Homegrown fish and vegetables:
A solution to combat
undernutrition in Bangladesh
Poor households in Sylhet division are being trained and supported to grow fish and vegetables on their homesteads, which is helping to combat widespread undernutrition by boosting consumption of nutritious food and increasing household income.
In Sylhet in northeastern Bangladesh, a division of nearly 10 million people, rates of undernutrition are among the highest in the country and the world. Almost 50 percent of children under five years of age are stunted—a form of chronic undernutrition—and the under-five mortality rate is 67 per 1000 children.
A contributing factor is that 68 percent of Sylhet’s population live below the international poverty line of USD 1.25 a day and have little or no land on which to grow food.
Despite the local availability of nutritious food, it is not affordable to the poorest households, and there is little homestead vegetable, fish or poultry production. This results in many households having diets that are low in diversity and rely heavily on the staple food, rice, contributing to the slow onset of an entrenched nutritional crisis.
To combat chronic undernutrition in Sylhet, particularly in the first 1000 days of life, the Suchana: Ending the cycle of undernutrition in Bangladesh program (2016–2022) is implementing a range of nutrition-sensitive, market-based and gender-sensitive activities.
Funded by DFID and the European Union, the program is being implemented by a Save the Children International-led consortium that includes WorldFish, Helen Keller International, International Development Enterprises and the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh. This is in association with local NGOs Center for Natural Resource Studies, Friends in Village Development Bangladesh and RDRS.
Boosting local fish production and consumption
One of Suchana’s key program interventions is to help communities grow fish and vegetables around their homes.
Fish, particularly small fish when eaten whole, are an excellent source of micronutrients such as iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin B12, as well as fatty acids and animal protein. When affordable and available, the consumption of fish can alleviate nutritional deficiencies—a contributor to undernutrition in Sylhet—and are a key component in a balanced and nutritious diet.
Fahima’s story: ‘We eat fish regularly’
The two-day training is a huge help to poor people who have very little land to farm on like Fahima Begum, a farmer and mother-of-two from Dithpur village.
From the training, Fahima learned how to produce nutrient-rich small fish such as mola in her homestead pond alongside carp and tilapia. Mola is a small indigenous species (SIS) that is found in most ponds and through better low-cost managaement practices can grow and multiply easily. Mola can be harvested partially often, making it ideal for regular household consumption.
Mala’s story: A bumper harvest from a small pond
Similar successes were experienced by Mala Begum from Natun Sunampur village in Balaganj.
Mala and her husband Jalal once struggled to provide three meals a day for themselves and their three sons. Jalal’s income from working as a day labourer was insufficient to fully cover their food costs and homestead farming was difficult due to living in a flood-prone area.
ProjectSuchana: Ending the cycle of undernutrition in Bangladesh
Donor:United Kingdom Department for International Development, European Union
Partners:Save the Children International, Helen Keller International, International Development Enterprises, the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh
Related sustainable development goals
TagsBangladesh, Asia, nutrition, livelihoods, food security, small-scale fisheries, mola
women trained in fish and vegetable technologies since August 2016
fish fingerlings distributed to poor households in Sylhet since August 2016
poor households in Sylhet have received fish fingerlings since August 2016
Photo credits - WorldFish. Published on 28 September 2017.