Options for development and aqua culture

In southern Bangladesh (Bagerhat and Khulna districts), gher-based production systems (transforming formal rice field in to integrated farming systems of freshwater prawns, fish, rich, and other crops) are expanding rapidly. However, due to the lack of well-targeted technical assistance and presence of higher levels of debt, many prawn farmers are in a state of increased vulnerability. Under these circumstances, the GOLDA (Greater Option for Development through Aqua-Culture) project was launched by CARE in 1996 funded by DFID with the prime goal of enhancing social and economic security for small scale faming households in Southern Bangladesh. The major objectives of the project are to reduce cash cost of gher farming, promote diversified and integrated other farming system, and increase financial management skill of male and female members of participating gher households. One objective of the assessment study is to determine the levels of input use and return from gher farming after project intervention. Another objective is to asses the effect of intervention of GOLDA project to the gher farmers through technical support.

GOLDA project provided training to 4320 participants (both male and female) of 2160 gher households, and provided credit support to the participating farmers through NGOs. Ninety gher farmers were selected at random from the project area to assess the impact of GOLDA project. Data were collected from the selected households in April-May and in November-December. The component-wise findings of the survey are presented below. Dike cropping

GOLDA project made significant impact on dike cropping. It increased the number of dike crops by more than double from 2.09 to 4.77 crops. The return from dike cropping for the farmers growing 3 or more crops was found to be much higher than the farmers growing less number of crops. Number of crops was the major determinant of profitability from dike cropping. Pesticide use reduced by 80% while the cost of fertilizer use remained the same Self-employment opportunity has been expanded among the gher farmers and dependency on hired labor reduced by 50%. Cost of production remained the same while the return over cash cost increased by 200%. Majority of the farms (96%) gained (considering return over cash cost as an indicator of profit) while 4% incurred loss from dike cropping. The percentage of loosing farms increased to 16% when gross margin (i.e., return over variable cost) is considered as indicator of profit. Indiscriminate use of pesticide greatly reduced. Instead of routine use of pesticides, farmers started using pesticides after observing pests in their dikes. About 34% farmers used only fertilizer while 3 percent farmers used only pesticides. About 49% gher farmers did not use any fertilizer or pesticides while 14% used both fertilizer and pesticides.


Before the GOLDA intervention farmers grew only boro rice in their ghers and about 86% of the gher farmers used to cultivate rice in ghers. GOLDA introduced an additional rice crop Aus in the gher systems. Ninety three percent of the gher farmers cultivated boro or Aus, or both Boro & Aus rice. Seventy percent of sample farms cultivated only Boro rice, 2% farms grew only Aus, and 21% frams produced both Boro and Aus rice. The average cash cost of rice production per Bigha gher area was Tk. 818 which is Tk. 130 lower than the cost they incurred before Golda intervention. Average gross return and return over cash cost after GOLDA intervention were estimated as Tk. 7265 and Tk 3152, respectively.

The corresponding estimates in the base line survey were Tk. 2867 and 1918, respectively. These figures indicate that due to the intervention project return over cash cost from each Bigha gher area (33 decimal) increased by Tk. 2867. Use of chemical fertilizer reduced by Tk 23 (from Tk 200 to 177) and the share of organic fertilizer total fertilizer cost was 20%. The gher farmers in the project area did not use any organic fertilizer for rice cultivation before project intervention. Nineteen percent of the rice growing gher farmers used organic fertilizer at the average rate of 53 kg/Bigha gher area. Pesticide use reduced to Tk. 50 from Tk. 135 in the baseline. The cost of irrigation also reduced considerably (from Tk 162 to Tk 94). This was due to the fact that majority of the farmers utilized the training experience provided under the project activities.

Ninety four percent gher farmers had gained from rice cultivation. Per bigha gross margin of the gaining farms was Tk. 2917 while the loosing farms had a loss of Tk. 421/bigha. Profitability of rice culture could be mainly attributed to reduced cost on seedling and irrigation, use of organic fertilizer, increased cost for chemical fertilizer and higher use of own labor. Loosing farms practically did not use any organic fertilizer for rice cultivation.

Farmers used pesticide only when infestation occurred in the paddy field. Eighty six percent farms used both fertilizer and 48% farms used pesticide. Forty four percent farms used both fertilizer and pesticides, 42 percent farms used pesticides only, and 10 percent farms neither used fertilizer nor used any pesticides. Rice production increased significantly with the increase of inputs cost on seed/seedling, and organic fertilizer.


Ninty nine percent farmers cultivated freshwater fish in ghers while 94% of the gher farmers produced fish during the baseline survey. Production of fish as well as cost of production increased after GOLDA intervention. Total fish production was Tk. 5053 which was 45% higher than the baseline costs. On the other hand, the input costs increased from Tk 429 to Tk. 2488. Return over cash cost from fish production decreased from Tk.3047 to Tk. 2565.This may be attributed to the devastating flood which over flooded most of the ghers resulting escape of fish from the ghers. The major input cost was the cost was the cost of purchasing fish seeds (dhani and fingerlings ) the share of which was 48% to total cost of production (including own labor) and 54% to cash cost.

Eighty three percent of the gher farmers gained (positive gross margin) from fresh water fish culture. The average return over cash cost for the gaining farms was Tk 4806/bigha gher, which is 58% higher than that in baseline. The average gross margin of the gaining farms was Tk. 4520. The average gross margin of the loosing farms had higher costs for all inputs, compared to the gaining farms. Although the overall gross margin, after GOLDA intervention, was lower than the corresponding value in the baseline, it was much higher for the gaining farms. It was observed during the monitoring survey that farmers’ expectation on fish production was quite high it normal harvest could be made. The results definitely indicated the positive impact of GOLDA intervention in generating income from fresh water fish culture in the gher system.

Regarding labor inputs, the farmers used mainly their own labor for fish production. The share of own labor to total labor cost was 89% for gaining farm and 100% for loosing farm.


fter GOLDA intervention, the average amount of prawn production per bigha gher was estimated as 72kg with a market value to Tk. 16667. the gross return reported in baseline was Tk. 17148. The average cash cost increased by 31% but the average gross return decreased by 3%. Average return per gher over cash cost before the project intervention was Tk. 5234 the estimate of which was only Tk. 1093 after GOLDA.

The major cash items were prawn seeds (Larvae and prawn juvenile) and prawn feed. The share of these two items was 46 and 34% respectively after project intervention. These figures before the project, were 37 and 50%. The major cash items were prawn seeds (larvae and prawn juvenile) and prawn feed. The share of these two items was 46 and 34%, respectively after project intervention. These figures before the project were 37 and 50%. GOLDA intervention also brought a change in types of prawn feed. Before, the farmers spent half of feed cost for snail meat that dropped down to one fourth after the project intervention. The reduction in snail feed was supplemented by increased use of low cost home made feed. Farmers used home made and processed feed almost in the same the proportion before the project initiation. After the project intervention, the proportion of homemade feed to processed feed was 1.43:1.

The cost of fertilizer, and the cost of water treatment and disease control increased (fertilizer, and the cost of water treatment and disease control increased (fertilizer from Tk 62 Tk 117, and other miscellaneous input of cost was higher after project intervention compared to the baseline estimate. In baseline survey, the average return/ bigha gher over cash cost was estimated as Tk. 5234. From monitoring data this figure was estimated as Tk. 1093. The low return from prawn cultivation, as reported by the gher farmers, was the result of devastating flood of 1998. Most of the ghers was over flooded and the farmer could harvest only a small part of their total prawn stock. Therefore, lice that of fish, the total benefits of GOLDA on the prawn cultivation could not be assessed. However, farmer’s opinion on the return from the prawn cultivation was positive. Farmers’ opined that production and profit would increase if the farmers could harvest their prawn as in other normal years.

Forty two percent farms gained from prawn culture with a gross margin of Tk 13075/bigha gher and 58 percent farms incurred a loss of Tk. 8622/bigha gher. The main reason for gains from prawn cultivation in gher system was less input costs as well as good harvest while the main reason for loss was probably the devastating flood which carried away most of their prawns.

GODLA project made significant positive impact on the gher farming community. Opportunity for the gher farmers to employ his family labor force, particularly women, in dike cropping and GOLDA’s objective on crop diversification in gher dikes was greatly achieved. Indiscriminate use of pesticides greatly reduced. Profitability from gher-based cropping systems has increased. The success of the project also has nutritional implication. The increased due to the project. It was also observed that some farms under the project were loosing farms. Observation showed that gaining farms were closely following the advice of the project workers while the loosing farms failed to do so. Therefore, special motivational efforts are required for the loosing farms and the project should continue in providing service to all other farms (Shital Krishna Das, New Age, January 04, 2005).

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