A new report from WorldFish shows that resource-poor Bangladeshis can participate in commercial aquaculture, challenging conventional assumptions that this was not possible. The report also highlights that more of the very poor in Bangladesh are profiting from commercial aquaculture than was previously thought.
Aquaculture, employment, poverty, food security and well-being in Bangladesh: A comparative study finds that where a critical mass of aquaculture producers had formed in a particular region, the development of related infrastructure reduced costs and lowered barriers to entry for other producers. In those areas, the potential of aquaculture to generate significant returns was sufficiently attractive to make the risks of investing in it appear acceptable to resource-poor households.
In the study, more small landowners and resource-poor farmers were shown to practice commercial aquaculture than semi-subsistence forms, for example from household ponds.
The study found greater social and economic benefits in small and medium-sized aquaculture enterprises as opposed to smaller scale or household operations. Commercial aquaculture producers, the report also found, derived nutritional benefit by consuming larger quantities of fish from their own farms than households operating backyard operations.
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>“By identifying the modes of aquaculture that most benefit the poor we can best direct efforts to bolster this sector," says WorldFish director general Stephen Hall. "While we have seen the detrimental effects of large-scale aquaculture for communities it is now clearer that the benefits of smaller scale commercial operations are potentially great in increasing food security and employment.”
Authored by WorldFish’s Ben Belton, Nasib Ahmed and Murshed-e-Jahan, the study also found that employment generated by aquaculture is generally higher than for other forms of agriculture, particularly those that are more seasonal, such as rice production. Commercial smallholder operations were found to create the highest levels of direct employment and in a wide range of supporting occupations, for example pond diggers and providers of transport.
The study, conducted via an integrated quantative/qualitative survey in six communities with contrasting patterns of aquaculture development, is a product of the CGIAR Research Programs (CRP) on Aquatic Agricultural Systems in which WorldFish participates, as well as an output of the EU-funded Aquaculture for Food Security, Poverty Alleviation and Nutrition project.
While smaller-scale, smartly managed aquaculture operations may provide a sustainable economic boost in developing areas such as Bangladesh, the commercial fishing industry at large is far from a sustainable enterprise. Brands, retailers, restaurant and hotel chains and a range of other companies that source seafood are taking steps to ensure the stability of their supply chain, but overfishing and “ghost fishing,” which both pose major threats to the health of marine ecosystems, are still rampant in many areas of the world.