«Freshwater prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii) farming in Greater Noakhali Districts Catherine Lecouffe January 2005 The Greater Noakhali Aquaculture ...»
Freshwater prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii) farming in Greater Noakhali Districts
The Greater Noakhali Aquaculture Extension Project (GNAEP) is a project of the Government of
Bangladesh (GoB) supported by Danish International Development Assistance (Danida), under the
overall responsibility of the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock (MoFL) and implemented by the
Department of Fisheries (DoF). The project began in July 1998 and has been extended until June
2006. GNAEP works with households from the three districts of Noakhali, Lakshmipur and Feni, covering 15 upazilas (sub-districts), 169 unions and involving over 10,000 farmers. The districts of Noakhali, Lakshmipur and Feni are situated in the South of Bangladesh. Half of the districts are newly accreted land which did not exist fifty years ago.
The overall goal of the project is to improve the lives of the poor fish farmers by raising income from their available water resources, through the promotion of improved and sustainable cultivation practices. At the beginning the project focused on pond aquaculture mainly through carp polyculture.
Since 2002, the focus is on integrated prawn farming to achieve a more positive impact on poverty alleviation by increasing the poor farmer’s household income.
The giant freshwater prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii) can be easily cultivated in short cycles in areas where water does not remain all year round. It requires some investment to buy the post- larvae/juveniles, but a low external input method brings a high income in a few months without hampering other household daily activities.
In Bangladesh the market for prawn is limited, and hence most of the production goes for export, mostly to Europe, USA and Japan. The project has made local entrepreneurs aware of the potential of prawn farming for poor households: hatcheries, feed processors and soon a processing plant are working together with the farmers to make a sustainable and fair prawn supply chain, now awaiting for certification.
This year 5,873 farmers were involved in prawn farming with GNAEP, of which 49.5% were women.
Altogether, they have stocked 6,418,578 post-larvae. Values for this year’s harvest are not yet available, however the expectations are to double the 200 tonnes produced last year and being worth Tk80-100 million (£707,000-884,000).
1 Production chain The production chain of prawn farming is described in figure 1. There are numerous agents, organisations and small industries revolving and depending on prawn farming.
1.1 Prawn farming To avoid the flooding of their houses during the monsoon, farmers have raised their homesteads by about 1 metre. In doing so, they have created a ditch, which when filled with water when the rainy season comes, becomes a pond. The size of the pond is proportionally correlated with the size of the homestead i.e. correlated with the economic status of the household. Most farmers attempted to stock carp in their ponds mainly for household consumption. The introduction of prawn farming by GNAEP has helped the farmers to increase their income with a resource readily available and otherwise underused, and develop their skills on pond management (Alam, 2001).
Within the prawn farmers themselves, there are sub-divisions: different farmers grow prawns in four possible ways according to the characteristics of their ponds. Methods of prawn farming are described in the following section.
- Polyculture in rice fields Rice fields, also called ghers, have been adapted for the grow-out of aquatic animals i.e. deeper trenches have been dug on the outside of the rice fields to add prawns (Macrobrachium rosenbergii), several species of carps, small indigenous species and vegetables. Prawns are stocked as PLs bought from the hatchery or juveniles bought the nurserers (see ‘nursery’ below).
- Community ponds The community ponds work exactly like the polyculture ponds, the only difference being that they are bigger and belong to one community of 20 to 30 households. Those communities have recently been resettled and are therefore very poor.
- Nursery On the 0.8ha of land they have been given when resettled in the new chars of Noakhali district, most households only retain a small area (800 ft2) around the homestead including a ditch due to land selling or mortgage repayment failure. Those households are mostly headed by women headed households. Their ditches are not suitable for prawn on-growing as they do not retain water long enough (June to January) but are suitable for nursery systems i.e. culture of PLs to juveniles (Alam et al., 2004).
Figure 1. GNAEP prawn production chain
Along the dykes protecting the southern end of Hatiya island (belonging to Noakhali district), live inshore fishermen whose main occupation is the capture of chewa (Trypauchen vagina). This fishery lasts only during the winter months. The income from selling dried chewa is very low as they are tied with a local trader, or dadun, who lends them money to repair their boats at the beginning of the fishing season in exchange for low purchase prices of their fish. These communities also contain a significant group of destitute women who make their living drying the fish (Demaine, 2003). Those fishermen do not have access to other types of fishing (offshore), which requires expensive equipment and other sources of livelihoods are rare.
Collection of wild PLs has been banned by the government and farmers understand the importance of environment protection therefore their PLs come from hatcheries. There are two recently built
hatcheries in Noakhali:
Lakshmipur: South-East Fresh Water Prawn Hatchery Ltd., South Mazupur: production 5 million PLs/year Sonapur: Upakul Fresh Water Prawn Hatchery Ltd., Sonapur: production of 10 million PLs/year The first set of broodstock was collected from the wild, then the second generation was kept to produce eggs and PLs, therefore they are disease free and no antibiotic is required. Saltwater (12ppt) necessary for this stage of the freshwater prawn is bought as brine (220ppt) once a year from Cox’s Bazar, 250km away, then stored in plastic drums and diluted when required. PLs are fed with artemia and a mix called custard (milk powder, eggs, prawn flesh and cod liver oil). The supply of fresh water comes from the rainwater stored in ponds next to the hatchery, settling and clarifying over time. Water is sterilised and thiosulfate is applied to remove the chlorine before the water goes through the system.
PLs are transported to farmers in plastic bags topped up with oxygen. The two hatcheries sell their PLs at half the price of the hatcheries in the neighbouring district without reducing their margin too much. They also provide credit in kind (pay after harvest without interest) to some of the poorest farmers.
A system using ID cards has been developed to ensure traceability from the hatchery back to the processing plant. Farmers are given an ID card when buying PLs from one of the two hatcheries in Noakhali. Each ID card has a serial number with details on the farmers and with the number of PLs bought. Three detachable coupons on the side of the ID card allow farmers to prove the origin of their prawns to the traders.
1.4 Farmer’s organizations
At a local level, Resource Learning Centres (RLC) provide farmers with services such as extension materials, organise exchange of information and can be used as relay stations between farmers and NGOs/government services for policy implementation. In RLCs the focus is not only on aquaculture but also on agriculture, health and sanitation. Most RLCs are developing a commercial side selling inputs, PLs, renting pumps and nets and gathering harvested prawns from farmers. When integrating those activities, RLCs become Community Managed Enterprises (a type of Community Based Organisation - GNAEP, 2004).
The RLC/CBOs are managed by an elected Executive Committee comprising a president, a vice president, a general secretary, an assistant general secretary and a cashier, all being local farmers.
The Executive Committee should include at least two female members (GNAEP, 2004).
The Union Parishad is the equivalent to the local authority in the area. They have an important influence on the uptake of prawn farming by the local people, and will be encouraging more farmers to take up the practice in the future.
Feed represents 40-50% of the costs of production of prawns (Alam et al., 2004). Commercial feeds are expensive and contain preservatives and/or pesticides. Therefore, to avoid any contamination of the prawns, farmers make their own feed, buying from a specific factory retail store recommended by 3 GNAEP, costing them Tk12/kg instead of the Tk25/kg they would pay for commercial feed (Mohsin, 2003).
The Noakhali Gold Fish Feed Ltd. factory buys dry chewa from Hatiya island, and mixes it with 5% rice bran. It is then crushed, bagged and sealed in packets of different quantities: 1, 5, 10 and 20kgs. Bags are kept off the floor to avoid moist conditions and potential degradation of the feed. The feed factory also sells the other ingredients used to make the prawn feed: rice bran, mustard oil cake, wheat flour and molasses. The fish meal is sold at Tk30/kg (bought for Tk15-20/kg).
Credit in kind is also available to the poorest farmers.
There are several levels of traders; (a) the small traders or hawkers are the purchasing agents located at the village level; they sell to the bazaar based aratders; (b) the aratders or depot holders have more than ten hawkers / fishermen located at the village level, who buy the prawns from the farmers for them. Depot holders supply their prawns to the processing plant through respective agents or a commission agent; (c) the agents are middlemen between depot holders and the commission agent of the processing plant; (d) the commission agents are the enlisted supplier of prawns to the processing plant. They supply prawns to the processing plant on a commission basis (Mohsin, 2003). Each supply chain is very different from one farmers to another, including a couple to all of the traders mentioned above.
Most of the traders are manipulating the grades to maximise their profit. Prawns are sold like shrimp, using grades; for example grade 10 is equivalent to 6-10 prawns per kilo. Traders fragment grades between the farmers and the processing plant: prawns bought from the farmers at the 10 grade price, will be sold by the local agent to the commission agent under grade 6/8 and 12, getting more money for bigger prawns (in addition to their margin), and will be bought by the processing plant under grade 6, 8, 10 or 12. Traders also use scales with low accuracy or overuse of the ‘facilities’: when buying grade 10 for example, local agents add 2 prawns ‘facility’ per grade without including them in the total price, depriving farmers of the income of 2 prawns each time (4 prawns facility for grade 20, 5 for grade 30, etc.) (Mohsin, pers.com.).
1.8 Processing plant
There is no processing plant at the moment in Noakhali, and prawns are sent to Chittagong. This explains the degree of complexity of the existing marketing channel: small farmers and small depots do not have access to the processing plants which are too far away. However, this will change with the construction of a processing plant in Noakhali, which should be completed by June 2005. The owners of the processing plant are planning to go and pick up the prawns directly from the farmers organisations, cutting out the middlemen.
The new processing plant will have a capacity of 200tons/year for the first two years, then 800 tones in five years time by increasing the working hours. It will be located in Noakhali Mouza, Sonapur, Noakhali (5km south of Noakhali district head quarters, 160km from Dhaka, 100km from Chittagong) in the centre of the production zone. The final product will be cooked and IQF shell-off/tail-on prawns.
The deheading will be manual; 109 staff and workers will be employed. The processing plant will request HACCP and EFSIS (European Food Safety Information System) Quality certification.
Water will be sourced from a deep well and water basin (both treated by reverse osmosis) and a special area will be set up as a lab to check (bacteriological) contamination.
2 Production systems
Farmers stock PLs from the hatchery in both ponds and ghers from late April to May, near the beginning of the wet season. PLs are often on-grown to juveniles in pocket nurseries (little fenced areas) before being released to the entire pond or gher when water is more available; otherwise farmers can buy juveniles from the nurserers and stock them instead of PLs. The stocking is at low density: 0.5-1 PL/m2 and 1.5-2 PLs/m2 respectively in the pond and gher polyculture systems. To add an additional income and to use all the water layers of the pond/gher, fish such as Catla (Catla catla), Rui (Labeo rohita) and Silver Carp (Hypopthalmicthys molitrix) are also stocked at a stocking density of 2500-3000 fingerlings per hectare. Small Indigenous fish Species (SIS) are recruited naturally during the flood of the rainy season, which enhances the stock of those sometimes endangered species (Alam, 2001).
4 Following a low external input production approach, farmers feed the prawns with homemade pellets with ingredients either available on their farm or bought at the fish meal processor. Pellets are made manually or mechanically, mixing 15% fish meal, 30% rice bran, 30% mustard oil cake, 5% molasses and 20% wheat flour, without the use of preservatives. If those ingredients are not available, farmers can simply feed the prawn with boiled wheat or rice. Feed is distributed at the rate of around 2-4% body weight of the prawn for 16 to 20 weeks, after which they reach their marketable size (≤60g), but most farmers do not apply feed on regular basis. In the case of fish-prawn culture, prawn can feed on carp pellets (usually only rice bran) (Alam et al., 2004).