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Women integrate fish and farming

Due to the Islamic \"purdah\" system, rural women in Bangladesh are not able to undertake activities away from the farm, not even to work in their rice fields. Rural aquaculture may offer opportunities for them. In seasonal homestead ponds, short cycle species (tilapia and silver barb) can be farmed with very low on-farm inputs such as cattle dung, chicken manure and rice or wheat bran.

ILEIA Newsletter • 7 nº 4 • December 1991

Women integrate fish and farming

Due to the Islamic "purdah" system, rural women in Bangladesh are not able to undertake activities away from the farm, not even to work in their rice fields. Rural aquaculture may offer opportunities for them. In seasonal homestead ponds, short cycle species (tilapia and silver barb) can be farmed with very low on-farm inputs such as cattle dung, chicken manure and rice or wheat bran.

Modadugu Gupta and Mohammed Aktheruzzaman

Fish is the most important source of animal protein to the people of Bangladesh. Yet, fish availability is declining. The production from homestead ponds is very low: 600 kg/ha/year. Almost every rural household has a perennial backyard pond or ditch, which is used for domestic purposes like bathing and washing clothes. In addition to these ponds, hundreds of thousands of seasonal ponds, ditches and roadside borrow pits exist and retain water for 4-6 months. These water resources are mostly lying fallow, unutilised for fish production. Most are covered with nasty aquatic weeds and pose health hazards. Major varieties of fish (Indian and Chinese carp) cultured traditionally are not suitable for culture in shallow, seasonal waters. Moreover, their culture requires relatively high inputs of fertilisers and supplementary feeds. Short-cycle species such as tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) and silver barb (Puntius gonionotus) hold tremendous potential. These small-scale aquaculture operations can be integrated with other farming operations. Rural women in Bangladesh constitute a vast human resource for whom aquaculture could become a productive activity, resulting in increased household incomes in rural areas, without infringing on religious customs. In this context, low-input and low-labour-intensive technologies for utilisation of homestead ponds and ditches for aquaculture, can play an important role. ICLARM's Aquaculture Program pursues research for the benefit of smallholder farmers, and has been assisting agencies in Bangladesh involved in development of appropriate aquaculture technologies. Recent efforts resulted in viable activities implemented by rural women.

Culture of silver barb

Ms. Nur Banu is a housewife, with four children. She came to know that silver barb could be cultured in her small homestead pond of 160 m2 where they had previously tried to grow fish and failed. So, she started by applying 4 kgs of lime to the pond. Four days later, she stocked the pond with 250 10-gram size fingerlings. She fed the fish daily with small quantities (0.1-1.0 kgs) of rice bran (increasing with increasing size of fish). At weekly intervals, she applied chicken manure. After three months, the fish reached market size and she was able to harvest 22.0 kgs of fish. In all, she spent Tk. 293 (US $8.20) and obtained a revenue of Tk. 1,100 from fish sales, leaving a net benefit of Tk. 807. She has also become a source of inspiration to other women in the area.

Culture of Tilapia

Mrs. Safira Khaton is a housewife with a husband and seven children. With a landholding of just 360 m2 (homestead area), they are considered as a landless family. They have a backyard ditch of 120 m2, which holds water (0.6 - 1.0 m deep) for four to five months. It was lying fallow, covered with water hyacinth. When she came to know from a NGO extension worker that tilapia could be cultured in her ditch, she cleared water hyacinth from the ditch and applied 3 kg of lime in the pond. One week after application of the lime, she released 240 tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) fingerlings of 8-g size. Subsequently, she fed the fish daily with 100-850g of rice bran, quantity increasing with increasing size of fish. She started catching fish for home consumption from the third month onwards and finally harvested all fish after four months, when the ditch dried up. In all she harvested a total of 17.3 kg of fish (1,441.74 kg/ha/ 4 months). Against a total expenditure of Tk. 148 (US$ 4.16), she obtained a revenue of Tk. 692 (US$ 19.44), leaving a net benefit of Tk. 544 (US$ 15.28) or US$ 1,273.40/ha in 4 months. The amount harvested may look small, but the contribution the fish can make to the family diet and health (whose family animal protein intake is very low) is enormous. The above case studies indicate that many rural women could be involved in aquaculture in seasonal homestead ponds and ditches, without much external or off-farm inputs. The only off-farm input used in the above mentioned cases was lime. Further, involvement of women in aquaculture will help men to concentrate on other on-farm activities or off-farm employment.

Modadugu V. Gupta and Md. Aktheruzzaman
International Center for Living Aquatic
Resources Management (ICLARM)
MC P.O. Box 1501, Makati
Metro Manila 1299
Philippines

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