In some of the most deprived areas of Bangladesh, where land is scarce, people face a constant struggle to get nutritious food for themselves and their children.
But in the region of Faridpur and Rajbari, Practical Action is helping women like Malika to "grow" fish in their local ponds using an ingenious Practical Action-designed cage – and feeding them on nothing more than scraps and waste.
People grow fish in their local ponds using a simple fish cage known locally as a "hapa". A few young fish are put into each "hapa", which acts as their home, floating just below the surface of the pond.
Fish cages are made using a few cheap materials. Bamboo poles form an outer frame that is covered in netting, and floats - which can be made from reused plastic bottles - are added at the corners to let the cages rise and fall in the water. Inside is a "nursery" section made of fine-mesh netting for the younger, more delicate fish.
Cages have a top cover to prevent fish jumping and escaping, or being caught by birds. Because the cage floats, it can be installed in any depth of water, and can be accessed even in times of flood.
With a capacity of one cubic metre, the cage can hold up to 300 fish at a time. Fish farmers use cages like this for two growing seasons each year, giving their families a constant supply of fish to eat and sell.
The fish can be fed on nothing more than scraps and waste – duck weed, oil cake, kitchen waste, rice bran and snails – and in just a few months the fish grow to full size. Then they produce more fish, and more, and more.
Cage culture' fish farming is one of the best options for women's groups and farmers without land of their own to grow fish using open water or rivers, canals or ponds.
In Tambulkana village, Faridpur, water is everywhere. The region’s ponds and ditches, channels and pools make land scarce, and farming is fraught with problems. But Practical Action is helping people like Malika to turn this environment into a resource, a source of food, and even an income, using "hapa" fish cages.
Malika’s fish cages give her family vitamin- and protein-rich food all year round, and help provide enough money to pay for healthcare and school fees for her children. And thanks to the security her work gives her, she can face the future with confidence. With Practical Action’s help, she’s found a way to protect her children from malnutrition and improve life for her whole family.
With technology this simple and successful, it doesn’t take much to spread the message. Malika’s proud that her fish-farming creates such an interest. "Many people come to watch us," she says, "and already some women from another village have asked for advice and information on how they can do this for themselves too."
Your donation today could help feed one family for a lifetime
In Bangladesh Zabia’s family were left without food after every monsoon season. Raging floods clawed away at the little food they had, and unable to farm at all through the floods, Zabia was barely able to feed her family. For two months of the year they were left starving.
But donations from people like you brought hope in the shape of a simple bamboo box that turns flood water into a source of food.
Within 4 months Zabia’s fish were big enough to harvest and her family now has food all year round – even in the monsoon season. Your gift today could help other families like Zabia's to survive the floods.
As well as fish cages, Practical Action works with small scale farmers on a technique called rice-fish culture.
Our technical information service, Practical Answers, has a wide range of practical guides related to this technology