Prawns bring new life to flooded Bangladesh fields

Tue Dec 20, 2011 9:26am EST
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By Nita Bhalla

PUTIA VILLAGE, Bangladesh (AlertNet) - For six months of the year, Bangladeshi rice farmer Raj Mia and his wife suffered as the annual monsoon rains flooded their fields, leaving them unable to feed their five children.

"For months, we had to find some other way to make money, like manual labor or breeding cheap fish like tilapia," said Raj, 48, standing by his submerged farm in the mud-and-thatch village of Putia, 60 km east of Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka.

"It was a struggle as we didn't earn much."

Raj, like millions, lives on the flood plains of Bangladesh, a region increasingly battered by climate change-produced cyclones and rains which inundate swathes of farmland, perpetuating poverty for millions.

But now, Raj has new hope from an unlikely source: prawns.

Last year, he and other farmers in the Comilla district began breeding the crustaceans, along with the usual fish, in their flooded fields, boosting their incomes almost six-fold and learning business skills to help them sell in markets.

"We earned 80,000 taka ($1,038) this year," says Fatuma Begum, Raj's wife. "It's changed our lives ... we have been able to send our children to school."

An initiative introduced by the Centre for Community Development Assistance (CCDA), a microfinance charity, has spread across the district. Some 250 families now live off freshwater prawn culture half the year, and cultivate rice when the water levels recede on the same land for the other half.   Continued...

<p>A worker shows prawns at the main fish market in Sao Paulo, October 27, 2007. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker</p>