Small-scale fish farming
Fresh water prawns
Small, low-value fish are particularly important for the extremely poor after the rice harvest when
the demand for their labour declines.
Feeding the fish
With the non-intensive approach it is possible to feed fish on nothing more than scraps and
waste, duck weed, oil cake, kitchen waste, rice bran and snails which will provide all the
nutrition required. Some low-cost feeds are bought in by the households, typically rice bran and
oilcake, but these costs are minimal. Occasionally, the diet may be supplemented with
commercially available compound feeds. In most cases a mixture of diets is offered, according
to their availability and needs of the fish.
Fish harvesting and marketing
Growth is rapid in the warm climate of Bangladesh and the fish attain marketable size within 3-9
months, providing farmers with a rapid return on their investment and labour.
Fingerling production culture cycle is between 1 and 2 months. Cage nursery producers can sell
fingerlings to the pond farmers and ox-bow lake operators.
Fish for food culture cycle is between 4 and 6 months. Fish food producers consume the cage
fish as well as selling them in the market.
Profitability depends on
many factors including the
type of water body and
culture, cage construction
materials, the choice of
fish species, fingerling
size and price, stocking
density, feed price,
availability of protein rich
feed, culture duration,
harvesting and marketing.
Another concern relates to
economies of scale.
Almost all enterprises are
subject to economies of
scale, and cage culture is
no exception. The labour
Figure 4: A group of landless women discussing finances in
Madaripur. Photo: Practical Action / Neil Cooper.
of looking after one small
cage is far greater per kilogram of product than that for looking after a large one. The cost of the
cage per kilogram of production will also be higher for a small cage versus a large cage.
However, co-operative use of labour can be used to realise economies of scale in relation to
labour, and this is already done in many villages.
The third concern, related to the second, is comparative advantage. A significant proportion of
the fish is intended to be sold for cash rather than consumed by the farmer and his family. In
the medium term, an important question is whether small-scale producers in villages are well
placed to compete – either with larger commercial producers, or producers from elsewhere. If
they are not, and if competition increases, then prices - and returns - will steadily decline. In
practice there is strong local demand for fish throughout the country, and small-scale producers
are well placed to serve widely-dispersed rural markets. Secondly, the use of surplus off-season