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Reaping the rewards of aquaculture in Bangladesh

Aquaculture for Income and Nutrition
Project leader
Hendrik Jan Keus
1 Oct 2011
1 Sep 2016
Situated at the apex of the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh lies on the richly fertile delta plains that mark a boundary between the Indian subcontinent and South East Asia. With the Padma, Jamuna and Meghna Rivers and their many tributaries innervating the Bangladeshi lowlands, fishing and aquatic agriculture have been mainstays of the country’s predominantly rural communities for centuries. Working amidst this rich riparian heritage, the USAID Feed the Future Aquaculture project aims to increase the productivity of aquaculture farms and improve the lives of millions through better health and financial security. In a country where up to fifteen percent of the population regularly faces nutritional shortages and household incomes are some of the lowest in the world, the benefits of the Aquaculture project could be transformative for many.
This is a five-year USAID-funded project that will reach communities across 20 districts in the southern stretches of Barisal, Khulna and Dhaka divisions of Bangladesh. The WorldFish Center will directly implement the multi-faceted project in close cooperation with the Department of Fisheries, Bangladesh (DoF), the Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute (BFRI), and the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC). The project team – based in Khulna, but with representatives in each district (Barisal, Jessore and Faridpur) – also collaborates closely with existing networks of established USAID projects within the region
The project involves a four-pronged approach, with initiatives addressing the key Feed the Future goals of sustainably reducing poverty and hunger. Over five years, the project aims to improve the livelihoods of close to 1 million households, and add over US$200 million in fish and shrimp production to the Bangladeshi aquaculture industry.

Improving Fish and Shrimp Seed

Fish farm harvests are largely dependent on the productivity of the fish and shrimp they grow. Ensuring that the best possible quality fish species are available is therefore central to improving aquaculture in Bangladesh. By identifying elite lines of the most commonly farmed fish species – tilapia, carps (rohu and catla), shrimps and prawns – the project is helping to ensure that farmers have access to the highest quality fish stock s. Through training and capacity-building, government-run and private hatcheries will become the local hubs for sourcing, developing, and distributing quality seed to fish farms. This initiative alone is projected to result in fish and shrimp yield improvements of between 12 and 27 percent that will directly benefit over 700,000 households. Focus will be on enabling improvements in seed quality and strains in 40 fish, 20 prawn, and 15 shrimp hatcheries, producing around 80% of the fish seed in the southern region, assuring wide impacts on farm productivity across the region.

Household Aquaculture for Income and Nutrition

This component delivers improved nutrition and incomes through homestead aquaculture and horticulture to poor and vulnerable households. These families are some of the most poverty-stricken and malnourished in the country, and a lack of technical know-how can further limit their chances of a sustainable, healthy livelihood. The project aims to provide training and nutritional education for such communities. By encouraging farming of nutrient-dense fish species and Vitamin A-rich sweet potato, households will be empowered to better provide for themselves. Financial and nutritional hardship will be reduced, with 20,000 households in the first 18 months of the program increasing their income by US$100 per year, and doubling their number of meals containing fish per month. After 5 years, 150,000 households will have benefited from this initiative.

Commercial aquaculture

The commercial aquaculture industry is a major employer in southern Bangladesh, and supplies fish to both local communities and markets further afield. However, ongoing changes to global climate threaten to limit the productiveness of freshwater species in the increasingly brackish Bangladeshi waterways. The project aims to establish optimal culture conditions for new, salt-tolerant species in order to ensure aquaculture productivity into the future. It will deliver increased production to around 20,000 shrimp and prawn farmers, and 5,000 entrepreneurs practicing high value commercial fish culture. Working with the USAID programs GHERS (Greater Harvest and Economic Returns from Shrimp) the project is also helping to bolster production capacity in established species, and encourage further investment in the sector.

Policy reform and institutional capacity

The project is working closely with the Bangladeshi government and both public and private institutions to ensure that the aquaculture sector will continue to thrive and grow beyond the project’s completion. Establishing the appropriate regulatory and policy framework will protect the future of the aquaculture industry and the communities that rely on it. Focus during the first 18 months will be on assisting government in implementation of existing policy and regulatory measures in the Hatchery and Feed Acts to secure fish seed and fish feed quality.