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Success Through Seaweed in Bangladesh

This Article in Brief:

  • In place since 2017, a fishing ban along the Naf River in Bangladesh has left fishermen in surrounding communities without a stable source of income.
  • Many have transitioned to seaweed farming because of its simpler techniques, less expensive equipment, and the fact that seaweed species require no feed, grow fast, absorb carbon and are easy to harvest.

For more than two years, there has been a fishing ban in place along the Naf River – a river marking the border of southeastern Bangladesh and western Burma. Because of this, people who rely on fishing in the surrounding communities have been left without a main source of income.

In search of an alternative livelihood, fisherfolk have started seaweed farming. Compared to fishing, techniques for growing seaweed are simpler, the equipment is less expensive, and the seaweed species require no feed, they grow fast, absorb carbon and are easy to harvest.

Shifting to Seaweed

Moriam Begum, her husband Nurul Alam and their six children live in the village of Uttar Nuniarchora in Cox Bazar, Bangladesh. She and her husband used to rely on catching fish and collecting snails and oysters for their livelihoods. Yet, this profession did not produce enough income to support their family during the marine fishing ban, so they were forced to halt their children’s education.

Begum and Alam have since found a new way to make a living: through seaweed farming.

seaweed farming

Photo by WorldFish

A Partnership to Help Increase Profit

Through Feed the Future’s partnership with Bangladesh’s Department of Fisheries and a local company, Falcon International Ltd., Begum, along with 19 other fisherwomen, attended three days of training on seaweed farming, green mussel cultivation and post-harvest processing. The project provided Begum with all of the tools she needed, such as bamboo, rope, buoys, nets and more, to farm seaweed.

The partnership also introduced them to alternative activities to make an income, such as livestock farming, pond aquaculture and vegetable gardening.

Equipped with this new knowledge and the necessary materials, Begum completed site preparation and seaweed planting in Nuniarchora. She planted four types of seaweed – Hypnea, Enteromorpha, Gracilaria and Ulva – in September 2019. And after just one month, Begum’s crop was ready for harvest.

  • From September 2019 to March 2020, she produced 390 kg (860 lbs.) of seaweed, earning nearly $690.
  • The increased income (from around $88 to $100 per month) enabled her to send her children back to school to continue their education.
  • With her savings from seaweed farming, Begum planted a small vegetable garden, helping her earn an additional income.

Inspiring Future Farmers

Begum recently shared her success story at a seaweed fair organized by Central Bank of Bangladesh’s Small and Medium Agricultural Project. She got a low-interest loan of $235 to continue to expand her seaweed farming business and share what she’s learned with other fisherwomen.

About ECOFISH II

The USAID-funded Enhanced Coastal Fisheries in Bangladesh (ECOFISH II) project supports the Bangladesh Department of Fisheries and local communities to:

  • Improve fisheries science
  • Strengthen fisheries adaptive co-management
  • Enhance the resilience of fishermen communities
  • Review policies for potential improvements

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