For one Bangladeshi woman, a new set of skills designed to enhance and complement traditional fish farming has helped lift a family out of poverty.
Lalita Bala is learning music from a professional singer; a long-held desire that not too long ago seemed like an impossible dream. The daughter of a poor farmer, Lalita was married when she was 15. Now 25 years old, she is the mother of a five-year-old child and a successful shrimp farmer.
Lalita’s husband had tried for eight years to make the family’s traditional shrimp cultivation business viable, without success. After being trained by the USAID-funded Aquaculture for Income and Nutrition project in 2012, Lalita started her shrimp cultivation with modified traditional technology, one of the three technologies promoted by WorldFish, in her family-owned pond of 125 decimals. She also joined the Women Shrimp Farmer Group in her village of Halishahar, Bishnupur Union, Sadar Upazila in Bagerhar district.
An assessment of the factors influencing adoption of new shrimp aquaculture technologies to enhance and improve traditional methodologies was undertaken by WorldFish researchers and outlined in a paper entitled Profitability and adoption of improved shrimp farming technologies in the aquatic agricultural systems of southwestern Bangladesh.
The report examines the impacts of three new technologies, two modified traditional technologies and a closed system technology. A total of 789 farmers from 10 sub-districts were surveyed randomly, including a control group of 350 farmers using traditional technologies. The researchers found that farmers gained significantly higher net returns when practicing improved shrimp farming systems as compared to traditional farms.
For Lalita, using the modified traditional technology method increased her gher production to a value of BDT 350,800 ($USD4,520) in one year, a sizeable increase on the BDT 68,000 ($USD876) income of the previous year. She has an additional income of BDT 40,200 ($USD 518) from selling milk, eggs and coir and is a member of a local organization where she keeps a savings account.
She has five cattle, 22 chickens and, quite unusual for the community, a pig, which she is planning to sell for BDT 20,000 ($USD258). She is also is renowned locally for her artistic quilt embroidery skill, another of her diversified income sources. While this diversification of income and own-family nutritional needs is important for Lalita and her family, the adoption of modified traditional technologies in her shrimp aquaculture was the foundation for their success.