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A new hope for coastal farmers

Tarikul Islam . Khulna
20 May 2023 00:00:00 | Update: 20 May 2023 08:41:49
A new hope for coastal farmers
Shrimp enclosures being prepared for cluster shrimp farming in Khulna – Tarikul Islam

Cluster-based shrimp farming has brought new hopes to the farmers in the coastal area of Khulna and Bagerhat as it increases production and lessens shrimp mortality.

Some 7,500 shrimp farmers have been brought under the Department of Fisheries’ Sustainable Coastal and Marine Fisheries project.

According to the district fisheries office, in the past few years, the southern shrimp farmers have suffered severe losses due to various diseases and the flooding of the enclosure due to natural disasters.

Cluster-based farming could raise shrimp production many times over if cluster sustainability and project longevity can be ensured, experts said.

However, making the traditional enclosures suitable for cluster cultivation incurs a large amount of expenditure. Many farmers are unable to get such a large amount of capital, despite their eagerness.

Under the Sustainable Coastal and Marine Fisheries Project, 300 clusters have been brought under modernisation. There are 25 enclosures under each cluster. The enclosures range in size from 33 decimals to 150 decimals.

Cluster-based farming method

Khulna DIvisional Sustainable Coastal and Marine Fisheries Project’s Deputy Director Saroj Kumar Mistry said cluster cultivation is a collection of interrelated farms.

“A cluster is an organisation consisting of farmers of a particular area and members work in a coordinated and institutionalised manner to achieve specific goals and objectives. Cluster shrimp farming is opening up new possibilities for increasing safe shrimp production, developing coastal agro-economy, poverty alleviation and achieving SDGs,” he said.

He further said this is an effective way to increase shrimp production in coastal areas. If all the farmers in the southern sub-coast can be well organised and expand shrimp farming in a cluster system, besides increasing the production of shrimp, the door will be opened for massive employment. Besides, shrimp farming in cluster systems can play an important role in dealing with climate-related risks.

Fisheries officers are training the farmers on modern shrimp farming methods. Emphasis has been given to increasing enclosure depth, ensuring biosecurity, widening and raising roads, PCR lab-tested virus-free PCF fry stock and good aquaculture practices.

Farmers’ participation in cluster farming

Cluster farmers are asked to apply for matching grants after preparing the enclosures as per project guidelines. Farmers of 200 clusters are being given a non-refundable financial grant of Tk 1.81 lakh per acre.

With the donation, they will meet all expenses including the purchase of lime, prebiotics, probiotics, fries, supplementary food, electricity connection, construction of office room, and purchase of necessary equipment.

However, most of the cluster cultivators fail to excavate enclosures and construct roads as per the project guidelines due to a lack of capital. As a result, only 107 clusters were able to get matching grants subject to the fulfilment of the conditions.

The Department of Fisheries issued matching grant checks on April 28 to 24 clusters in the first phase of verification. Clusters receiving grants are preparing fry stocks with hopes of better production.

Suvendra Biswas, President of Boro Danga Prawn Farmers Cluster-1 of Dumuria Upazila of Khulna, said a few years ago they started farming in a cluster system with only five enclosures.

“The fisheries officers later trained us. As per their instructions, I have succeeded in cultivating shrimps in the cluster system. The production has increased more than twice as before,” he said.

He further added, “This time I was hoping to get a matching grant by preparing 25 enclosures on the advice of the Department of Fisheries. We are happy to receive financial support even if it is a little late.”

Md Enamul Haque Bablu, General Secretary of Deyara Paschimpara-1 Prawn Farmers Association, said, “We formed the cluster last year with a lot of hope on the advice of fisheries officials. Received five days training in two phases from Fisheries Office.”

He went on to say that while the harvest has increased, due to a financial crisis, they could not dig and build roads in the enclosures as per the instructions.

“Most of the people in our area are poor. Even if other instructions are followed, they cannot gather enough money to excavate to increase the depth. Many are worried about being left out of the cluster programme,” Enamul said.

Dumuria Senior Upazila Fisheries Officer Md Abu Bakar Siddique said cluster farming is ensuring the best use of land.

“Galda and Bagda prawns are being cultivated on the same land in Dumuria. Production has more than doubled. Safe fish production is possible through cluster system,” he said adding that the interest of the people in this area is increasing in cluster method of fish farming as it is profitable.

There are a total of 18 clusters in Dumuria of which five clusters received matching grant checks in the first phase.

Bagerhat District Fisheries Officer ASM Russell said there are 96 clusters in Bagerhat. Of these, 16 applied for matching grants by fulfilling the conditions. One cluster of Rampal, three clusters of Chitalmari and three clusters of Sadar upazila have received financial support.

“Nine clusters of Mongla, Moralganj, Kachua and Fakirhat upazilas may get financial support in the second phase. I hope the production will increase a lot and the farmers will benefit from this method,” he said.