Rice fields to prawn farms: a blue revolution in southwest Bangladesh?

Abstract

This paper examines freshwater prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii) farming in southwest Bangladesh where a large number of farmers have converted their rice fields to export oriented prawn farms, locally known as gher. The gher design potentially provides good opportunities for diversified production of prawn, fish, rice and dike crops, that has brought about a ‘blue revolution’. The average annual yield of prawn, fish and rice was estimated at 467, 986 and 2,257 kg ha−1, respectively. Large farmers produced higher production due to more inputs, larger farm size and longer experience of prawn farming than others. All farmers in different gher size categories (i.e., small, medium and large) made a profit, with seed and feed dominating variable costs. Despite a higher production costs per hectare, the average annual net return was higher in large farms (US$2,426), compared with medium (US$1,798) and small (US$1,420) farms. Prawn production in gher systems has been accompanied by a great deal of social and economic benefits. Most farmers associate the blue revolution with increases in income and living standards. Socio-economic benefits of the households of prawn farmers depend on resource ownership (i.e., farm size) and are very apparent. Nevertheless, a number of significant challenges, particularly social and environmental issues, are vital in translating its benefits effectively to the thousands of rural poor.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The term ‘blue revolution’ was first used by Bailey (1985) to describe the aquatic equivalent of the ‘green revolution’. The blue revolution refers to the advent of new fisheries technology that helped boost the fishing capacity of developing countries.

  2. 2.

    Building upon detailed baseline data collected by one of the authors during 1998–1999 in the Bagerhat area (Ahmed 2001), recent fieldwork seeks to explore impacts of the blue revolution from the perspective of local people.

  3. 3.

    A stratified sample is one obtained by separating the population elements into non-overlapping groups, called strata, and then selecting a sample from each stratum (Scheaffer et al. 1990). Arens and Loebbecke (1981) noted that stratification is most commonly used for reducing the sample size needed to achieve a desired level of precision and reliability.

  4. 4.

    A sample is drawn from a population in such a way that every possible sample has an equal chance of being selected (Scheaffer et al. 1990). Schofield (1993) noted that simple random sampling is the fundamental method of probability where ‘simple’ does not mean that it is easier to carry out than other methods, but that steps are taken to ensure that nothing influences selection each time a choice is made, other than chance.

  5. 5.

    Food security defined by the FAO (2006) as a condition when people at all times have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

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Acknowledgments

The study was supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) as part of the Aquaculture and Fish Genetics Research Program (AFGRP). The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of DFID or AFGRP.

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Correspondence to Nesar Ahmed.

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Ahmed, N., Allison, E.H. & Muir, J.F. Rice fields to prawn farms: a blue revolution in southwest Bangladesh?. Aquacult Int 18, 555–574 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10499-009-9276-0

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Keywords

  • Prawn
  • Rice field
  • Gher
  • Blue revolution
  • Bangladesh