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«Freshwater prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii) farming in Greater Noakhali Districts Catherine Lecouffe January 2005 The Greater Noakhali Aquaculture ...»

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In gher systems, manure is used as organic fertiliser once a year before the rainy season (3750-5000 kg per hectare), but no pesticides are used. In ponds, farmers may use inorganic fertilizers such as urea or TSP for the rice and also cow dung to enhance the natural feed for the carp. High dykes around the pond/gher prevent any contamination in or out; there is no exchange or water, renewal occurs only during the rainy season (Alam et al., 2004).

Many farmers grow vegetables on the dykes of their pond/gher during both winter and summer seasons: wider dykes offer more vegetable choice but trellises can also be built above the pond/gher in order to enhance crop variety and yields. Farmers mostly grow gourds, okras, long beans and pumpkins. Farmers again do not use pesticides, fearing for the survival of their prawns. This integrated prawn farming spread the risks as the investment in prawn farming is high (cost of PLs) (Alam et al., 2004).

The harvest takes place after 6 to 8 months starting from October ending in December with a big harvest; yields range from 200 to 300 kg of prawn and 500 to 750 kg/ha of carp from rice fields and 175 to 200 kg/ha of prawns from ponds. People with perennial ponds can leave the prawns overwintering and harvest in March-April (Alam et al., 2004).

3 Livelihood assessment

The Greater Noakhali district and especially the southern part of the area consist of newly accreted land from the sea. These are low lying lands, subject to flooding and cyclones, and the high salinity content of the soils remains an issue. However, the fertility of the soil is still high. Inhabitants of the area are mostly migrants: there is no social cohesion; they are all very poor with low education levels.

They are powerless, vulnerable, isolated, physically weak; this vulnerability prevents them from making any investments (De Wilde, 2000).

New chars belong to the government and have been attributed to landless households by law (2 acres per household) with official title deeds. However, powerful people grab more land to the detriment of others, who end up only with homestead plot. Many settlers are agricultural labour, sharecroppers, bagadar: they culture the land of richer people often living far away, and get half of the harvest as salary (De Wilde, 2000).

Households with an annual income lower than BDT 30,000 per year (£265) and less than 200 decimals (2 acres or 0.8ha) of land including the homestead are defined as poor (Demaine, 2003). In the Southern half of the Greater Noakhali district, virtually all households are below this line. Indeed, 16% of the households are women headed households.

Research has shown that the average farm size of poor households is not viable for sustaining a family; the amount of land is in fact too small and unproductive. Therefore, households turn to off-farm activities and natural resources such as crab and oyster collection (Chowdhury et al., 2003).

Prawn farming, introduced in the area by GNAEP brought many benefits to the local households (Alam et al., 2004):

(a) Increased participation of women in productive economic activities (b) Increased household income (c) Less vulnerability to social risks (d) Increased food security of household Most prawn management is realised by the women. As their other activities revolve around the household, it is easy for them to keep an eye on the pond/gher. Harder jobs such as harvesting are done by the men.

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The benefits of prawn farming are firstly economic: it brings a quick (short on-grow period) and a high

income as table 1 shows. Pond and gher farming have a similar cost benefit ratio with 1:5.4 and 1:5

respectively; PLs nursery have a much lower ratio due to the short time of the culture and therefore little added value to the product. Table 2 shows the intake of prawn farming by farmers and how the technical assistance provided by GNAEP in other activities increased the income of households in different upazilas (sub-districts). The increased profitability of rice fields transformed into gher farming is evident, income from that source has increased three to six times.

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The increased household income has been used to invest money in business (16.28%), construct new housing (14.74%), buy land (14.11%), release mortgage land or repay loans (12.72%), lease in land/ponds (11.91%), buy poultry/livestock (11.56%), repair old housing (11.21%), construct new ponds/ghers (9.85%), buy furniture (7.88%), for family consumption (7.17%), family occupation (6.86%), money spent for children’s schooling (6.38%) and the improvement of safe water supplies and sanitation facilities (6.30%) (Demaine, 2004). This range of expenditures shows how prawn farming has strengthened households, enabling them to buy land and/or poultry/livestock.

Farmers have been trained by GNAEP to grow their prawns under an extensive and environmentally friendly system: utilising pre-existing ponds, with low inputs, no water exchange, PLs/juveniles sourced from a hatchery as opposed to wild-caught, fish meal from sustainable fisheries and no chemical use. Traceability of the PLs from the hatchery back to the processing plant is ensured with the ID cards and will be strengthened by the new processing plant, which will be processing prawns exclusively from the GNAEP farmers.

Relationships between farmers, organisations and the private sector are based on trust (for example credit in kind), making this supply chain socially responsible.

The economic benefits of prawn farming enable many farmers to escape poverty and to live their life with dignity; the involvement of women and especially women headed households has been a major step towards poverty alleviation of the poorest in the Greater Noakhali district.

At the moment the prawn marketing channel is not in favour of small farmers, who are manipulated by the several layers of traders; the building of the new processing in Noakhali should overcome this problem. To ensure the sustainability of the prawn farming by the GNAEP farmers, there is a need for fair trade between the Noakhali processing plant and the buyers in developed countries.

Even more, prawn could be THE ethical alternative to shrimp, especially in Noakhali where the system is still being set up. This is the opportunity to set it up right and make it the norm for future aquaculture systems of this type.

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Alam, R. (2001). Feasibility study on fresh water prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii): Prospect of fresh water prawn culture at GNAEP and PBAEP areas, GNAEP working paper, August 2001, 68p.

Alam, R. and Demaine, H. (2004a). Livelihood Development through Aquaculture for Women-headed Households in the Noakhali Char Area: A Pilot Initiative of GNAEP, GNAEP working paper, 2004, 11p.

Alam, R. and Demaine, H. (2004b). Integrated Prawn Farming Systems of Southeast Bangladesh, GNAEP working paper, 8p.

Chowdhury, A.; Uddin, K.; Halder, S.; Colavito, L.; Collis, W. (2003). Environmental Impact Assessment of GNAEC Freshwater Prawn (Macrobrachium) Farming Promotion, GNAEP working paper, Winrock International, April 2003, 47p.

De Wilde, K. (2000). Chapter 1. The development potential of char areas and the required interventions. In: Out of the periphery: Development of Coastal Chars in Southeastern Bangladesh, The University Press Limited, Dhaka, pp 5-46.

Demaine, H. (2004). Impact Evaluation of Integrated Prawn Farming (Pilot) (2002-2003), GNEAP working paper, April 2004.

Demaine, H. (2003). GNAEC’s Growing Concentration on Pro-Poor Aquaculture: A Review Paper, GNAEP working paper, 2003, 6p.

Mohsin, D.M. (2003). Galda Marketing System In Greater Noakhali, GNAEP working paper, January 2003, 18p.

GNAEP (2004). Guidelines for Establishing an Effective Resource Learning Center, GNAEP working paper, 10p.


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