Since April 2014, Blue Gold and CGIAR’s Research Program on Aquatic Agricultural Systems (AAS) are partnering in a program on “Participatory Research on Habitat Restoration Approach in Small Ponds”.
There are more than 4 million small household ponds (SHHP) in Bangladesh which have the potential to produce significant amounts of food and income from fish and are mainly women-managed. Past fish intensification efforts have had limited success in these small, shaded, multi-use ponds. This research explores an alternative women-led and ecology-based approach to SHHP to increase household access to fish for nutrition and income.
The focus of the BlueGold-funded and CGIAR-led research is tore-construct a pond with a diversity of habitats and associated fish species to mimic a natural ecosystem which results in a self-sustaining and minimal external input system which can provide regular off-take of fish for consumption and sale.60 women with ponds in 4 communities are partners in the research, along with WorldFish researchers, BRAC, BlueGold staff and the DoF.
This research is based on a review of natural pond habitats in 2013 by a graduate student from Emory University in the USA who identified major habitats associated with local fish species: floating vegetation, deep water environments, holes, brush, embankments and water plants.Four different habitat configurations and being researched.
There is growing evidence that the central involvement of farmers in the research process results not only in the development of more appropriate solutions to local problems but also positive changes in gender norms related to decision-making in the household, access to knowledge, leadership and nutrition.Farmers are also engaged in a season long FFS to learn about pond ecology science to encourage further innovation.
A complete annual cycle has not been completed and data is still being collected. However, there does appear to be considerable differences between habitat-restored and the control ponds. Fish appear to be growing faster, reproducing more and regular consumption from these ponds increasing. The diversity and intensity of habitats appears to create a “reef effect” that provides the necessary conditions for a diverse number of fish species to flourish.
If the analysis of the research provides clear evidence that an intensification of diverse habitats can increase fish production in SHHP with few inputs, the research will be widely replicated with additional farmers and programs supporting women’s involvement in fisheries and further researched in more traditional commercial aquaculture systems.