Developing homestead aquaculture to ensure nutritional security

| Updated: December 05, 2021 20:20:53

Photo: www.worldfishcenter.org Photo: www.worldfishcenter.org

Homestead pond aquaculture is one of the prominent aquaculture technologies in Bangladesh. It can play a significant role in ensuring nutritional security at the household level. As most of the rural households rely on home production for fish, homestead ponds can be a viable and good source of protein and micronutrients. It also addresses the issue of affordability and availability which is one of the major difficulties for the poor to consume adequate amount of animal sourced protein.

Nutrition security is one of the key concerns for Bangladesh. Inadequate micronutrient intake is to blame, especially in mothers and children under the age of five. Evidences suggest that poor level of dietary diversity and seasonal or chronic food insecurity causes the nutritional insecurity. In fact, according to World Food Programme, more than six million children are chronically undernourished in Bangladesh. The micronutrient deficits can be combated by consuming sufficient amount of protein-rich foods. Foods from animal sources are rich in protein and micronutrients. However, they are costly compared to fish. Therefore, fish acts as an important supplement of other animal sourced proteins in Bangladesh. Fish provides more than 60 per cent of the animal-sourced calories and protein. It captures the second highest share of food expenditure after cereals. Most importantly, it is the widely consumed animal foods by the poor. This has created a growing demand of fish among the consumers. Owing to this, a 58 per cent rise in annual per capita fish consumption has been observed during the last 15 years as reported by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS).

To meet the growing fish demand, aquaculture is flourishing in Bangladesh. According to HIES data, the amount of fish consumption per capita from aquaculture or culture as commonly termed has gone up from 42 per cent to 70 per cent from 2000 to 2016. On the other hand, fish supply from capture sources has gone down from 42 to 20 per cent in these 16 years. The amount of fish supply from marine sources has also constantly decreased from 16 to 10 per cent from 2000 to 2016.

Homestead pond aquaculture is one of the five major aquaculture production systems practised in Bangladesh. In homestead ponds, the production is done non-commercially where production mainly depends on natural productivity of water body. Here, mainly the production is targeted to the household consumption and the surplus amount is sold in local markets. There are also various uses of these kinds of ponds other than fish farming. It is an extensive farming system and low external inputs is used.

According to Department of Fisheries, production from homestead pond contributes to more than 43 per cent of the total fish production in Bangladesh. Low-income households can be greatly benefitted from it. Homestead pond can work as an ideal source of a range of small indigenous fish species (SIS) which are rich in micronutrients. The production of vegetables on pond dikes is considered as a complementary strategy for food security. Homestead pond can also be a great source of income for the low-income households. It gives the opportunity to women who are often excluded from aquaculture due to social barriers. These women can engage themselves in fish culture sitting at home. Moreover, the surplus production contributes to additional income of the family. This income can ensure the purchase of other nutritious foods needed for the healthy body. 

Although it is a big source of fish production in the country, homestead aquaculture does not get much attention from the Department of Fisheries. It is often labeled as inefficient due to traditional method of production and sub-optimal productivity in ponds. Few studies have been done so far on homestead aquaculture and its contribution to household nutritional outcome. Data on this is also relatively old.

To estimate the role of homestead ponds in ensuring households' nutritional security, the study examines whether aquaculture production improves the nutritional conditions and dietary diversity of households in Bangladesh. For the primary data collection, 518 households in 6 geographical hubs (i.e., aquaculture clusters) were surveyed. The result shows that income from aquaculture has positive and significant effects on household nutritional outcomes.

The study estimated the current nutritional status of sampled fish farming households. The intake of calories at those household is below the international threshold of 2122 kcal per capita per day. More than 50 per cent of the households are below this caloric threshold and therefore, can be considered as food insecure. According to Food Consumption Score (FCS), approximately 30 per cent of the households remained in inadequate consumption clusters.  Dietary diversity is very low in those families with grains dominating the overall food basket. However, a positive relationship between household nutritional outcomes and aquaculture income was observed with increase in aquaculture income. As share of aquaculture income in total household income increases, the amount of food expenditure, calorie consumption etc. have shown an increasing trend. The increase in aquaculture income has also contributed to reduce the dependency on the grains. The households have improved their intake of various other nutrients through increased consumption of pulses, vegetables, oil, eggs, milk and dairy products etc. Fish consumption at the household level has also increased and households' overall dietary diversity has improved. It shows that income from homestead pond aquaculture has significant effect on household nutritional outcomes. The study found an increase in food consumption by Tk. 252 ($3, per capita per year). The calorie intake has also increased by 24 calories (per capita per day).

The additional findings from the study have shown that female headed households have lower food consumption and dietary diversity. Moreover, it has seen that due to increased trade opportunities, households with better market access derive more income from selling fish. Homestead ponds based non-commercial aquaculture can be graduated to more commercial type aquaculture if credit is provided to farmers.

The results from the study have some important policy implications for countries with low dietary diversity such as Bangladesh. Homestead pond aquaculture can act as a source of protein and micronutrients in spite of the emergence and spread of large-scale commercial aquaculture in Bangladesh.

Therefore, Department of Fisheries (DoF) should reconsider its attitude on the role of homestead pond production and give homestead ponds more importance in its extension activities for better nutritional outcome, especially for low-income fishing households. Developing improved infrastructure will minimise the transaction costs. Moreover, better market access is needed if more homestead fish produces are to specialise and gradually develop into semi-commercial or fully-commercial small-scale aquaculture production systems.


The article is an abridged version of the World Fish, Penang, Malaysia and University of Hannover study on "The Role of Homestead Fish Ponds for Household Nutrition Security in Bangladesh"

Dr. Badrun Nessa Ahmed is a Research Fellow, Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS). [email protected]

Prof. Dr. Hermann Waibel is the Head and Executive Director, Institute of Development and Agricultural Economics, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Germany.

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