The lives of Phulpur villagers have been transformed by fish farming

Jahangir Alam at a fish farm in Mymensingh’s Phulpur upazila. Photo: Hridoye Mati O Manush

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Fisheries

Jahangir Alam at a fish farm in Mymensingh’s Phulpur upazila. Photo: Hridoye Mati O Manush

From Balia village in Mymensingh’s Phulpur upazila, you can see the Garo hills, green horizon, vast farmlands and ponds after the ponds. At one time, paddy and jute were the main staple crops of this region, but in the last three decades, fisheries have flourished. As new entrepreneurs continue to join the business, fish production is increasing here.

Jahangir Alam is one such local entrepreneur who started fish production about 20 years ago. Previously, he was engaged in the sale of sanitary ware with his family business. At that time, the local youth engaged in fishing and earning good income inspired Jahangiri to change his profession.

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He rented five hectares of land, dug a pond and started his dream business. He raised the money for the investment — Tk 5 lakh ($4,955) — by selling his wife’s gold jewellery.

In the first year, Jahangir sold 9.5 million pounds worth of fish and earned 4.5 million pounds ($4,460). He bought new jewelry for his wife with the income. From then on, there was no looking back.

Starting with koi and tilapia, Jahangir realized he had to do something exceptional to achieve the success he wanted. But if fingerlings are not of good quality, there will be no good production. So he started producing fingerlings in a hatchery.

The demand for fingerlings produced in his hatchery was high, and the production also increased. Jahangir currently has 46 ponds and 30 employees. His family is now quite wealthy.

But he had to overcome the difficulty. Once, due to heavy rains, all his ponds were flooded and fish worth about 70 lakhs (US$69,260) were washed away overnight.

However, he knew that where there is profit, there is also loss. So he took it easy and patiently returned.

Jahangir is also a national-level gold medalist for bringing the indigenous Shing (Heteropneustes fossilis) fish species to cultivation through artificial breeding.

Jahangir said that currently he is not in favor of fish trade as climate change has a negative impact on this sector, on the other hand, fish farmers are facing multifaceted problems in the production and marketing sectors. Rising prices of fish medicines have become a constant problem.

That’s why Jahangir is not thinking about profit at the moment, he is trying to engage in entrepreneurship using different methods, he says.

He has planted many papaya and banana trees on the sides of his ponds and also cultivates various vegetables.

Inspired by Jahangir, many people in the area also preferred fish production. One of them is Robin Mujahid. He used to work in Singapore. When he returned home for the holidays, he was inspired by the change in the economy of his area due to fishing. He decided not to return to Singapore and start his own fish farms. Robin now earns Tk 15 lakh (US$14,853) annually from her two ponds.

According to a recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Bangladesh ranks third in domestic fish production, fifth in indoor pond cultured fish production, fourth in tilapia production and first in hilsa production.

Bangladesh is now the leader in fish production. About four million (40 million) people are directly or indirectly involved in the fishing sector. Most of the modern technologies have spread throughout the country to increase production. Young, medium-scale traders and large industrial companies have also started to engage in modern fishing with the help of technology.

Efforts are being made to increase fish production and adopt different methods of fish farming for public and private purposes using various technologies, including recirculating aquaculture system (RAS), biofloc, demersal or in-pond breeding systems.

However, as world fish production increases, total fish stocks decrease. In 1990, Bangladesh’s fish stocks were 90 percent, but in 2018, this figure has dropped to 65 percent, as many fish species have disappeared.

Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute is working on the issue. Besides, innovative thinking fish farmers like Jahangir are also working to breed local fish species. Our farmers must be able to produce fish in an environment that will allow them to enter the international fish market.

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