Studying Food Security and Policy in Asia

<p>Robert Pomeroy, professor of agricultural and resource economics. Photo by Margaret Van Patten</p>
Robert Pomeroy, professor of agricultural and resource economics. Photo by Margaret Van Patten

Robert Pomeroy, professor of agricultural and resource economics, has been selected as one of 25 National Asia Research Associates by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

Pomeroy, a fisheries extension specialist with Connecticut Sea Grant at UConn’s Avery Point Campus, will receive two-year funding for his research at UConn through the National Asia Research Program (NARP) and will present his work at the inaugural Asia Policy Assembly in June 2010. The program is a partnership between the Wilson Center and the National Bureau of Asian Research.

Pomeroy’s research focuses on food security and policy in Asia, with an emphasis on coastal and fisheries research management. His studies try to develop sustainable methods to alleviate hunger and poverty in Asian communities that rely on coastal natural resources for their livelihood.

“When people think about agriculture, they don’t normally think about fisheries,” he says. “They think about rice and corn, but they don’t think about fish and how important it is as a protein source in Asia.”

Working with fisheries policy has taken Pomeroy to India, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Philippines, where he has made his home since 1983. Most Asian marine fisheries that capture wild-caught fish, he says, have experienced overfishing that has resulted in fish declines of up to 95 percent from their natural levels. This overfishing is in turn exacerbated by coastal habitat degradation, pollution from large coastal cities and, increasingly, climate change.

“There are literally hundreds of millions of people who rely on fish for their food, income, and livelihood,” he says. “We’re working toward better ways to sustain these important fisheries.”

Much of the change that has improved the health of these fisheries lies in their governance. Because of their history of living and working in their local area, Pomeroy says, local communities are much better suited to manage their own fisheries than the national government.

He and his colleagues have worked with government ministries in many Asian nations to decentralize their fisheries administration and move toward community-based management. Their work has been instrumental in changing fisheries policy in nearly every Asian country.

“It’s a great feeling when I go to Vietnam and the people in the ministries call me the ‘godfather’ of community-based management,” he says.

The NARP fellowship will bring together researchers who work in the broad areas of Asian governance, economics, security, education, health, and environmental protection. This diversity of research topics is one of the biggest draws of the program for Pomeroy.

“I’m really looking forward to meeting, interacting with, and learning from the other participants,” he says. “There’s a wealth of information from other disciplines that might be applicable to mine.”