Case study: fish farming in Bangladesh
When land is scarce and poverty runs deep, malnutrition thrives. In some of the most deprived areas of Bangladesh it is rife, as 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.
Good food and more
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.
For mothers like Malika, malnutrition is much more than a statistic. Every day she could see what it meant in the joyless eyes of her son, in his pallid complexion, his weak limbs. She wanted to help him, desperately. But even if she gave him everything she had, there was still not enough nutritious food to go round.
Today, Malika looks at her son and sees a different boy, strong and vital thanks to the fish she is "growing". With Practical Action’s help, she’s found a way to protect her children from malnutrition and improve life for her whole family.
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 a simple fish cage caled a "hapa".
A few young fish are put into each "hapa", which acts as their home, floating just below the surface of the pond. All they need is a little food – oil cake, duckweed, kitchen waste and snails – and in just a few months the fish grow to full size. Then they produce more fish, and more, and more.
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."
Malika’s cages were made using a few cheap materials. Bamboo poles form an outer frame that is covered in netting; inside is a "nursery" section for the younger, more delicate fish; and floats are added at the corners.
With a capacity of one cubic metre, the cage can hold up to 300 fish at a time. Malika uses cages like this for two growing seasons each year, giving her family a constant supply of fish to eat and sell.