Impacts of community-based fish culture in seasonal floodplains on income, food security and employment in Bangladesh
Impacts of community-based fish culture in seasonal floodplains on income, food security and employment in Bangladesh
A. B. M. Mahfuzul Haque 0 1 2
Madan Mohan Dey 0 1 2
0 Department of Agriculture, Texas State University , San Marcos, TX 78644 , USA
1 Wageningen University , The Netherlands & WorldFish-Bangladesh and South Asia , House 22B, Block-F, Road 7, Banani, Dhaka 1213 , Bangladesh
2 A. B. M. Mahfuzul Haque
This paper examines the impact of community based fish culture in seasonal floodplains on fish production, consumption, income, and food security of the participating households in Bangladesh. An analysis was performed using a randomly selected 46 % of the households from the three project and control floodplains; data were collected using longitudinal surveys on a seasonally, quarterly and monthly basis for the years 2007, 2008 and 2009. Fish production, income and food security of the participating households was improved due to the adoption of an equitable and inclusive multi-stakeholder approach introduced by the project. Average fish production increased from 124 kg/ha/yr. to 464 kg/ha/yr. The introduced community-based fish culture approach generated 3.74 times more fish income for households in the project sites in comparison to the control sites. Per capita monthly fish consumption increased from 1.26 kg to 2.31 kg in the project sites, which was 32 % higher than the control sites. Project implementation reduced the vulnerability of local beneficiaries, particularly of the landless and poor fishermen, by creating additional fishing opportunity for up to 6 months of the year. Promotion of the community based fish culture in seasonal floodplains may thus be useful in bringing about positive changes in the overall Madan Mohan Dey floodplain productivity and livelihood gains for the poor people of Bangladesh.
Seasonal floodplain; Fish culture; Multi stakeholder approach; Food security and livelihood
Water is a highly demanded natural resource and a key
agricultural input (Grafton et al. 2015; Huang et al. 2015). How
water is used is critical for sustainable agricultural
intensification and increase of food availability (Grafton et al. 2015).
However, strategies for increasing agricultural productivity
have been mainly concentrated on crop cultivation (see, for
example, Wichelns 2015). Culture of fish in seasonal
floodplains can be an important tool for sustainably improving
agricultural and floodplain productivity and for strengthening
rural economies (Rahman et al. 1999; Dey et al. 2005a; Dey
and Prein 2006; Nagabhatla et al. 2012).
The Indo-Gangetic Basin of Bangladesh has a large
number of seasonal floodplains that offer great opportunities for
the promotion of fish culture to benefit the poor. Bangladesh
has rich freshwater resources, and therefore has a huge
potential for fisheries development.1 There are 4.69 million ha of
inland waters, 58 % of which are floodplains (FRSS 2015).
1 Fisheries are a key subsector and significant contributor to the national
economy of Bangladesh; they contribute 4.37 % to the national GDP and
almost one-fourth (23.37 %) to the agricultural GDP of Bangladesh
(Bangladesh Economic Review 2013). The country’s export earnings
from the fisheries sector was 2.01 % in 2012–2013, and the total national
fish production was 3.41 million tons (DoF 2013). Of the total fish
production, inland open waters, inland closed waters, and marine fisheries
contributed respectively 28.19 %, 54.54 %, and 17.27 % (DoF 2013).
Bangladesh is now the fourth largest aquaculture fish producer in the
world (FAO 2014).
During monsoons, almost half of the country is inundated, and
these areas are reported as floodplains. In most cases, these
floodplains are used for the production of fish and other
aquatic animals and plants, which have a large impact on the
livelihoods of many people, including poor fishermen. About 6.7
million people receive direct benefits to their food security and
livelihoods from the floodplains in Bangladesh, of which 2.7
million are classified as poor or extremely poor (WorldFish
Center 2005; Dey et al. 2005b; Dey and Prein 2005; Dey and
Prein 2006; DoF 2013).
Historically, floodplains were the major source of natural
fish production, but currently, fish catches are declining.
Yields of typical capture fisheries activity usually range from
150 to 350 kg/ha (WorldFish 2007). However, open access to
these resources and their indiscriminate use have led to
overexploitation and reduced productivity, making the system very
unreliable in its ability to generate benefits for the people.
There is potential for using these floodplains for fish culture
by building enclosures in parts of the floodwater, and stocking
fingerlings in addition to the non-stocked fish (see, for
example, Dey et al. 2005a). If properly managed, these water
resources could play a pivotal role in boosting fish production,
generating income, and creating employment opportunities.
Recent evidence from Daudkandi in the Comilla district of
Bangladesh, where floodplains under private ownerships were
transformed to fish culture using semi-intensive management,
show that fish culture in floodplains can results in very high
fish production levels (up to 3000 kg.ha−1) and income, but
there is a need for concerted efforts to include the poor as
direct beneficiaries (Toufique and Gregory 2008).
In recent years, the WorldFish Center (WorldFish)
established a new approach, known as community based fish
culture (CBFC), where fish are cultured communally during
the flood season but the same land is cultivated individually to
rice during the dry season (Dey and Prein 2005; Dey et al.
2005a). This approach2 integrates biological research on rice
and fish with institutional research on common property
resource governance. Field trials of this concept in Bangladesh
and Vietnam during 1998 to 2000 demonstrated the feasibility
of community based fish culture in seasonal floodplains (Dey
et al. 2005a). During 2005 to 2010, WorldFish and its research
partners implemented a follow-up project entitled
BCommunity-based Fish Culture in Seasonal Floodplains
and Irrigation Systems^, to test the CBFC concept in
Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Vietnam and Mali under
different socio-cultural and institutional environments.
The adoption of fish culture technology in pond or
floodplain systems can contribute to improved food security and
nutrition for poor households in several ways; i) generating
income from fish culture, ii) creating alternative employment
2 Readers are referred to Dey and Prein (2005) and Dey et al. (2005a,
2005b) for detailed discussion of the CBFC approach.
generating activities and increasing labour productivity, and
iii) increasing available food supply and fish consumption
(Edwards 1999; Ahmed and Lorica 2002; Jahan et al. 2010).
This paper examines the multi-dimensional impact of CBFC
in seasonal floodplains at both household level and
community level, based on data collected under the
BCommunitybased Fish Culture in Seasonal Floodplains and Irrigation
System^ project in Bangladesh.
This study used household and community level data,
collected using qualitative as well as quantitative methods in
examining the impact of community based fish culture
(CBFC) in seasonal floodplains on food security, income,
and employment of the participants; starting with a conceptual
framework on how positive impacts take effect. The
conceptual framework is presented in Fig. 1, showing management
strategies of community based fish culture in seasonal
floodplains and identifying direct and indirect effects at household
and community levels. In this project we considered the
floodplain as a community of interest, because the people of the
surrounding villages have a shared interest in enhancing fish
production from the seasonally flooded areas by using a
collective approach to fish culture.
The study looked at the overall hypothesis that CBFC leads
to improved floodplain productivity. First, CBFC
management directly improves the natural resource capital (soil and
water), increases fish production, makes possible multiple
uses of the floodplain waters, increases household income
and increases fish consumption. Secondly, CBFC
management creates employment, ensures property rights, market
access, strengthens local level institutions, and improves human
and social capital i.e. trust and cooperation.
The paper comprises five sections; following this
introduction, section two provides an overview of the
BCommunity-based Fish Culture in Seasonal Floodplains
a n d I r r i g a t i o n S y s t e m s ^ p r o j e c t i n B a n g l a d e s h .
Section three outlines the methods, data collection, and
analytical techniques used. Section four explains the
economic impact of CBFC at floodplain level as well as the
household level with respect to income, employment, and
fish consumption. Conclusions and policy implications
are discussed in the final section.
BCommunity-based fish culture in seasonal
floodplains and irrigation systems^ project
Project implementing agencies
The Project was jointly implemented by the Bangladesh and
S o u th A s i a Of f i c e o f Wo r l d F i s h , t h e Ba n g l a d e s h
Agricultural Research Council (BARC) and the Department
of Fisheries (DoF) from 2005 to 2010. Their major activities
Fig. 1 Conceptual model for
impact assessment. Adapted from
Dey et al. (2007) and Ahmed and
Community Based Fish
were as follows: WorldFish had overall responsibility for the
implementation of the project; it provided all necessary
technical assistance, support services to researchers and
carried out all project management activities. BARC
provided national project leadership and played a crucial role
in forging close relationships with DoF and WorldFish,
and conducted the coordination, monitoring and
evaluation of project activities. DoF played a role in the
selection of the project sites, in the establishment of
community based organizations and the implementation of the
overall project activities.
Description of study locations
Six floodplains in three different river basins of Bangladesh
were selected for this study. These floodplains are located in
the Brahamaputra, Padma and Teesta river basins in
Mymensingh, Rajshahi and Rangpur districts, respectively.
One project site and a comparable control site with similar
agro-ecological and socio-economic characteristics were
selected from each floodplain. The selected floodplains were
under two types of land ownership category: public-private
Table 1 Characteristics of the
Name of floodplains
and private. Public floodplains are open access areas
during the monsoon season when all land is inundated. Access
to private floodplains, on the other hand, then remains in
control of the landowners. Characteristics of the selected
floodplains are shown in Table 1. In private land, the
dominant farming system before the intervention was the
single-crop, irrigated ‘boro’ rice during the dry season
(January to May). At all six sites (project and control),
prior to the project intervention, capture fisheries were
the main livelihood activity during the rainy season (June
to November). Topographically, these areas are almost
enclosed by natural elevated lands, raised homesteads,
dams for roads, train tracks, canals etc. It is possible to
close off the open sides with a fence, and stock the
enclosed waterbody with fish during the rainy season.
The technological intervention followed in the project had two
main components: a) construction of enclosures for fish
culture in the flood season, and b) stocking of fingerling and fish
culture during the flood season. Enclosures were constructed
Beel is a local term for low-lying agricultural land with static water mostly created due to inundation by
floodwater or rains
to manage the inflow and outflow of water, regulate water
retention, and prevent escape of stocked fingerlings.
Bamboo fences (locally known as bana) were installed at
the inlets and outlets, permitting the entry of larvae and
hatchlings of small indigenous species and preventing stocked fish
from escaping (Rahman et al. 2010a). In some cases, the
peripheral dikes of the water bodies were raised for holding
water as well as preventing the escape of stocked fish. In
Kalmina beel, several concrete circular culverts were installed
at inflow and outflow points to maintain water levels.
In the project sites, alternating fish-rice culture (fish culture
during the rainy season and boro rice culture during the dry
season) was followed. Fingerlings were stocked, and both
naturally recruited (non-stocked) and stocked fish were
cultured during the rainy season through a group approach.
Farmers continued to cultivate rice individually in their
respective lands during the dry season. The species
combinations, ratios and stocking densities of fish fingerlings were
determined based on factors such as local availability of
fingerlings, the growth rates of the fish species and the
experience of project participants. Indian major carps (Rohu, Catla
and Mrigal) and exotic carps (Silver Carp, Common Carp)
were selected and stocked in the seasonal floodplains at
varying ratios and stocking densities. Fingerlings were procured
either from the nursery farms of the beneficiaries or from
nearby commercial nursery farms. Harvesting of fish was
started 4 months after stocking and continued up to 6 months.
In some cases, fish were harvested over 2–3 months as
decided by the beneficiaries. Harvests of stocked and non-stocked
fish from the floodplains were recorded and used for sale and
for household consumption.
A community-based approach was followed in all the
project sites for fish culture during the rainy season. This
approach is necessary as individual plots are not
discernible when flooded whereas they are clearly discernible
and respected in the dry season. In each of three project
sites, Floodplain Management Committees (FMC) were
formed in a participatory way representing all
stakeholders who had access and control over the resources,
such as wealthy landowners, landowning fishers, and
landless, poor fishers. The FMCs consisted of 15–20
members, including a president, vice-president, secretary,
and cashier. They were tasked to solve conflicts and
ensure that benefits were distributed among the
beneficiaries. Local project implementation committees (PICs)
were formed with representatives from DoF, WorldFish,
other related government departments, and the president
and the secretary of the FMCs. PIC’s responsibilities were
overall supervision and monitoring of project sites,
encouragement of co-management and establishment of
working rules for better managing floodplains under
community-based fish culture, together with the
empowerment of the poorer fishers.
Data and methods
Many studies have failed to establish a counterfactual
when conducting before-and-after analysis to assess the
impact of a new technology on income, food security,
etc. (Adato and Meinzen-Dick 2007). In order to avoid
the counterfactual situation, we have considered
introducing community based fish culture technology with a
baseline and panel data and also compared before-and-after
scenarios in the selected sites and households, both with
and without adoption of the technology.
This paper used data collected3 from six floodplains in
Bangladesh, of which three were CBFC project areas and
three were control sites. It is important to mention that these
control floodplains were chosen in such a way so that the
socioeconomic and environmental conditions were similar to
the CBFC project floodplains. DoF officials and researchers
who were involved in this project visited the proposed sites
several times in order to identify the target populations.
Several meetings were organized with the local people and
households which mainly depended on floodplains for their
income were selected as project members and included in the
community management project. Control households were
selected in the same way.
The project officially started in 2005 and floodplains
were selected in 2006. Project staff conducted a baseline
survey in 2006 in project and control areas, which
covered the floodplains used for fishing, rice production,
and some additional household socio-economic data. A
range of qualitative and quantitative techniques coupled
with community profiles, participatory resource
mapping, field observations, semi-structured interviews with
key informants, and Focus Group Discussions were
applied for collecting baseline information.
Building on the baseline survey, a stratified random
sampling procedure was followed to select the households
for the monitoring of various parameters. The strata
identified were professional or full-time fishers, landless
seasonal fishers, and landowners. Sixty samples from each
floodplain were selected annually for this study: 180
samples from project floodplains and 180 samples from
control floodplains. Out of the total population of 778
3 The first author was directly involved in collecting these data. The
second author initiated and led the implementation of this multi-country
project during its initial phase.
households in six project and control areas, about 46 % of
the households were selected. Data were collected using
longitudinal surveys on a quarterly, seasonal (six
monthly) and monthly basis. Information on earnings and
expenditure were collected on a quarterly basis, data on crop
production and input use were collected at six monthly
intervals, and fish consumption data were collected on a
monthly basis. Three years (2007, 2008 and 2009) worth
of panel data were used for this analysis.
This paper aimed to describe a before-and-after
analysis on the intervention and without an intervention design,
but it was not possible for all indicators. Before-and-after
and project-control comparisons were simultaneously
followed depending on the availability of data. Before
and after analysis was used when the data were available
and compatible, while a with-and-without intervention
analysis was made to monitor the changes and to analyze
the impact of CBFC. All surveys were designed and
managed using a relational access database.
Data collected were tabulated and analyzed in accordance
with the objectives of the study. Descriptive statistics and a
cost and return analysis of the selected floodplains were made.
At the level of the beneficiaries, descriptive analysis was also
conducted for the consumption data. However, for the income
data of the beneficiaries, a random effect model of panel data
was run. Having established that the random effects model is a
better fit, a quantitative random effects model was developed
to estimate the impact of participating in the program on fish
production and household income. Before the model
estimation, a propensity score matching (PSM) method was
employed to make comparisons between program participants
and the control group.
Model for estimation
We employed a random effects model of panel data to
estimate the impact of participation in the CBFC program
on fish income as well as household income. However, we
first tested whether the fixed or random effects model was
more appropriate for this dataset using the Hausman test4
indicating that the random effects model provided a better fit.
This is possibly because some of the variables, such as
education level of the head of the household, farm size, ditch area,
etc., were time invariant; which indicates that the
householdlevel independent variables (Xit) are uncorrelated with the
individual effects (αi). Therefore, in this case, the random
effects model is better. It is important to mention, that the
propensity score matching (PSM) method was employed
initially to make comparisons between program participants and
the control group. Afterwards the random effects model was
estimated with common support. This ensures the exclusion of
control observations that are not Bnearby^ to the propensity
score distribution of the project observations.
The specification is as follows:
The empirical model is then:
Where, y = income per household (USD), and
various explanatory variables include participation in CBFC
(‘1’ participating, ‘0’ otherwise), age (years), education
(years of schooling), religion (‘1’ hindu, ‘0’ otherwise),
family size (number), rice land (hectare/household),
household pond (hectare), boat (number), and ditch area
αi + εit is treated as an error term consisting of two
components: an individual-specific component, which does not vary
over time, and a remainder component, which is assumed to
be uncorrelated over time.
Result and discussion
Direct impact of community-based fish culture
Impact on fish production at floodplain level
The three control sites of Chandur Beel (public-private
floodplain), Andola Beel (private floodplain), and Paingler Beel
4 In the Hausman test, H0 (the difference in coefficients) was not system
atic: χ2 (7) = 2.44 and prob. > χ2 = 0.9314.
Fig. 2 Fish production in the
three sites within the project area
before (i.e. the year 2006) and
after implementation of the CBFC
(private floodplain) were outside the project area and thus did
not have a fish culture, as opposed to the three sites included in
the project. So, a before-and-after analysis was only employed
for the analysis of the impact of CBFC on fish production at
Among the three floodplains, the greatest increase in fish
production occurred in the public floodplain of Beel Mail
(from 282 Kg/ha in 2006 to 729Kg/ha in 2009) when
compared to the private floodplains of Kalmina and Angrar
(Fig. 2). Here the comparable increases were from 46 kg/ha
to 548 kg/ha in Kalmina, and from 43 kg/ha to 206 kg/ha in
Angrar floodplains. From 2006 to 2009, the average fish
production in the three sites included in the project area increased
from 124 kg/ha to 464 kg/ha, including stocked and
nonstocked fish. The overall fish production in the project
floodplains was 274 % higher than the baseline fish production.
The presence of a connecting channel between the Beel
Mail floodplains and the nearby river, where natural
sanctuaries are established, also facilitated the entrance of non-stocked
fish into the floodplains during the flooding period. The
production of fish in Beel Mail after implementation of the project
was significantly higher than the year before (2006), even
though fish culture was initiated in the Beel under the
community’s own initiative in 2005.
In the floodplain at Kalmina Beel, total fish production
reached 548 kg/ha in 2009, compared with the baseline fish
yield of 46 kg/ha in 2006. Similarly, fish yield per hectare
increased to 206 kg in Angrar floodplain, compared with the
baseline yield of 43 kg/ha. Stocking of fingerlings was not
possible in Angrar floodplain during 2008 due to conflict
among group members, but the problem was solved
subsequently and community based fish culture was resumed in the
following year. Before project implementation, the Kalmina
and Angrar floodplains were completely open although they
were private land, and no fisheries enhancement program had
been launched. The surrounding community pond owners,
Stocked fish (Kg/ha/yr)
Non-stocked fish (kg/ha/yr)
fishermen and landless people, used to harvest fish in ditches
or ponds The physical nature of the floodplain, larger size of
fingerlings, facilities for allowing wild fish to enter the system
from outside, techniques for multiple harvests, regulation of
harvests and environmental factors contributed to the
increased productivity of both stocked and non-stocked fish.
These data indicate that the implementation of the technical
approach was helpful in increasing fish production in the
floodplains under community based fish culture.
Table 2 shows the cost and return analysis of the CBFC
project areas. Since no cost and return data were collected by
the project staff in the baseline survey, data on cost and return
of CBFC are now only available for the three project sites
included in our research for the period of 2007 to 2009. The
ratio of net income to variable cost (BCR) was greater than 1
in Beel Mail and Kalmina floodplains for all the three study
years; the ratios averaged 1.64 for Beel Mail and 1.17 for
Kalmina. However, it was less than 1 during the study period
in Angrar Beel, with an average ratio of 0.50. Overall, for the
three floodplains, the ratio stood at 1.15 for the three years
combined. The net income figures were also high for Beel
Mail and Kalmina, ranging from 105 USD to 267 USD per
hectare per year; averaging 183 USD for Beel Mail and 214
USD for Kalmina for the 2007–2009 period. On the other
hand, the net income for Angrar for the 2007–2009 periods
was only 45 USD per hectare per year.
Distribution of benefit from community-based fish culture
The share of net profit for fish production from the
floodplains, agreed at the start of project activities, varied by the
types of beneficiaries and across floodplains. Benefit sharing
was decided and agreed upon by the beneficiaries and finally
by the FMC. At the public floodplain (Beel Mail), the
fishermen received a large share of the benefit, as they paid the least
money for the floodplain. The fishermen in this floodplain
Cost and Return Analysis of CBFC (USD/ha/year)
Input Costs 75
Fixed costs 19
Total Costs 94
Total Income 199
Net Income 105
Net Income/ Variable Cost 1.40
Net Income/ Total Cost 1.12
also received considerable benefits by taking control of fish
harvested from the floodplain. They received 50 % of the
value of the harvest of non-stocked fish and 10–15 % of the
stocked fish. Furthermore, access of landless and seasonal
fishermen from communities surrounding the floodplain using
local gear was allowed throughout the season. In all project
floodplains, the landless non-fishermen were allowed to
harvest fish for their subsistence throughout the season. In the
private floodplains (Kalmina and Angar) land owners and
ditch owners received the major share of the benefits
compared to other stakeholders; but fishermen did get 50 %
percent share of non-stocked fish and 10–15 % of the stocked
fish. The present study indicates that the involvement of all
stakeholders ensured that property rights of secure access to
fishing in the floodplain was retained, which contributed to
increasing household incomes for up to 6 months of the year.
Supplementary impact on crop production at floodplain level
As indicated earlier, the boro rice crop was cultivated in
project and control floodplains during the dry season (usually
January to May). Aman rice (wet season rice) varieties that
can survive a longer duration of inundation were cultivated in
some areas on the periphery of the floodplains during the rainy
season (June to December). Boro rice cultivation needs a total
of 13–15 irrigation cycles and aman rice cultivation, which
mainly depends on rain water, needs 1–2 irrigation cycles for
good harvests. The ditches constructed in the project sites
were used as supplementary sources of surface water,5 and
at least 4–5 irrigation cycles were saved for rice production.
Prior to project implementation, farmers used 26 % and
74 % of floodplain water and ground water, respectively, for
irrigation purposes during the boro season. After project
implementation, 43 % of farmers used floodplain water to meet
their irrigation needs, whereas 57 % of farmers used ground
5 Water levels in the project floodplains were maintained during the wet
season through the management of the outlets by using small concrete
water before. The use of floodplain water reduced water usage
from ground water sources by 17 %. This result shows that
CBFC provides an opportunity to use rainwater and minimize
the use of expensive ground water, which reduces overall cost
of rice cultivation. Use of floodplain water by beneficiaries
increased from between 13 % and 18 % pre-project
implementation to 31 % post-implementation.
Use of floodplain water for supplementary irrigation in
wet-season (aman) rice fields helped in increasing rice
production. Rice production in dry season (boro) and wet-season
(aman) seasons was significantly increased (Table 2). Due to
implementation of the community based fish culture, rice
production increased by 18.9 % for boro and 28.90 % for aman
rice (Table 3).
Effect on income at household level
Given that detailed data on income was not collected in the
baseline survey, a comparison of the income of households in
project sites and control sites is presented in this section. The
average fish income, non-fish income and total income of the
fishermen, landless non-fishermen, and landowner’s
households in the project sites significantly increased as compared
to households in the control sites (Table 4 and Table 5). We
analyzed the income of CBFC project households and control
households according to income source, based on the mean
values of three years’ income.6 Table 4 shows that
households’ fish income was higher for the households in the
CBFC project than the controls as was overall household
income during the project period (2007 to 2009).
In 2007, fish income for project beneficiaries increased to
USD 211/hh, which was about four times greater than the
control group (USD 56/hh). The increased fish income for
project households was almost the same in 2008 (USD 231/
hh) and 2009 (USD 277/hh); which was 175 % and 274 %
higher than control households, respectively. Over the three
6 We deflated the incomes for 2008 and 2009 using the 2007 consumer
project years, the average fish income increased to USD 240/
hh for those included in the project compared with USD 71/hh
for the control group. Fish income as percentages of total
income for the project and control farmers were 22 % and
8 %, respectively.
Table 6 displays the impact of various factors on income
determined by the random effects model (Eq. 2). The model
was estimated for three income types: fish income, non-fish
income and total household income. The coefficients of the
Bparticipation in CBFC^ variable reveal the effect of the
CBFC system on various types of income, ceteris paribus.
Project households significantly increased their fish income
compared to the control (non-CBFC project) households.
Fish income of the project households remained significantly
higher than that of the control households for every year in the
data sample. In addition, during 2009, the magnitude of
increase in fish income exceeded that of the previous two years.
This suggests that fish income increased significantly due to
the introduction of the CBFC management system. There was
no significant impact on non-fish income after project
implementation. Furthermore, total household income increased to
about USD 175 for those who participated in the program.
Therefore, it can be concluded that the CBFC management
system increased the overall household income in the
Table 7 shows that fish culture activities generated
employment in the floodplain areas. Before project implementation,
floodplains were not properly utilized for fish culture. One site
(Beel Mail) had some fish culture before the project started,
but fish yield was low. Furthermore, data on labour use were
not collected for the baseline year (2006). Our research is the
first to measure employment opportunity in the project
As a direct result of project implementation, employment
opportunities in the different fish culture activities were
created. Fish culture in seasonal floodplains is an extensive method
of fish production, characterized by low cost and high labour
intensity. Community members willingly participated in the
different fish culture activities. In every site, the landless
nonfishermen and fishermen from surrounding floodplains were
involved in fish culture activities as sources of labour. The
setting of bana fencing, installed in different places
throughout the floodplain, was performed by landless non-fishermen
and fishermen. Two or three landless non-fishermen were
engaged as guards for a period of 3 to 4 months. The Floodplain
Management Committee (FMC) allowed the landless
fishermen to catch fish in the floodplain. A large number of
labourers was engaged in fishing at every site. Over the
project period, partial harvest of fish was from mid-October and
lasted to January, which allowed for longer periods of
Comparison of annual fish income from waterbody to the total income in project and control sites
*Non-fish income includes other farm income like crop, livestock and poultry
**Non-farm income includes labour service, business
A water body includes the project floodplain and other sources, such as rivers
This research. Surveys conducted in 2007, 2008 and 2009
employment. From 2007 to 2009, 2495 labourers were
engaged in fish culture activities; indicating that there is a large
requirement for labour involvement. The average numbers of
labourers per hectare engaged in culture activities were 19, 19,
and 34 in 2007, 2008, and 2009, respectively.
The adoption of fish culture practices has the potential
to increase the total labour requirement to some extent
(Ahmed et al. 1996; Dey 2000; Ahmed and Lorica 2002).
Another direct way in which poor floodplain communities
stand to benefit from adoption of fish culture is by
improving returns to labour in terms of physical and monetary
units. This study shows that the performance of the
CBFC project in terms of labour productivity and returns
to labour improved significantly after project
implementation; and it was significantly higher in post-implementation
periods. Labour productivity was highest in 2008 (20 kg
man-days−1), and lowest in 2009 (14 Kg man-days−1). The
return to labour was highest in 2009 (USD 6 labourer ha−1)
and lowest in 2008 (USD 2 labourer ha−1). Another
important impact of fish culture in floodplains on employment
was a series of backward linkage effects such as hatcheries,
nurseries, seed production, feed, and input deliveries; there
were also forward linkage effects, such as post-harvest
handling, processing, and marketing of fish (Jahan et al.
2010; Lewis et al. 1996).
Effect on consumption at household level
According to FAO, food security is the physical and economic
access to the basic food needed by all human beings; and it
implies availability, stability, and access to this food ( 1996).
Fish play a vital role in providing food security and good
Project n = 180
Control n = 180
% of income
% of income
Table 6 Impact on income using
random effects model (with
Impact on fish income
Impact on total
*, **, and *** indicate significance at the 10 %, 5 %, and 1 % level, respectively. Figures in parentheses are robust
nutrition to billons of people in both developed and
developing countries (Béné et al. 2015; Toufique and Belton 2014).
Several studies have investigated food security in Bangladesh
in terms of per capita food availability, pattern of household
food consumption and causes of food insecurity (Begum
2002; RDRS 2005; Mishra and Hossain 2005). Our study
provides descriptive statistics of food security with food
security and nutritional intake having improved significantly
among the project beneficiaries.
A before-and-after analysis with intervention and without
intervention design was followed for analyzing the impact of
CBFC on food security and fish consumption. The results
show that the per capita fish consumption of project
households increased from 1.26 kg capita−1 month−1 in the baseline
year (2006) to 2.31 kg capita−1 month−1 in 2009 (Table 8).
Over the course of the project the per capita fish consumption
increased significantly compared to the baseline year (2006);
increases of 34 %, 58 % and 84 % for 2007, 2008, and 2009,
respectively. During the same period, the per capita monthly
consumption of fish in control households increased from
1.23 kg capita−1 month−1 in the baseline year, to 1.63 kg
capita−1 month−1 in 2009.7
The average monthly fish consumption, considering
all species, was higher for project beneficiaries
(2.00 kg/person) than for their control counterparts
7 National average of per capita fish consumption is about 0.95
capita−1 month−1 (Bangladesh Economic Review 2005). It is assumed
that the actual per capita fish consumption in Bangladesh is higher than
the national average reported in official databases (FAO 1999, 2002;
Welcome 2001; Ahmed et al. 1996; Dey et al. 2005b).
(1.55 kg/person) during the 2007 to 2009 period. Due
to implementation of the CBFC project, the average per
capita fish consumption per month in project areas
increased by 58 % in comparison to the baseline year; the
corresponding increase was 26 % in control sites. This
shows that the growth rate of monthly fish consumption
was higher for project beneficiaries.
The per capita fish consumption for all groups, both
the project beneficiaries and control group, increased over
the years; however, the rate of that increase was not same
for all years (Table 9). Among the project beneficiaries,
landless non-fishermen went through the fastest annual
growth in per capita fish consumption during 2006 to
2009 at 33.22 %, followed by fishermen (27.11 %), and
landowners (19.01 %). Overall, the per capita fish
consumption for the project beneficiaries increased from
1.26 kg per capita per month to 2.31 kg per capita per
month, an annual increase of 24.75 %. On the other hand,
the control group witnessed an average annual increase of
only 10.34 % (from 1.23 kg/capita/month to 1.63 kg/
capita/month) over the project years. The results signify
that the control group saw less growth in fish
consumption compared to project beneficiaries.
The differences in fish consumption between project
beneficiaries and control group members over the years are
further highlighted by the last three columns of Table 9. The
difference in fish consumption for all the groups increased
over the years and overall. The difference between project
beneficiaries and the control group was 0.20 kg per capita
per month in 2007, which went up to 0.46 kg per capita per
Employment generated in the Community Based Fish Culture project from 2007 to 2009
Employment generated in three floodplain (Person-days)
Setting of Bana Fencing
Return to labour
month in 2008, and then further upwards to 0.67 kg per capita
per month in 2009.
Figure 3 presents the trends in fish consumption in both
project and control households from 2007 to 2009. The
monthly fish consumption of project beneficiaries varied in
different months (Fig. 3). Due to project implementation, fish
availability was increased in the project area during the period
from July to December. Fish consumption of the project
beneficiaries increased when compared to control farmers during
the months of July to December. This was possible only due to
changing production technology from capture to culture
fisheries. Approximately 68 % to 75 % of the total fish
consumption requirements of the project beneficiaries were fulfilled by
fish culture in the floodplains in the months of July through
The supplies of fish from the implementation sites had
significant impact on fish consumption at the community
level and also the local market. The results of the study
show that about 20–30 % of non-stocked fish were sold at
farm gate to the community people as well as to local
middlemen or paikers, who had the opportunity to
purchase fish at a cheaper price. The remainder, i.e. 70–80 %,
was sold to adjacent local markets on a wholesale basis. It
may therefore be concluded that the availability of fish at
the community level will increasingly fulfil the
consumption needs of the community as fish production in the
Prospects and challenges of community-based fish culture
After successful implementation of the BCommunity-based
Fish Culture in Seasonal Floodplains and Irrigation System^
project in Bangladesh, many communities neighboring the
trial and demonstration sites have copied the CBFC system
to suit their situation. Communities in two of the three project
sites (Beel Mail and Kalmina) are still continuing CBFC, and
all project participants (landowner, landless, and fishers) are
obtaining the benefits. The Department of Fisheries of the
Government of Bangladesh and several non-governmental
organizations have selected CBFC as part of their development
programs. WorldFish has recently completed a follow-up
CBFC projects in six sites. These projects show that the
CBFC system provides benefit to all concerned stakeholders
within the communities (including landowners, landless
nonfishers, and fishers).
Scaling-up of CBFC technology requires suitable
topographical locations and appropriate institutional
arrangements. It is necessary that natural topography
(such as saucer-shaped natural depressions, or existing
artificially elevated lands through homesteads, dams,
etc.) enclose the area on multiple sides to allow fencing
off at low cost. Also, the prevailing social conditions
should be such that all stakeholders of a waterbody
can be involved in shared management arrangements,
compare to baseline
compare to baseline
including landowners, leaseholders, landless fishers
(who may have customary rights to fish in the flooded
waterbody but be restricted from access during the dry
season). Communities in the Angrar project site did not
continue mainly because of the changes in topographical
condition and some conflicts among group members; a
new embankment has been constructed, which made the
area not so suitable for fish culture during the rainy
Farmers’ groups will have to negotiate and agree on
cooperative sharing arrangements, rules, technical details and
schedules for operation. This may be influenced by other
existing agreements and ongoing conflicts. The linkages with
formal and informal institutions and organizations within the
villages and outside of the villages are, therefore, critical for
the sustainability of the organizations, as well as for successful
adaption of community-based fish culture in floodplains
during the rainy season.
The impacts of community based fish culture in seasonal
floodplains have been diverse across, and within, floodplains.
The results presented in this paper clearly show that there is
potential to introduce fish culture systems in the place of
capture fishery activity in floodplain areas. This can increase fish
production, supply vital nutrition to poor households and
improve the overall welfare of the low-income and resource-poor
households. Introduction of this approach has had a significant
and positive impact on income, employment, and household
nutrition for adopters. This paper also demonstrates that
income of labourers and fish consumption were significantly
higher among the project beneficiary households than control
households. Since there were no major differences between
project beneficiaries and controls in terms of socio-economic
parameters, such as household size, floodplain size,
experience in collective action, and there were no other projects that
took place during this time period, it can be concluded that the
achievement of all benefits, in terms of fish production,
consumption, employment generation, and overall food security
during the project period was mainly due to project
The innovations of the community-based approach to
fish culture in floodplains have been widely used in
Bangladesh by different institutions (including the
Department of Fisheries, Government of Bangladesh),
as well as in other countries of Asia. The CBFC system
has huge potential benefits, as a large number of people
depend on the 2.8 million hectares of floodplains for
their livelihoods. Improvements in floodplain
productivity and ecosystem services are important, as are
addressing issues of governance for how to manage floodplains
Fig. 3 Seasonality of fish
consumption (2007–2009) in
project and control areas
and make the system work. The promotion of
community based fish culture in seasonal floodplains may thus
be a useful tool to bring about dramatic positive
changes in trends of overall productivity and livelihood gains
for poor people in Bangladesh.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest The authors declared that they have no conflict of
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A.B.M. Mahfuzul Haque is a
Ph.D. candidate at Wageningen
University in the Netherlands.
His Ph.D. research identifies
institutional arrangements and their
influence on power relations in
the management of community
based fisheries. His research aims
to determine the impact of
Community-based Fish Culture
in Seasonal Floodplains and
Irrigation Systems in Bangladesh
on communities and households
in order to provide data for
developing policy to better utilize fish
resources and improve fish-based livelihoods of the people living in and
around the floodplains of Bangladesh. Eleven of his research papers are
published in international and national journals. Mr. Haque is
simultaneously working as a Monitoring & Evaluation Specialist at the World
Fish Bangladesh and South Asia office.
M a d a n M . D e y i s a F u l l
P r o f e s s o r ( A g . E c o n . /
Agribusiness) and Chair of the
Department of Agriculture,
Texas State University, USA. A
Ph. D in Agricultural Economics,
he has more than 27 years of post
Ph.D. experience in research,
teaching, and governance in a
variety of agricultural and natural
resource contexts. He has published
wi de ly in se ve ral fiel d s o f
economics with more than 130
journal articles and book chapters. He
received the Chancellor’s BDistinguished Research, Scholarship, and
Creative Activity Award^ from UAPB in 2014. He has held posts in the
United States, Malaysia, the Philippines and Bangladesh, and led research
and development projects in more than 20 other countries of Asia, Africa
and the Pacific.
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