For many people in Bangladesh small-scale fish farming is an important opportunity to generate income and is a significant nutritional source providing protein-rich food all year round. It comprises of a range of options that can be adapted to suit the needs and capacity of people living in rural Bangladesh. The two approaches commonly implemented on a small scale are: • Local pond fish farming
• Open water fish farming in lakes, rivers, dams and reservoirs The benefit to low-income farmers is that they are able to invest in fish cultivation when there is sufficient income, which will then be able to generate additional income and food when other sources of income are limited. Much of Bangladesh is flooded annually during the monsoon season as water flows into the country through the Ganga (Ganges), Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers. This provides an extensive range of habitats for wild and cultivated fish species. Fish catches are highest after the monsoon rains when supplies of other foods, such as rice, are low. With so much water, fishing plays a vital role in the economy of rural villages.
Fish farming options
One of the main trends in fish culture over recent years has been towards capital-intensive, high-input high-yield systems, which can dramatically improve the rate of production if operated in ideal conditions. The development of practical hatching techniques has vastly improved fish cultivation and allowed careful breeding and selection of desired species to take place. Although these techniques were introduced to Bangladesh some years ago, it has taken time for them to become established. Commercially produced fish have become a significant proportion of the total fish supply. But intensive cultivation methods increase the cost of fish production beyond the reach of poorer farmers. Consequently, alternative low-cost approaches have been promoted by NGOs working in the country.
Fish farming for the poor
An enormous variety of water bodies, including rivers, irrigation canals, flood plains, beels (large depressions), ox bow lakes and ponds are dispersed throughout Bangladesh offering considerable potential for fish cultivation, but a general lack of capital, access to resources and knowledge means that many farmers are unable to provide all the commercial inputs required for intensive production methods. An alternative low-cost approach is more appropriate for many people, relying on existing water bodies and natural vegetation and household waste, supplemented with animal protein in the form of snails and homemade supplements for fish feed. Many NGOs are adopting strategies to minimise the inherent riskiness of fish culture by undertaking research into low-input systems, low-cost technology, fast growing species and alternative management practices.
Site selection is an important factor in the success of a fish farm but the ideal site is usually not available to poorer families. Site location will be dependent on a number of factors: • The fish species being raised.
• Soil quality, which affects water quality and productivity. • An adequate supply of water.
• Land ownership.
• Marketplace and market conditions.
• Fish food and other inputs available to the farmer.
• Groups adjacent to water.
• More than 1 metre water retention capacity for at least 6 months of the year. • Pollution free.
Ideally, the fishpond should be 0.5 to 1.0 metres at the shallow end and sloping to 1.5 to 2 .0 metres at the drain end. Drain vales, baffle boards or tilt-over standpipes should be incorporated into the design. It should be possible to drain the pond within three days. The edges of the pond should have a slope of 2:1 or 3:1 on all sides. If possible the pond should be located to take advantage of the effect of the wind on the surface of the pond to mix the water;...