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Adding fish to the mix: Diversifying agriculture for improved productivity

Expansion of Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) in Bangladesh
Project leader
Md. Mokarrom Hossain
1 Oct 2010
30 Sep 2015
Bangladesh is a densely populated country facing increasing food security issues. Although the country has shown remarkable growth in agricultural production over the past 30 years, it has not yet achieved self-sufficiency in food production and is a net importer of rice (occasionally) and of maize and wheat (frequently). “The dietary intake of both children and adults is severely deficient in key vitamins and minerals. Forty percent of the population is undernourished and 20 percent severely malnourished. Acute malnutrition levels in Bangladesh are higher than those in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa” (Feed the Future, Bangladesh).
Three international agricultural research centers, (International Rice Research Institute, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, and the WorldFish Center) are working with national partners to achieve rapid and durable improvements in agricultural productivity, especially for impoverished communities in which cereal crops and fish dominate and there is strong scope to improve yields and livelihoods.
The CSISA project is generating a number of publications in both English and Bangla:
The work of the five year project “Expansion of Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) in Bangladesh (CSISA – BD)” will broaden, strengthen, and diversify an existing project called the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) and materially contribute to the food security objectives of USAID’s Feed the Future investments in Bangladesh. The project is expected to directly benefit 60,000 farming households (mostly poor and marginal) through increased income of up to $350/household from the base-year level. A further 300,000 households will indirectly benefit through dissemination-related activities such as participatory demonstrations, farmer days for method and results demonstration, workshops.  Over 1 million households will benefit indirectly through synergies and flow-on effects of innovative partnerships with the public and private sectors.

Food security and the ‘hub’ approach

A key element of the CSISA approach is the concept of the ‘hub’ – i.e. a geographic location that serves as a focal point for innovation in a target region. Hubs typically serve an area with similar biophysical characteristics, production systems, constraints and potential intervention points. Each hub brings together a set of partners, which can include private-sector companies, input dealers, service providers, agro-processing facilities, equipment manufacturers, public-sector extension and development agencies, universities, water management associations, NGOs, and farmer groups. The project works in six primary hub regions of Bangladesh. Each hub has a centralized location that serves as the point for research, innovation, extension, and participatory technology adaptation in the target region. The six hubs are:  Mymensingh (central and north central districts), Dinajpur (north-western districts), Khulna (south-western coastal districts), Jessore (central south-western districts), Barisal (southern districts of greater Barisal division) and Faridpur (central western districts).
WorldFish has joined the CSISA project as a core partner for aquaculture development and cereal-fish integration and will have a strong presence in every one of the hubs involved in the project. This “enterprise diversification” offers substantial opportunities for income generation and improved system productivity, health and nutrition. Through testing and application of simple management changes, WorldFish and partners will work to improve the productivity of pond aquaculture and promote the polyculture of small nutrient-dense fish alongside carp. These small fish, such as mola and darkina, are rich in micronutrients—vitamin A, iron, calcium, and zinc. WorldFish will also target women in the promotion of a household based pond aquaculture–horticulture system for income and nutrition.
In the water-rich south, the project will promote diversification, as opportunities exist to integrate fish, prawn, shrimp and vegetables into traditional rice growing agricultural systems locally called “gher”. Commercial pond and cage aquaculture of salinity-tolerant pangas and tilapia will also be a focus of this project.

Partnerships leads to outcomes

The government of Bangladesh, USAID, and the CG centers recognize that “business as usual” will not achieve significant reductions in persistent rural poverty. At the center of CSISA is an understanding of the need to move beyond traditional approaches to achieve impacts at scale. This can be achieved only through the strategic use of partnerships and coalitions with like-minded organizations and institutions that have a strong on-the-ground presence in the target communities. At the national level and locally through the regional hubs, CSISA and its CG partners work with a range of government agencies, national and international NGOs, the private sector (primarily  feed and seed companies), and bilateral and multilateral donors; mobilizing a coalition of partners to achieve outcomes at scale.

The Coalition of partners


NGOs and project partners including

Private partners

Spectra Hexa Feeds Limited
Other Private Hatcheries



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