Through a discharge of toxic chemicals by Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation, oceanic waters along Vietnam’s central coast were severely polluted. Consequently, the livelihoods of over 510,000 people living in coastal communities were severely affected by the Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation incident (FHS incident). This study focusses on ex-ante and ex-post differences in livelihoods, and the subjective resilience of small-fishery households affected by the FHS incident in Hải Dương commune, a small coastal community, in central Vietnam. This was done through a qualitative analysis of livelihood strategies and resilience capacities of the affected households. Semi-structured interviews (n = 30), expert interviews (n = 3) and secondary data analysis were conducted from March to May 2018 employing a case study approach. Results show that the level of subjective resilience was strongly affected by a combination of social, financial, and human capitals. The presence, or lack, of these capitals combined with contextual factors influenced the livelihood strategies a household could pursue. Households that were able to pursue a combination of intensifying and diversifying livelihood strategies were most successful in recovering from and adjusting to the environmental incident. Households with restrained access to livelihood capitals were limited to intensifying livelihood strategies, having no real other option than persistence and increased dependence on government subsidies. Lastly, migration as a livelihood strategy and subsequent transformative resilience capacities remained generally low. KEY WORDS: small-scale fishery communities, subjective resilience capacities, manmade environmental disasters, Central Vietnam, livelihood strategies ARTICLE HISTORY: received 3 November 2021; received in revised form 3 March 2022; accepted 5 March 2022 ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 1. Introduction this massive fish kill. Two months later and after a thorough governmental investigation, the Formosa In 2016, the provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Ha Tinh Steel Corporation, a Taiwanese corporation, Thua Thien-Hue and Quang Tri in central Vietnam admitted responsibility for the marine pollution faced one of its largest manmade environmental incident as they had illegally discharged hazardous disasters in recent history (TUYEN ET AL. 2021). substances into the marine environment (PADDOCK, In April 2016, over 300 tons of dead fish were 2018; HOANG ET AL., 2019; FAN ET AL., 2020). TUYEN discovered along Vietnam’s central coast, including ET AL. (2021, p.2) stated that the released waste 115 tons of wild fish, 100 tons of farmed fish and water contained: “phenol, cyanide and iron hydroxides, 67 tons of clams (NATIONAL STEERING COMMITTEE, which forms into a colloidal iron complex denser 2018), and it was initially not clear what had caused than seawater”, which caused the massive fish kill. Eventually, the Taiwanese corporation paid around These studies mainly focused on the causes of $500 million USD as compensation money, of which pollution (TRAN & NGUYEN, 2019); lessons for social around 65% was directly allocated to affected responsibility of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) coastal and small-fishery households (HOANG ET (CHOI, 2018); the environmental impact assessment AL., 2019). of the FDI regime (DUNG, 2019); the challenges of The impact of the Formosa Ha Tinh Steel decentralization of FDI management (MINH, 2020); Corporation incident (FHS incident in short) was the impact of FDI on the Vietnamese living very significant. It caused social unrests in Vietnam, environment (TRI ET AL., (2017); multiple stakeholders and many leaders of the Ministry of Natural Resources and water pollution issues in industrial zones and Environment, as well as local authorities have (NGUYEN & NGUYEN, 2017); the evaluation of the been held responsible for the illegal pollution and quality of marine environment in central Vietnam mismanagement (PHAM & CHAU, 2016; FAN ET AL., after the FHS incident (PHUONG, 2017); and the 2020). In the direct aftermath of the incident, a economic consequences of a marine environmental fishing ban within 20 nautical miles was issued by incident (HOANG ET AL., 2019). Most studies explicitly the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development focus on FDI management and its impacts on the in the four affected provinces, and people stopped environment. To the best of our knowledge, only eating seafood from the affected region (Fig. 1). three studies (PHUONG ET AL, 2020; FAN ET AL., Many fishermen abandoned their fishing-related 2020; TUYEN ET AL., 2021) have investigated the activities, and the livelihoods of over 510,000 impact of FHS on the livelihoods of the affected people were threatened due to the FHS incident communities. This is striking as the FHS incident and subsequent fishing ban. Besides fishermen, directly affected the livelihoods of around 130,000 local seafood companies, seafood restaurants and households (TUYEN ET AL., 2021). Also, these studies beach-based tourism agencies were all negatively largely failed to compare the livelihoods of the affected by the FHS incident (MINH, 2016; NATIONAL affected households before and after the impact STEERING COMMITTEE, 2018). of the FHS incident, as well as a further elaboration Since the FHS incident, many studies related to on the (subjective) resilience capacities of this manmade disaster have already been conducted. affected households is largely lacking. Fig. 1. Polluted region of the FHS incident and the location of Hải Dương commune (modified from Google Maps) This study employs a qualitative case study strategies and resilience capacities of the affected approach to Hải Dương commune, in Hương Trà households. This is to gain deeper insights on District, Thua Thien Hue province (Fig. 1), a small how the FHS incident has affected the subjective coastal community, in order to supplement the livelihood resilience of small-scale fishery previous papers by analyzing the livelihood impacts communities. The academic relevance of this study of the FHS incident, and subsequent livelihood is to assess how the resilience capacities and livelihoods of small-scale fishery communities are represent the daily practices of ordinary people, affected by a manmade environmental disaster. and expand knowledge related to environmental As previous studies tend to focus more on ‘natural’ justice, politics and human rights in the disasters and/or climate change impacts (WHITNEY developmental arena. In order to understand ET AL., 2017; SOWMAN & RAEMAEKERS, 2018), this daily practices of ordinary people, we adopt a study employs a subjective resilience approach, subjective resilience approach. Subjective resilience both ex-ante and ex-poste, to analyze the livelihood is a dynamic, bottom-up, research-oriented way implications of a manmade environmental disaster, of studying resilience, which includes qualitative such as the FHS incident. The framework developed ways of collecting data as well as the inclusion of here could be applied to other contexts that are contextual factors (MARSCHKE & BERKES, 2006; also affected by similar disasters, such as large- SPERANZA ET AL., 2014; BAHADUR ET AL., 2015). scale pollution, and water contamination. Subjective resilience is not presented as an alternative to resilience in general, but as a 2. Theoretical framework: Livelihood complementing and enhancing way of doing strategies and subjective resilience research which incorporates social, psychological, and cultural and agency aspects (JONES & TANNER, Household livelihood strategies refer to a 2015). One of its advantages is that understanding household’s available options to pursue a desired how households perceive their own resilience and livelihood, with these strategies being both their actions to strengthen resilience can be used dynamic and responsive to external disturbances or as bottom-up information in order to advance the changes (SCOONES, 1998; ELLIS, 2000; MARSCHKE, measurement of resilience itself. The information 2005). Livelihood strategies generally take three could improve the future formation of indicators forms: intensification, diversification, and migration and show what resilience aspects matter most to (HUSSEIN & NELSON, 1998; MARSCHKE, 2005; MARSCHKE households or communities. This could contribute to & BERKES, 2006; TUYEN ET AL., 2021). Intensification building quantitative measures that better represent among small-scale fishery households is about the needs and dynamics of livelihoods in developing intensifying the efforts of a household to increase countries (TANNER ET AL., 2015; JONES & TANNER, income through fishing. This can be achieved by 2015). We analyze the concept of subjective making more intensive use of certain livelihood resilience through a resilience capacities approach, capitals to increase income (e.g., more intense use which includes absorptive, adaptive, and of fishing gear, working longer hours, etc.) (DE transformative capacities. These three capacities HAAN & ZOOMERS, 2003). Diversification refers to broadly correspond to the three types of household broadening the range of households’ livelihood livelihood strategies (intensification, diversification, activities. This can be achieved by, for example, and migration), but can be placed on a spectrum having multiple jobs in different sectors (ELLIS, from small and incremental adjustment to 2000). Household risk and vulnerability are reduced stressors (such as the FHS incident or other through adopting multiple livelihood strategies shocks or stresses) to transformative change (NYAMWANZA, 2012). Migration is the third livelihood (BÉNÉ, 2012; PELLING & MANUEL-NAVARRETE, 2011; strategy and often concerns seasonal migration of THULSTRUP, 2015). households to generate income in other localities Last but not least, subjective resilience can as their jobs may be negatively influenced by provide a more effective way of conducting seasonal differences. Migration is also a form of research in disaster areas by directly asking diversification, but it could – in the case of a shock – households about changes in their perceived also mean that a household leaves in a more resilience or livelihoods, and analyzing how people permanent way in order to start a life somewhere are dealing with their current situation. Qualitative else. Another important difference between case-studies incorporating subjective resilience migration and diversification is that the former have shown that the vast amount of information explicitly refers to human mobility (HUSSEIN & and knowledge on perceived household resilience NELSON, 1998; NYAMWANZA, 2012). would have been hard to acquire with more Livelihood resilience is defined as: “the capacity of ‘traditional’ methods of measurement (GAILLARD, all people across generations to sustain and improve 2010; BUIKSTRA ET AL., 2010; MILLER ET AL., 2010; their livelihood opportunities and well-being despite JONES ET AL., 2018). More importantly, the somewhat environmental, economic, social and political abstract concept of resilience is more ‘grounded’ disturbances” (TANNER ET AL., 2015, p.23). TANNER in relation to peoples’ experiences when a subjective ET AL. (2015) highlight that bringing livelihood resilience framework is applied (TANNER ET AL., strategies into the resilience debate can better 2015). 3. Materials and methods resilience capacities of small-scale fishery households in Hải Dương commune. The research was conducted 3.1. Overview of the study area from March to May 2018, and its methods were as follows: Hải Dương commune (a commune being the Semi-structured household interviews: A total lowest administrative level in Vietnam) in Thừa of 30 household interviews were carried out in Thiên–Huế province in central Vietnam is used for Hải Dương commune using semi-structured interview our case study (Fig. 1). Hải Dương is a small coastal guides. Although the interview guide was structured, settlement, which is located between Tam Giang probing questions were used regarding specific lagoon and the Eastern Vietnam Sea. The commune topics (see Table 1). was severely affected by the FHS incident. It is a Expert interviews: Expert interviews (n=3) were rural coastal settlement, with a high dependency conducted with the commune leader, village leader on surrounding waters and rich in fishing activities. and a local researcher at Hue University. Expert Livelihoods in Hải Dương are based for around interviews were conducted prior to household 70% on fishing and 10% on aquaculture. Hải interviews to develop our household interviewing Dương fishing activities generally fit the description guide and gain more knowledge on the local context of being small-scale fisheries, as defined by FAO’s and impacts of the FHS incident on the study area. Advisory Committee on Fishery Research (ACFR, Secondary data: Documents concerning the 2004). financial compensation were provided by the commune leader. Additional secondary data was 3.2. Data collection provided in the form of background information on Hải Dương commune. Furthermore, secondary This study focuses on ex-ante and ex-post data in the form of government files was provided by differences in livelihoods and subjective resilience a government official from the Department of through the analysis of livelihood strategies and Fisheries and Aquaculture (DFA). Table 1. Description of the main themes and measured indicators (own source) Concept Dimensions Indicators Small-scale Livelihood threats Stressors (ex-ante/ex-post) fishery Most challenging threats livelihoods Fishing activities Identify: Equipment, fish species, fishing area, use of boat Income sources Ex-Ante/Ex-Post sources Income during FHS incident and direct aftermath Institutional constraints Possibility to improve/change livelihood Governance (support/constrain) Livelihood development possibilities Livelihood Subjective livelihood capitals Subjective assessment of financial, physical, natural, social capitals capitals Livelihood capitals during recovery Analyze use of capitals to recover Financial compensation How was compensation used Livelihood Intensification Workload compared to before the incident strategies Diversification Asses change in fishing technique, species, equipment, and area Migration Seasonal/permanent migration Knowledge of anyone migrating Current change / Future goals Identify change in strategies Future goals General evaluation of ex-ante/ex-post livelihood status Resilience Livelihood resilience Impact compared to others Amount of time unable to fish FHS incident’s impact on current fishing activities Subjective assessment of recovery Recovery compared to others Community recovery Subjective resilience Learning ability Coping/adapting capacity for future events Assess learning process Resilience Absorptive capacity Statements to rate current capacities regarding potential future event capacities Adaptive capacity Coping ability, adaptability, and potential for fundamental changes Transformative capacity Transformative livelihood strategies implemented Data analysis: QSR NVivo software (Version 12, All household heads in the interviewed 2018) was used to code all household interviews. households in Hải Dương were men, and all of NVivo was also used to code and analyze the expert them were small-scale fishermen. Women were interviews as well as additional literature and mainly responsible for running the household, secondary data acquired in Vietnam. Annotations performing chores, and raising children. However, were made to create a systematic way of sorting, women were also partly responsible for the coding, and storing information which allowed household’s total income, with some women being for easy retrieval. involved in the processing or selling of fish. Commenting on the role of women in household 4. Results and discussion livelihoods, the commune leader noted: “Women do housework, as in taking care of the house and 4.1. Household characteristics and livelihood children and are also involved in fish processing activities and selling fish at the market, men mostly fish here. For Hải Dương fishing is definitely the main livelihood”. Table 2 depicts the characteristics of the respondents and their households. Fishing activities 4.2. Livelihood stressors and impacts of the FHS in Hải Dương – being labour intensive and mostly incident done by men – include near-shore, off-shore and aquaculture activities. Most fishermen had relatively Figure 2 shows the overview of threats and low-capital fishing equipment: most fishing activities stressors (both long and short-term) that were were performed manually without the use of identified by the households before and after the machinery. In Tam Giang Lagoon, two categories FHS incident, and households were asked to of fishermen are found: those with high capital highlight the most challenging threat or stressor. investment and fixed fishing gear and those with The most challenging threats both before and low capital investment and mobile fishing gear after the FHS incident are natural disasters, job (cf. HUONG & BERKES, 2011). Our respondents insecurity, fish scarcity, and competition from generally belonged to the latter category. non-local and local fishermen. Natural disaster threats remained unchanged according to the Table 2. Household information gathered through semi- respondents, but their job situation has become structured interviews (n=30) (own source) more insecure, and fish are scarcer after the FHS Items Amount incident. Fish scarcity was caused by both massive Total household residents 152 fish death due to the toxic pollution and the fishing Household size (average) 5 ban imposed by the local government in response Never attended school (adults) 10 [7%] to the FHS incident. Many households confirmed Male Female that competition and encroachment from outside Total 71 [46.7%] 81 [53.3%] the community were the biggest threats they currently faced. Unlike their non-local competitors, Per household (average) 2.4 2.7 they did not have the same tools and equipment Age (average) 34.62 29.12 nor big vessels. According to respondents’ Years of education (average) 12.2 12.25 accounts, outside fishermen stole their fish, and Never attended school (adults) 6 4 used harmful ways to catch fish. They also Amount destroyed the ocean floor, and quite often used Currently in school 25 fish bombs in the commune’s fishing area. Too young to be in school* 16 Health problems is another stressor which Amount rose (Fig. 2) after the FHS incident. When analyzing Total: Children of HH** 64 health-related complaints, they vary from headaches to stomach problems and from dizziness to insomnia. Total: Grandchildren of HH** 21 The latter was caused by stress according to the Amount households as they worry more about their Total number of fishermen 38 livelihoods than before. At the regional level, Age of fishermen (average) 49.66 health issues were a significant problem after the Range (youngest-oldest) 29 - 88 FHS incident: thousands of people fell ill from Years of education (average) 11.4 eating poisoned fish and some people even died from poisoning (TONG, 2016). * = Primary school generally starts at 6 years old ** = Head of household (every household has a HH, usually the man providing the main income) The FHS incident sparked severe changes in to get through the fishing ban period. Some income sources of the respondents. Most notably, households even continued fishing, even though due to contamination fishermen were not allowed to this was illegal – selling it to middlemen who would catch, sell or consume fish after a ban which was sell the fish in other provinces. This posed a severe announced on 4 May 2016 (MI, 2016). Figure 3 health risk for fish consumers that unknowingly shows the amount of time households were not able consumed possibly contaminated fish. to go fishing: some households did not abandon Regarding the number of fish, fishing techniques, their fishing practices at all, whereas others equipment, and types of fish, two households stopped fishing for over a year. The commune confirmed that this remained the same as before leader mentioned that most households did not the FHS incident. Some households had renewed, go fishing for 5-7 months on average. This finding rebuilt, or changed some aspects, but the equipment is relatively shorter than the observed findings of itself did not change. Two households, being the TUYEN ET AL. (2021) which reported that their exceptions, sold their bigger vessels to obtain respondents stopped their fishing-related activities smaller ones to catch squid instead of fish. Most for over 9 months. households claimed that there was a reduction in There were a few households that found fish, both in terms of amount and variation of additional jobs to generate income during the direct species. Some fishermen had addressed this aftermath of the FHS incident. Some households problem by shifting their focus to catching squid, already had multiple income sources, which they which was in high demand after the FHS incident. were able to temporarily rely on. Other fishermen Amongst the locals, there was a general belief tried fishing more in-land or off-shore using big that the FHS incident did not contaminate squid, vessels. Every household used a different strategy which consequently caused an increased demand. Fig. 2. Livelihood threats: Before and after the FHS incident (own source) Fig. 3. Amount of time households did not catch fish following the FHS incident (own source) Some fishermen revealed that they wanted to marine industries and traditional ways of fishing, catch fish further away from their original fishing intensive use of near-shore aquaculture, and usage grounds, but they did not have enough money to of near-shore vessels. This high level of dependence invest in bigger vessels. The commune leader stated: negatively impacted the livelihood resilience of “we are trying to mobilize people to fish with larger the households as well as their capacity to cope boats to fish further away. People can receive loans and adapt to stressors, which consequently at a low interest for this. At this moment there are increased their vulnerability (cf. McLeman, 2011). two big boats in the commune and this number should Table 3 shows how livelihood resources and increase. There is a plan to subsidize fuel if people factors were affected by the FHS incident according use large vessels”. The livelihood context in Hai Duong to the households’ perceptions and accounts, and commune showed a high level of dependence on summarizes these findings. Table 3. Perceptions of households regarding the changes of livelihood resources and factors due to the FHS incident (own source) Factors that did not change due to the FHS incident Post- FHS changes Frequency of natural disasters Higher fish scarcity (some species completely disappeared) Competition from non-local fishermen (still seen as a very Higher job insecurity challenging problem) Fishing technique (traditional, high labour capital) More health problems Fishing equipment (mostly traditional mobile gear, small Poor water quality (with potential long-term implications) vessels) Fishing area (close to shore) Lower income from fishing Most fishermen still catch the same fish species Ban on fishing certain species within 20 nautical miles More focus on catching squid (a few households) 4.3. Change of livelihood strategies incomes or to be able to pay off loans, fishermen worked for longer hours, more days and some Overall, around 60% of all households felt that increasingly focused more on catching squid. they were worse off than before the FHS incident. Intensification was a strategy that was already Their incomes significantly reduced since the being used as an adaptation strategy prior to the incident. They had to work for longer hours and FHS incident due to the seasonal character of caught less fish, experienced more stress, felt fishing: many fishermen would work extra hard more vulnerable as households were still in the during months when they could still fish to save process of recovering, or they had to pay back loans to get through the months when fishing was that were used to overcome the loss of income. troubled by bad weather conditions. There were All of these sentiments generally indicated an three households that never stopped fishing or overall increase in hardships among the respondents. started a lot earlier than others, at around 1 – 3 Nearly 24% of all respondents reported that things months after the FHS incident. Even though they were (getting) back to normal and they felt neutral were barely able to sell their fish and would about the impact of the FHS incident because receive prices that were far below the usual, they they had found a way to stabilize their livelihoods believed they had no other option as they did not again – usually without big alterations (i.e., absorptive know what else they could do to generate income. capacity). Around, 16% of all respondents felt that Both intensification and extensification – extending they were better off than before because they fishing efforts to other fishing areas to increase were able to use it as a positive driver of change. output – were limited in the FHS incident’s Thus, in line with SOWMAN & RAEMAEKERS (2018), aftermath as smaller vessels were not able to context can also be a positive contributor, as reach ‘uncontaminated’ waters. households were able to explore different livelihood Diversification was also a strategy that many pathways while dealing with the FHS incident. fishermen adopted prior to the FHS incident. After the FHS incident, households employed Again, this was mostly done due to the seasonal their livelihood strategies in different ways for nature of fishing. To guarantee a steady income in recovery. Intensification was the livelihood strategy months where fishing is hard or even impossible, adopted by most households as soon as they additional sources of income were sought to cover could start fishing again. To compensate for lost these months. This is where the influence of contextual factors such as natural disasters and Hải Dương due to place attachment, living in the climate change are visible, as they force livelihood commune for multiple generations. Coping with alterations to be sustainable. Households that very unfortunate and harsh situations such as the were already applying diversification before the FHS incident was not considered to be a push-factor FHS incident, were often able to rely on those to migrate, not even on a temporary basis. It seemed alternative income sources during the worst period that the only community members that decided of the disaster. Though they would have to apply to migrate were the younger generations, and they some gradual change to their additional income were not necessarily sending back remittances. in order to sustain their households. For instance, The last livelihood strategy to respond to the in one household, the wife of the head of household FHS is households spending their compensation was already working as a home-based cook. money, both for intensification and diversification During the FHS incident her husband gave up on purposes. On June 30, 2016, the Formosa steel fishing and partook in her activities to increase company took full responsibility for the disaster their output and increase income. Households and paid $500 million USD in damages. The amount that already had alternative income sources had of money that was assigned to the affected fewer problems in the (temporary) transition households was based on their fishing activities than households that decided to try to make this and was furthermore determined through a switch after the FHS incident. This comes down framework that was set-up by multiple ministries. to factors such as time, money, connections, Table 4 shows the amount of money that was social capital, and knowledge to learn new skills paid to each household, depending on its fishing to get another job. This was one of the biggest activities. constraints for households with limited human, Table 4. Amount of financial compensation for four affected social and financial capitals, of which the latter provinces in Central region: Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri, was even further limited by the disaster itself. and Thua Thien Hue province (Source: The Government of Vietnam, 2016) This created a situation in which it was difficult to find another job in a commune which already had Level of fish Amount of Type quantity per year compensation/ ‘narrow’ job opportunities, as most are related to household** the traditional marine industry. Examples of jobs Fisherman (does Low 22.0 that were found after the FHS incident were not own a boat) Moderate 35.7 masonry, steel production, raising livestock or High 45.9 selling fish cages and fish bait. However, other forms of diversification exist as well in the form Very high 52.7 of acquiring alternative flows of financial capital. Fisherman (owns Low 34.9 This was done in forms of loans, remittances, a boat) Moderate 64.0 savings and using the financial compensation that High 91.2 was provided by the government and FHS. Very high 122.0 Though these new income flows were not long- Aquaculture Per facility 17.46 term solutions, they provided short-term relief facility owner (cf. TUYEN ET AL., 2021) The level is defined by the declaration of fishermen and In terms of migration as a livelihood strategy, approved by local authorities only one household head moved away temporarily ** = In Million Vietnamese Dong to send back remittances to support his family, but eventually returned to the commune due to not In our case study, the amounts of compensation, being able to adjust to life in a larger city. At the as described in Table 4, were fairly accurate. For same time, numerous households had family or instance, aquaculture farmers confirmed that relatives that had migrated away. They were they received 17.46 million VND per facility. mostly permanent migrants in search of different Compensation per household was provided as a employment opportunities and were often not lump sum payment and distribution was carried considered to be part of the household. Households out in eight separate rounds, being divided over a that would consider migrating felt unsure of their few months. It is important to note that the total chances of success in other areas and thought amount never covered a household’s total income they were lacking skills, knowledge, and especially but was around 50% of their yearly income (based financial capital to do so. Labour migration was on rough estimates provided by households). often seen as a big risk, which the households Most households indicated that they used the were afraid of. The households that did not want compensation for daily expenditures, repairs, to move, stated that they did not want to leave upgrading or replacing their fishing equipment, et al., 2020; TUYEN ET AL., 2021). Many households savings, paying back loans, and rebuilding thought that they would not really have an aquaculture facilities. alternative if a comparable event would happen again. One household illustrated this by stating: 4.4. Resilience capacities, subjective resilience “our household already had a hard time to recover and recovery from this event. We are very poor, and I think another disaster would be hard to absorb. But, in the past with Our study found that households are capable floods like the one in 1999 and other problems we of assessing their own livelihood situation, also were always able to find some way. I think we have when comparing it to other households within no choice. What else can we do?”. the community, which is in line with the study of In the case of Hải Dương and the FHS incident, NGUYEN & JAMES (2013). The ability to judge one’s adaptive capacity could refer to multiple things. own resilience regarding livelihood threats among Households that were positive about their adaptive the respondents was often based on subjective capacity in relation to near-future increases in assessments on the balance of capitals (JACOBS ET AL., stressors were mostly those with multiple income 2014). This assessment is important as it can help sources. They indicated that having multiple households to successfully cope and adapt to income sources, strong social relations outside of shocks and stresses. For instance, respondents Hải Dương, and access to financial capital were acknowledged that low levels of human capital important factors contributing to their flexibility. prevented them from handling the situation as In line with those findings, households that rated well as other households that had received higher themselves as having low adaptive capacity were forms of education. JACOBS ET AL. (2015) also those that stated that they lacked education, mentioned that adequate levels of human and knowledge, and employment opportunities. This social capitals are needed to make sensible use of subsequently reduced their possibilities for long- financial capital. This was confirmed as households term adaptation. Being flexible, in the sense of with more human and social capital were those doing things that were ‘out of the ordinary’ for that had invested in financial capital in ways that them, was often contested as they did not want to increased their adaptive capacities, resulting in alter their traditional way of life – even if it could more successful diversification measures. This was improve their chances of increasing their resilience also illustrated by BEBBINGTON (1999) as he stated for future events. One fisherman stated: “The problem that livelihood capitals do not solely consist of is, as a fisherman, we have a day-to-day life. We get livelihood-input, but also influence one’s livelihood our income every day, spend it the same day and are strategy choices. Households that were highly not able to save up or plan with our money. So, when dependent on the traditional marine industry and events like the FHS incident happen again or more refused to change were also those that were quite frequently, it is impossible for us to be flexible and limited in their livelihood capitals and therefore their adapt”. livelihood strategies. They generally demonstrated Households were quite averse about making low resilience after the FHS incident. transformative alterations to their livelihoods. Most households demonstrated adequate Households that did seem to show adequate absorptive capacity as livelihood changes up to transformative capacity were also those that this point have not been drastic. All households were successfully applying diversification and admitted that they were able to stay in Hải Dương demonstrated sufficient adaptive capacity strategies. during and after the shock. Even though the impact Financial, human, and social capitals were important was severe, most households were able to preserve factors for a temporary coping strategy to diversify their livelihoods. Fishermen indicated that they and potentially transform the households’ were used to hardship and that in the end they livelihoods. We theorize that if adaptive capacity would always find ways to cope. Furthermore, is quite weak, then transformative capacity will they also indicated that these coping strategies be even harder to attain. Findings suggest that were mostly short-term solutions. Households most households resorted to absorptive ‘coping’ were less confident about their absorptive capacities capacity, but those households with higher amounts when they were asked if they would be able to of human, social, and financial capital demonstrated cope with a comparable event soon. This is where good adaptive capacity and would even be able to it became clear that most households were still in resort to more transformative changes in the future, the process of recovering, which has had serious if more frequent and intense stressors were to occur. impacts on their financial capital and often has In Hải Dương commune, 18 households stated pushed them into accumulating debts (cf. Phuong that they were still in the process of recovering and 12 felt they had sufficiently recovered. When limited to intensifying livelihood strategies and households had to compare their rate of recovery absorptive resilience capacities. They attribute to other households in Hải Dương commune, 17 this limitation to a lack of the previously mentioned households felt that their rate was equal to others livelihood capitals and often show greater in the commune; two felt it was better than dependency on the government. Those that others and 11 felt their state of recovery was demonstrate higher livelihood resilience seem worse than others. Households that stated that more independent as they explore ways to they had not recovered from the FHS incident diversify their means of income, acknowledging were also those that stated that their rate of their vulnerability and acting upon it. recovery was worse than most other households. Even though most households are quite aware This highlights the relational and subjective of the situation of their own resilience in regard nature of the concept of recovery (DIENER ET AL., to other households and are able to describe how 2002; NGUYEN & JAMES, 2013; JONES ET AL., 2018) the FHS incident has affected their livelihoods, this Households who claimed to be partially study has shown that this does not necessarily recovered and households who had not recovered lead to action in order to build or strengthen yet employed different livelihood strategies, though resilience. Even though some households were differences were small. The recovered group all able to recover faster than others, due to more applied diversification as a livelihood strategy, and effective application of intensifying and diversifying many combined this with intensification. The non- livelihood strategies, changes in livelihoods due recovered group was more inclined to solely apply to the FHS disaster are quite limited. No household intensification strategies. This can be attributed intended to leave Hải Dương and plans for to the recovered group having more income sources strengthening one’s livelihood resilience in the than the non-recovered group. The former claimed distance future were rare. This was often attributed to have multiple household members contributing to to the day-to-day lives that fishermen have. All their households’ total income, and nine out of households show remarkable persistence in the twelve households were involved in both aquaculture difficulties they faced, including the FHS incident. and boat-fishing. Though levels of recovery differed, However, this mode of persistence and 25 households indicated that they had not yet fully determination says little about overall well-being recovered from the FHS incident and subsequent of the households or whether they really have a fishing ban (cf. TUYEN ET AL., 2021). choice. A coastal rural settlement like Hải Dương is quite poor, often employing some of the 5. Conclusion poorest people who lack alternative livelihoods. As such, actively strengthening resilience is not This research found that households are capable attainable for everyone in Hải Dương. Those that of assessing their own resilience and have an experience more restrained access to certain adequate understanding of factors making their livelihood capitals, a more constraining livelihood livelihoods reasonably resilient. A proficient context, fewer possibilities in livelihood strategies combination of human, social, and financial capital and lower resilience capacities face a more is an important part of livelihood resilience. uncertain future as livelihood stressors, both Households with adequate education, skills and manmade and ‘natural’, are expected to increase knowledge, and better social relations with other in the future. Acquiring ways to strengthen people outside of their commune, usually have livelihood resilience may become a necessity for better access to multiple forms of financial capital. small-scale fishery households at some point, This combination of these livelihood capitals means even if it entails adopting ‘untraditional’ ways. that households could resort to diversifying measures to recover from the FHS incident. These References are also the households that rated their livelihood ACFR. 2004. 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Environmental & Socio-economic Studies – de Gruyter
Published: Mar 1, 2022
Keywords: small-scale fishery communities; subjective resilience capacities; manmade environmental disasters; Central Vietnam; livelihood strategies
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