How a woman of hill changes her fortune through aquaculture

Published : 21 Jul 2023 08:20 PM | Updated : 21 Jul 2023 08:53 PM

To meet the demand for fish, its production is increasing in Bandarban through overcoming various challenges following participation of many women in aquaculture, implementation of various programmes, providing support and the use of modern techniques.  

As the production of fish in the Bandarban hills increases, the demand for fish fry and fingerlings also increases. In such a situation, a woman of hill got involved in the business of nursery (fish) as well as sale of fingerlings. She used to collect fish fry or Spawn and Dhani from Jashore and sell fingerlings in Bandarban. She would have profited, but not much.  

After a fish hatchery was developed at her upazila, the woman no longer needed to go to Jashore.  Apart from collecting fish fry from the hatchery, she also gets the necessary training and technical support. As a result, she became more profitable, and the wheels of her fortune began to turn rapidly. 

She is now not only a self-reliant woman, but also an inspiring woman in Aquaculture.

The 48-year-old woman is Shahnaz Begum, wife of Sekandar Ali Talukder of Mohammadpara village under Goazila union at Lama upazila in Bandarban district.   

She continues her work by nurturing the fish fries with necessary care and raising them to fingerlings suitable for release in ponds and creeks through nursery management. 

Shahnaz Begum creates the success story in Aquaculture due to her hard work, dedication, development of fish hatchery in her upazila, increasing fish farming and production in the hills, and financial support, training and other supports through the Feed the Future Bangladesh Aquaculture and Nutrition Activity project of WorldFish. The local implementing partner of the project is Tahzingdong. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is funding this project aiming to boost fish production and empower women. 

Shahnaz Begum was involved in nrsery management or fingerlings business for about ten years. However, she enlisted with the project in 2021. 

Earlier, she was struggling to run her family with this nursery business. Her family is now prosperous as she now collects fish fry from a hatchery near her house, while the project provided her business support and training on fish farming techniques.

She now manages a family of eight members very well. She is also giving three children education at graduation and college levels from the income of her nursery business. 

Along with her husband and children, her parents also live with Shahnaz Begum. The eldest son of this mother of four children named Mejbahur Rahman Shahin is studying in the capital Dhaka for graduation, while another son Mohammad Ramiz Uddin studies at higher secondary level at an educational institution at Lama upazila and only daughter Ferdousi Khatun is a SSC examinee. 

From the income of aquaculture, Shahnaz Begum is supporting a large family and is also providing the education expenses of her children easily. Talking to the Bangladesh Post, she said, “Earlier, I had to bring fish fry from Jashore, a few hundred kilometers away from Bandarban. The boarding cost was very high. The fish fry had to be brought with oxygen and with separate transport cost. As a result, on the one hand, I would have incurred a lot of transportation costs and travel difficulties, on the other hand, many fish fires would have died.”

Shahnaz Begum further said, “After the development of Elias Khan’s ‘Ma Matsya Hatchery’ in Fasiakhali area of Lama upazila with the support from the WildFish as well as USAID, now I collect fish fry from there.

It not only reduces my transportation cost but also does not damage the fish fry. On the other hand, I am benefiting more for the technical and financial support in managing my nursery. Fingerlings supplied by me are being released in many ponds and creeks of Lama upazila. Now I am now able to manage the family of eight members very well.” 

The woman of hill told this reporter that besides getting fish food and medicines, she is also benefiting more as a result of teaching the application of these practically. Now her annual income is about Tk. 10 lakh. 

Md. Shafiqur Rahman, a gender specialist at USAID Feed the Future Bangladesh Aquaculture and Nutrition Activity; told the Bangladesh Post that around 0.5 million people live in Bandarban district where fish demand is not sufficient compared to the total production. 

“Against backdrop, WorldFish with the support of local partners is trying to involve local women with fish cultivation to ensure the fish production in the hilly area and empower the women. Like Shahnaz Begum, we developed around 1200 women in the district in last five years,” he said.

S.M. Zafrullah Shamsul, aquaculture specialist at WorldFish; along with his some other colleagues is supervising the aquaculture activities of women in the hills of Bandarban and providing necessary support to them on behalf of the international organisation. According to him, as many women like Shahnaz Begum are involved in nursery and hatchery business, fish farming and fish harvesting as well as aquaculture, the production of fish in the hilly area is increasing day by day.

Md. Emdad Hossain, senior programme manager at the WorldFish; said as many women are involved in aquaculture in Bandarban, the need for protein is being met there.