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Bangladesh Fourth Fisheries Project (December 1999 – June 2006)

The Fourth Fisheries Project of the Government of Bangladesh has achieved considerable success in increasing fish and shrimp production for domestic consumption and exports. The reviews have however, indicated that the poverty impact of the project remains significant for inland open water fisheries only and that the aquaculture component encountered difficulty in targeting the poor, although the project target figure of 200,000 beneficiaries was reached. The six-year old project started in December 1999 and concluded on June 30, 2006.  The project was co-financed by DFID(UK), GEF and IDA.


Bangladesh has vast inland open-water fisheries resources. Changes in land use and a growing population have increased the pressure on fisheries resources. The abundance of some species (particularly of the valuable migratory carps) has been seriously affected, and the availability of more resilient floodplain fish species may even be at risk. The Government of Bangladesh (GOB) addressed these issues through a sub-strategy for inland open water fisheries that includes conserving aquatic resources, shifting priorities in management from revenue generation to biological conservation and sustainability, increasing production by involving beneficiaries in management and stock enhancement, and rehabilitating degraded habitats. In addition, improving non-material dimensions of well being, including security, power, and social inclusion of the poorer communities.


Under this project, some 41,000 fishers established their access rights in 39 public water bodies (jalmohals) that were managed by community organizations. Fish production increased in these areas by 65%.


Unplanned shrimp farming development has led to a degradation of agricultural land and negatively affected the livelihoods of local people. The expansion of shrimp farming has raised conflicts between rice farmers and those involved in shrimp farming. The project carried out a number of studies to improve understanding of conditions in the shrimp industry.  As a companion to National Fisheries Strategy, the Department of Fisheries has formulated a sub-strategy on shrimp aquaculture to facilitate responsible shrimp farming in the future.  About 4,200 farmers organized in four coastal polders (about 10,000 ha) towards environmentally friendly small-holder shrimp production. The shrimp production is likely to increase by about 15-30%.


Aquaculture production increased by 45% among 200,000 trained farmers in 8000 villages.  Among these trained farmers about 25% are women. A new initiative to identify and training of Local Extension Agent for Fisheries (LEAF) have been successfully piloted in 90 fish villages.


Under this project, several studies were carried out to improve knowledge and awareness on aquatic biodiversity, conservation and genetic aspects for inland open water. The   recommendations of the studies were mostly adapted in fisheries sector strategy. In addition, the implementation of hilsa management action plan was accelerated and positively impacted the hilsa production. (Hilsa is any of the members of the genus Tenualosa of the family Clupeidae, order Clupeiformes. This is the national fish of Bangladesh.)



The key lessons from this Project are the following:  


          Inland open water fisheries most important for the Poor Communities.While there was considerable achievement in terms of production increases for aquaculture, the greatest share of benefits to the poor accrued under the inland open water component. This was particularly important considering the gradually worsening inland open water situation in general. While aquaculture could perhaps provide opportunities to poor having very small ponds, inland open water fisheries will, at least in the near future, still provide the major safety net to a large number of rural landless poor where fisheries is concerned. 

          User rights over public water bodies are fundamental. Resolving the institutional issue of lease, which provides secure access right to the communities, is fundamental for a successful implementation of the open water fisheries component and a prerequisite for further development of many other water bodies in Bangladesh. This is particularly important in terms of distributional effects as access to water bodies is so important for the poor.

          Simple cost-effective entry points are needed. For the community development in the open water fisheries, priority should be given to the development of other low cost interventions such as establishment of sanctuaries, control of fishing gears, closed fishing seasons, etc. in parallel with the strengthening of community organisations. Subsequently, more costly stocking activities can be considered gradually once the community organisations have been strengthened and they consider stocking as having significant benefits to them, and they have the resources to invest in it themselves. Stocking in closed and small water bodies managed by strong community organisations can have a higher chance of success.

          Community involvement in approval and monitoring of works increases quality. When the community organisations participate from the early phase of preparation, and are involved in monitoring of works, the quality of the infrastructure tends to be of good standard, although longer time is required. Particularly, quality is even better when payments for such construction fees are subject to approval by the community organisations. The better quality together with the user-friendly infrastructure such as regulators in the shrimp polders will increase production benefits and the chance of sustainability.

          Harnessing the comparative advantages of the private sector. The private sector is more efficient and better responsive to the emerging needs. Many private hatcheries and nurseries have been established in response to the increasing demand created by the ongoing development in the sector. However, there are still scopes where the public sector can play an effective role, such as the establishment of brood banks. At present, there are 120 Government fish farms, of which some 20 have already been leased out. Hence leasing to private operators presents a policy option for the remaining Government farms. 

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