Aquaculture, employment, poverty, food security and well-being in Bangladesh

A new report from the WorldFish Center has found that more of the very poor in Bangladesh are profiting from commercial aquaculture than was previously thought. It has also been revealed that employment created by aquaculture is generally higher than for other forms of agriculture.

“Aquaculture, employment, poverty, food security and well-being in Bangladesh: A comparative study” addresses five research questions about the nature of aquaculture development in Bangladesh. The questions are designed to test central narratives from the literature on aquaculture, poverty and food security, and to broaden the scope of debate beyond them. An integrated quantitative-qualitative survey was conducted in six communities with contrasting patterns of aquaculture development. Here, it was revealed 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 practise 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. Commercially-oriented aquaculture producers, the report also found, derived nutritional benefit by consuming larger quantities of fish from their own farms than households operating backyard operations.
 “By identifying the modes of aquaculture that most benefits the poor we can best direct efforts to bolster this sector,” says Stephen Hall, Director General of WorldFish. “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.”

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 also in a wide range of supporting occupations, for example pond diggers and providers of transport.

“Aquaculture, employment, poverty, food security and well-being in Bangladesh: A comparative study”  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.

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