text size: smaller reset larger

 

 

Profiting from prawn in Bangladesh

In Putia village, rising levels of floodwater engulf the land swamping the rice fields (© Tithe Farhana)
In Putia village, rising levels of floodwater engulf the land swamping the rice fields
© Tithe Farhana

In southeast Bangladesh, the Meghna-Gumti River Basin is a flood-prone area where vast amounts of land remain under 1.5 to 3 metres of water for up to six months of the year. Rice production becomes impossible as rising levels of floodwater engulf the land swamping the rice fields. To improve food security for poor farmers, a group of NGOs* has provided funding and training to enable farmers to take up prawn cultivation during the wet season. "We had to find work during the wet season because the fields were flooded," explains Raj Miah, one of the 25 farmers involved in Putia village. "But now our lives have changed. We can afford to send our children to school."

Villagers were already farming tilapia and carp in small village ponds, but when the dry season came the market price of fish plummeted as farmers began to sell off their surplus fish, all at the same time. "We had to explain to the farmers that the prawns were a high value product and could be farmed in tandem with rice growing," explains Asraf Ali from Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PSKF). "We set up training on how to farm giant freshwater prawns and even sent farmers along to demonstrations."

Using a complex system of sluice gates, water from the swollen rivers is channelled to flood large areas that become expansive lakes, which are used to farm the prawns. Larvae (fry) are released into holding ponds a month before being transferred to the flooded fields. After six months, the prawns will reach maturity at which point farmers can expect to harvest 250kg of full sized prawns per hectare.

A cooperative success

Farming communities come together under a cooperative to farm prawns collectively (© Tithe Farhana)
Farming communities come together under a cooperative to farm prawns collectively
© Tithe Farhana

The project brings together farming communities under a cooperative so that they can farm the prawns collectively. Each of the 25 farming families involved is allocated shares according to the size of their farm and a specified number of shares also go to the landless. Each shareholder then receives a percentage of the profits. A rural microcredit loan for fry and nets, specifically designed for the project by the Centre for Community Development Assistance (CCDA), is paid back once the prawns have been harvested and taken to market. Depending on the assets held by the group, loan amounts vary from US$400-600.

PSKF, in partnership with the Finance for Enterprise Development and Employment Creation Project (FEDEC), also provide training courses on how to cultivate prawns, grade prawns, and post-harvest techniques to ensure that the prawns reach market in the finest condition. "Due to high demand all year round, farmers face few problems in marketing and selling the prawns," Ali adds. "Most of them are sold for local consumption and a proportion is sold in large department stores. Any surplus is sold to processing plants for export."

By introducing giant fresh water prawns (Macrobrachium rosenbergii), soil quality and rice yields have also improved. The prawns leave behind organic waste when the water retreats, which acts as a fertiliser. As a result, rice yields have increased by 10-15 per cent. Prawn farmers have also found that when the water has retreated they are able to plant young rice plants directly into the muddy residue which remains, avoiding the need to plough the land, which saves them time and money.

Multiplying the benefits

Farmers' incomes have increased six-fold (© Tithe Farhana)
Farmers' incomes have increased six-fold
© Tithe Farhana

With a six-fold increase in farmers' incomes, the project has been hailed as a success. "When the farmers realised the financial returns, they were soon convinced that this was the way forward," Ali recalls. Employment opportunities have also increased: demand for farm labourers has increased, and traders to sell fish and suppliers of young prawns and feed have emerged. "Women's participation has also been increasing, becoming more accepted socially," Ali adds. "Women are involved with feeding the prawns, the culture of larvae, drying prawns and often keeping accounts for their husbands."

To ensure the sustainability of the industry Ali believes that Putia requires a modern prawn hatchery nearby. Each year new suppliers of hatchlings have to be found because the eggs are harvested from the wild. This season, larvae are being collected from hatcheries in Khulna and Naogaon, which are over 200 kilometres away. With funding from CCDA, however, a new hatchery for the area is being planned.

"Enterprises such as these are helping develop business entrepreneurs from across Bangladesh, improve livelihoods and lift flood-hit communities out of poverty," explains CCDA's executive director, Mr Mohamad Samad. "The success of the pilot scheme has inspired authorities to replicate it in other flood-prone areas of the country, helping them use their land more effectively," he concludes.

* Finance for Enterprise Development and Employment Creation Project (FEDEC), International Fund for the Development of Agriculture (IFAD), Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) and the Centre for Community Development Assistance (CCDA)
* The project is financed by the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the Finance for Enterprise Development and Employment Creation Project (FEDEC), and CCDA

Written by: Tithe Farhana and David Meagher

Date published: May 2012

 

Have your say

 

The New Agriculturist is a WRENmedia production.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.
Accept
Read more