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 .
In Bangladesh, both women and men are actively involved in aquaculture. But in poor households, where average income is USD 65.25 per month, women face barriers that prevent them from catching fish, even from their own homestead ponds.
Gender-related cultural and religious expectations prohibit women from harvesting fish, a job often seen as a man’s responsibility. Women are also reluctant to enter ponds to harvest fish because they have to get their sarees wet, which then need to be washed and hung out to dry for a day.
In Bangladesh, around 60% of the population have inadequate intake of vitamin A, which is needed for normal vision, reproduction and a good immune system. A new WorldFish study finds that a long-term commitment to the farming of mola, a small indigenous fish species, could improve the vitamin A intake of the 98% of Bangladeshis who eat fish and save 3,000 lives over an 11-year period. In this edition of the WorldFish podcast, we are joined by WorldFish Senior Scientist, Dr. Shakuntala Thilsted, to discuss this significant finding.
“Before the project, we had fish only once a week and meat only once a month,” says Tasbina Begum, a mother of two from Jogahati village in Jessore district, southern Bangladesh.
In Bangladesh, there has been decline in the areas of inland water and inundation, drastically reducing the vital habitats for wild fish stocks. This has contributed to decreased fish harvest, in particular for small fish like mola, which the rural poor depend on for food and income.
“Our ponds used to be brimming with naturally grown mola fish even two years back, but recently these small fish have become rare,” says Julekha Bugem, a farmer from Nilgonj village, in Barguna.