Rehena Begum’s background is typical of women in rural Bangladesh. She attended school up to grade five, married young and manages a large household with six children. Her family struggled with malnutrition and poverty.
Rehena’s husband has no permanent occupation and earns most of his income from casual jobs such as working in the brick fields at a subsistence rate of pay, making it hard to meet the basic needs of the family. Rehena explored ways that she could contribute to her family earnings. She tried cattle rearing, chicken farming and vegetable farming on her small plot of land. Although she had two cows, 15 chickens, ten ducks and six pigeons, it was still not enough to lift her family out of poverty.
Although she had a small pond that was used occasionally to stock fish fry, she didn't believe that fish farming had the potential to make a substantial difference to her family’s earnings. However, in 2012, Rehena became involved in a local farmer group set up by the USAID-funded Aquaculture for Income and Nutrition project.
Rehena eagerly used the training and knowledge she learned from her participation in the project to carry out the following activities: cleaning pondweed, clearing non-cultured and predator fish, using fertilizer and lime; monitoring and managing plankton levels in the pond water, planning ahead for fry stocking and feeding.
The project provided her with material assistance, training and regular advice as she supplemented her initial stock of 200 ruhi fish with better quality fish of the same species and katla, mrigel, silver carp, sarputi fry and mola to help boost her family’s nutrition intake. Mola, which can be harvested frequently, was especially suited to her small pond.
Mola provides a vital source of nutritional components essential for a healthy, balanced diet. Malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies are widespread throughout Bangladesh, where more than 20 million people, particularly women and children, suffer from chronic deficiencies of vitamin A, iron, and zinc. Micronutrient deficiencies cause irreversible damage in children, stunting their growth and inhibiting their brain development and cognition, making it difficult for them to learn at school and perform at work later in life.
Rehena also planted her fishpond bank with vegetables to make full use of valuable fertile ground, transforming what had been considered a marginal source of income and nutrition into a core asset for her and her family.
Rehena is expecting to make BDT10,000 ($USD129) from her fish harvest after meeting her family’s nutrition needs. This money will be spent on her children’s education and future.