The role of homestead fish ponds for household nutrition security in Bangladesh


This paper examines whether income from homestead aquaculture contributes to household nutritional outcomes in developing countries. We used data from 518 homestead aquaculture producers in Bangladesh. We applied a two-stage least squares (2SLS) as well as a three-stage least squares (3SLS) model in a simultaneous equations framework to estimate the effects of aquaculture income on household food consumption and dietary diversity. Homestead aquaculture increased household food consumption and improved dietary diversity by generating additional cash income and stimulating higher fish consumption from home production. Moreover, income from aquaculture helped poor farmers to improve the quality of householder diets by purchasing more calories from the market associated with protein rich and energy-dense food items. Our results have important policy implications for countries with low dietary diversity such as Bangladesh. As Governments tend to undervalue home production by the poor, we emphasize that homestead fish production remains important for many low-income households. Therefore, the Department of Fisheries in Bangladesh should reconsider its view on the role of homestead pond production and give it more recognition in its extension activities.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4


  1. 1.

    The remote sensing technology excluded very small ponds (which account for a large portion of those found in rural Bangladesh) from the sample.

  2. 2.

    District level data were collected directly from the records of the District Fisheries Office (DFO) in Bangladesh. DFO is governed by the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.

  3. 3.

    Previous studies also used agricultural capital (Dillon et al. 2015) and number of district agriculture officers (Benfica and Kilic 2016) as instruments to control endogeneity of agriculture income. In our context, we used aquaculture capital and number of district fisheries officers to control for the endogeneity of aquaculture income.

  4. 4.

    It has been found that on average household sold almost 39% of their harvested fish while consuming 54% and using 7% for other purposes (authors’ calculation). However, considering the harvest value of each fish will allow us to capture the value of different fish species produced in the homestead pond and therefore, reduces the risk of over estimating the value of total fish production.

  5. 5.

    The FAO/INFOODS food composition table (FCT) (Shaheen et al. 2013) and FAO/INFOODS density database- 2012 (Charrondiere et al. 2012) has been used to convert food intake data into energy (kilocalories).

  6. 6.

    The FCS score determines households’ food consumptions status based on three thresholds, i.e. poor with a score of 0 to 21, borderline with 21.5 to 35 and acceptable food consumption with a score above 35. A score of less than 35 is classified as inadequate consumption by WFP. However, the alternate cut-offs of 28 and 42 are more appropriate for poor and borderline category for populations with high frequency of consumption of sugar and oil. The maximum value of FCS can be 112, if the households consumed all food groups in each day.

  7. 7.

    The Simpson-Index used in this study is popularly known as the Berry-Index. This index was applied mainly in economic food diversity studies (Stewart and Harris 2005; Katanoda et al. 2006). Recently, it has been applied in nutritional studies to measure dietary diversity and its annual changes in different countries (Drescher et al. 2007).

  8. 8.

    Aquaculture systems were defined based on distinct production technology, which is a combination of characteristics, including the intensity of production, the type of waterbody in which production took place, the combination of species stocked, the management practices, the market orientation of production, and whether or not production was integrated with agriculture (Jahan et al. 2015).

  9. 9.

    Geographical hubs are the aquaculture clusters in Bangladesh that consist of groups of districts with similar agroecology. The main technologies practised in each hub were identified through a process of rapid appraisal with local key informants.

  10. 10.

    We prepared a two-year panel dataset collected from households that engaged in homestead pond aquaculture in Bangladesh. The first round of data was collected in 2011 for a CSISA-BD project while the second round was collected in 2016 only for this study using the same sampling procedures. For this study we could not use the data from 2011 since it did not collect information on household consumption expenditure.

  11. 11.

    The international threshold of 2122 kcal (kcal/capita/day) is recommended by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) for the South Asian region.

  12. 12.

    Own calculation based on survey data 2016.


  1. Ahmed, T., Mahfuz, M., Ireen, S., Ahmed, A. S., Rahman, S., Islam, M. M., et al. (2012). Nutrition of children and women in Bangladesh: Trends and directions for the future. Journal of Health, Population, and Nutrition, 30(1), 1–11.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  2. Alam, F., Jahan, K.M., Kamal, K.M.S., Rahman, M.M. & Janssen, J. (2004). Carp polyculture: A comparative study between DSAP supported demonstration farmers and control farmer. TheWorldFish center Bangladesh and South Asia, working paper no. 2004/2027.

  3. Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS). (2011). Report of the household income and expenditure survey 2010. Dhaka: Ministry of Planning, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Bardhan, P., & Udry, C. (1999). Development microeconomics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  5. Belton, B., & Azad, A. (2012). The characteristics and status of pond aquaculture in Bangladesh. Aquaculture, 358, 196–204.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Belton, B., Karim, M., Thilsted, S., Collis, W., & Phillips, M. (2011). Review of aquaculture and fish consumption in Bangladesh. The WorldFish Center, Studies and Reviews 2011–53.

  7. Belton, B., Haque, M. M., & Little, D. C. (2012). Does size matter? Reassessing the relationship between aquaculture and poverty in Bangladesh. Journal of Development Studies, 48(7), 904–922.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Béné, C., Barange, M., Subasinghe, R., Pinstrup-Andersen, P., Merino, G., Hemre, G.-I., & Williams, M. (2015). Feeding 9 billion by 2050 – Putting fish back on the menu. Food Security, 7(2), 261–274.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Benfica, R., & Kilic, T. (2016). The Effects of smallholder agricultural involvement on household food consumption and dietary diversity: Evidence from Malawi. International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) research series no. 04.

  10. Benjamin, D. (1992). Household composition, labor markets, and labor demand: Testing for separation in agricultural household models. Econometrica: Journal of the Econometric Society, 60(2), 287–322.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Beveridge, M. C. M., Thilsted, S. H., Phillips, M. J., Metian, M., Troell, M., & Hall, S. J. (2013). Meeting the food and nutrition needs of the poor: The role of fish and the opportunities and challenges emerging from the rise of aquaculture. Journal of Fish Biology, 83(4), 1067–1084.

    CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  12. Bloomer, J. (2012). Homestead aquaculture in Bangladesh: Current status and future directions (master’s thesis). University of London, England.

  13. Bouis, H. E. (2000). Commercial vegetable and polyculture fish production in Bangladesh: Their impacts on household income and dietary quality. Food and Nutrition Bulletin, 21(4), 482–487.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Castine, S. A., Bogard, J. R., Barman, B. K., Karim, M., Hossain, M. M., Kunda, M., et al. (2017). Homestead pond polyculture can improve access to nutritious small fish. Food Security, 9(4), 785–801.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Caulfield, L. E., de Onis, M., Blössner, M., & Black, R. E. (2004). Undernutrition as an underlying cause of child deaths associated with diarrhea, pneumonia, malaria, and measles. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 80(1), 193–198.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  16. Charrondiere, R., Haytowitz, D., & Stadlmayr, B. (2012). FAO/INFOODS density database version 2.0. Rome: FAO.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Chung, K. (2012). An introduction to nutrition-agriculture linkages (working paper no. 72E). Maputo, Mozambique: Directorate of Economics, Ministry of Agriculture.

  18. Davidsson, P., & Honig, B. (2003). The role of social and human capital among nascent entrepreneurs. Journal of Business Venturing, 18(3), 301–331.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Department of Fisheries (DoF). (2016). Fisheries statistics in Bangladesh: Issues, challenges and plan. Paper presented at the meeting of Asia and Pacific commission on agricultural statistics, Thimphu, Bhutan.

  20. Dey, M. M., Rab, M. A., Paraguas, F. J., Piumsombun, S., Bhatta, R., Alam, M. F., & Ahmed, M. (2005). Fish consumption and food security: A disaggregated analysis by types of fish and classes of consumers in selected Asian countries. Aquaculture Economics and Management, 9(1–2), 89–111.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Dey, M. M., Kambewa, P., Prein, M., Jamu, D., Paraguas, F. J., Pemsl, D. E., & Briones, R. M. (2007). WorldFish Centre. Impact of the development and dissemination of integrated aquaculture–agriculture technologies in Malawi. In H. Waibel & D. Zilberman (Eds.), International research on natural resource management: Advances in impact assessments (pp. 118–146). Wallingford: CABI International.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Dey, M. M., Alam, M. F., & Bose, M. L. (2010). Demand for aquaculture development: Perspectives from Bangladesh for improved planning. Reviews in Aquaculture, 2(1), 16–32.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Dillon, A., McGee, K., & Oseni, G. (2015). Agricultural production, dietary diversity and climate variability. The Journal of Development Studies, 51(8), 976–995.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Do, T. L., Nguyen, T. T., & Grote, U. (2019). Nonfarm employment and household food security: Evidence from panel data for rural Cambodia. Food Security.

  25. Drescher, L. S., Thiele, S., & Mensink, G. B. (2007). A new index to measure healthy food diversity better reflects a healthy diet than traditional measures. The Journal of Nutrition, 137(3), 647–651.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  26. FAO. (1998). The state of food and agriculture: Rural non-farm income in developing countries. Rome, Italy.

  27. FAO. (2010a). Guidelines for measuring household and individual dietary diversity. Rome, Italy.

  28. FAO. (2010b). Integrating gender issues in food security, agriculture and rural development. Rome, Italy.

  29. FAO. (2016). The state of world fisheries and aquaculture 2016. Contributing to food security and nutrition for all. Rome, Italy.

  30. FAO. (2018). The state of world fisheries and aquaculture 2018. Meeting the sustainable development goals. Rome, Italy.

  31. FAO, & WHO. (2014). Country nutrition paper Bangladesh. Paper presented at the international conference on nutrition 21 years later, Rome, Italy.

  32. Fischer, E., & Qaim, M. (2012). Gender, agricultural commercialization, and collective action in Kenya. Food Security, 4(3), 441–453.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Gollin, D. (2008). Nobody's business but my own: Self-employment and small enterprise in economic development. Journal of Monetary Economics, 55(2), 219–233.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Gomna, A., & Rana, K. (2007). Inter-household and intra-household patterns of fish and meat consumption in fishing communities in two states in Nigeria. British Journal of Nutrition, 97(1), 145–152.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  35. Hoddinott, J., & Yohannes, Y. (2002). Dietary diversity as a food security indicator. Washington, D.C.: Food and nutrition technical assistance project, FHI 360.

  36. Huda, K. M. S., Atkins, P. J., Donoghue, D. N. M., & Cox, N. J. (2010). Small water bodies in Bangladesh. Area, 42(2), 217–227.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Iannotti, L., Cunningham, K., & Ruel, M. (2009). Improving diet quality and micronutrient nutrition, homestead food production in Bangladesh (discussion paper no. 00928). Washington D.C.: The International Food Policy Research Institute.

  38. Islam, F. (2007). Self-recruiting species (SRS) in aquaculture: Their role in rural livelihoods in two areas of Bangladesh (unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Stirling: Scotland.

  39. Jahan, K. M., Ahmed, M., & Belton, B. (2010). The impacts of aquaculture development on food security: Lessons from Bangladesh. Aquaculture Research, 41(4), 481–495.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Jahan, K. M., Belton, B., Ali, H., Dhar, G. C., & Ara, I. (2015). Aquaculture technologies in Bangladesh: An assessment of technical and economic performance and producer behavior. Penang, Malaysia: WorldFish. Program report: 2015-52.

  41. Jones, A. D., Shrinvas, A., & Bezner-Kerr, R. (2014). Farm production diversity is associated with greater household dietary diversity in Malawi: Findings from nationally representative data. Food Policy, 46, 1–12.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Katanoda, K., Kim, H. S., & Matsumura, Y. (2006). New quantitative index for dietary diversity (QUANTIDD) and its annual changes in the Japanese. Nutrition, 22(3), 283–287.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  43. Kawarazuka, N., & Béné, C. (2010). Linking small-scale fisheries and aquaculture to household nutritional security: An overview. Food Security, 2(4), 343–357.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Kebede, M. (2009). The gender perspective of household food security in Meskan district of the Gurage zone, southern Ethiopia. African Research Review, 3(4), 31–47.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Keding, G. B., Msuya, J. M., Maass, B. L., & Krawinkel, M. B. (2012). Relating dietary diversity and food variety scores to vegetable production and socio-economic status of women in rural Tanzania. Food Security, 4(1), 129–140.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Kent, G. (1997). Fisheries, food security, and the poor. Food Policy, 22(5), 393–404.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Kumar, P., & Dey, M. M. (2006). Nutritional intake and dynamics of undernourishment of farm households in rural India. Indian Development Review, 4(2), 269–284.

    Google Scholar 

  48. LaFave, D., Peet, E., & Thomas, D. (2016). Are rural markets complete? Prices, profits, and recursion. Mimeo.

  49. Murphy, S. P., & Allen, L. H. (2003). Nutritional importance of animal source foods. The Journal of Nutrition, 133(11), 3932S–3935S.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  50. Ogunlela, Y. I., & Mukhtar, A. A. (2009). Gender issues in agriculture and rural development in Nigeria: The role of women. Humanity and Social Sciences Journal, 4(1), 19–30.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Pachón, H., Simondon, K. B., Fall, S. T., Menon, P., Ruel, M. T., Hotz, C., Creed-Kanashiro, H., Arce, B., Domínguez, M. R. L., Frongillo, E. A., & Brown, D. L. (2007). Constraints on the delivery of animal-source foods to infants and young children: Case studies from five countries. Food and Nutrition Bulletin, 28(2), 215–229.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  52. Palash, M. S. (2015). Land use change from crop to fish farming in Bangladesh: Determinants and impacts on farm profitability. Germany: Margraf Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  53. Parappurathu, S., Kumar, A., Bantilan, M. C. S., & Joshi, P. K. (2015). Food consumption patterns and dietary diversity in eastern India: Evidence from village level studies (VLS). Food Security, 7(5), 1031–1042.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Pellegrini, L., & Tasciotti, L. (2014). Crop diversification, dietary diversity and agricultural income: Empirical evidence from eight developing countries. Canadian Journal of Development Studies, 35(2), 211–227.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Prein, M., & Ahmed, M. (2000). Integration of aquaculture into smallholder farming systems for improved food security and household nutrition. Food and Nutrition Bulletin, 21(4), 466–471.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Qaim, M. (2014). Evaluating nutrition and health impacts of agricultural innovations (GlobalFood discussion paper no. 46). Göttingen: University of Göttingen.

  57. Roos, N., Leth, T., Jakobsen, J., & Thilsted, S. H. (2002). High vitamin a content in some small indigenous fish species in Bangladesh: Perspectives for food-based strategies to reduce vitamin a deficiency. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 53(5), 425–437.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  58. Roos, N., Islam, M. M., & Thilsted, S. H. (2003). Small indigenous fish species in Bangladesh: Contribution to vitamin a, calcium and iron intakes. The Journal of Nutrition, 133(11), 4021S–4026S.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  59. Roos, N., Wahab, M. A., Hossain, M. A. R., & Thilsted, S. H. (2007). Linking human nutrition and fisheries: Incorporating micronutrient-dense, small indigenous fish species in carp polyculture production in Bangladesh. Food and Nutrition Bulletin, 28(2_suppl), S280-S293.

  60. Save the Children. (2015). Malnutrition in Bangladesh: Harnessing social protection for the most vulnerable. London: Page Bros Ltd.

    Google Scholar 

  61. Shaheen, N., Rahim, A. T., Mohiduzzaman, M., Banu, C. P., Bari, L., Tukun, B., et al. (2013). Food composition tables for Bangladesh. Dhaka, Bangladesh.

  62. Shamsuzzaman, M. M., Islam, M. M., Tania, N. J., Al-Mamun, M. A., Barman, P. P., & Xu, X. (2017). Fisheries resources of Bangladesh: Present status and future direction. Aquaculture and Fisheries, 2(4), 145–156.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Singh, I., Squire, L., & Strauss, J. (1986). Agricultural household models: Extensions, applications, and policy. The World Bank.

  64. Smith, L. C., & Subandoro, A. (2007). Measuring food security using household expenditure surveys (Vol. 3). International food policy research institute.

  65. Sraboni, E., Malapit, H. J., Quisumbing, A. R., & Ahmed, A. U. (2014). Women’s empowerment in agriculture: What role for food security in Bangladesh? World Development, 61, 11–52.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Stewart, H., & Harris, J. M. (2005). Obstacles to overcome in promoting dietary variety: The case of vegetables. Review of Agricultural Economics, 27(1), 21–36.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Strauss, J. (1984). Joint determination of food consumption and production in rural Sierra Leone: Estimates of a household-firm model. Journal of Development Economics, 14(1), 77–103.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  68. Sultana, P., & Thompson, P. (2008). Gender and local floodplain management institutions: A case study from Bangladesh. Journal of International Development, 20(1), 53–68.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  69. Swindale, A., & Bilinsky, P. (2006). Household Dietary Diversity Score (HDDS) for measurement of household food access: Indicator guide (vol.2). Washington, DC: FHI 360/FANTA.

    Google Scholar 

  70. Thilsted, S. H. (2012, September). The potential of nutrient-rich small fish species in aquaculture to improve human nutrition and health. In R. P. Subasinghe, J. R. Arthur, D. M. Bartley, S. S. De Silva, M. Halwart, N. Hishamunda, C. V. Mohan, & P. Sorgeloos (Eds.), Farming the waters for people and food. Proceedings of the global conference on aquaculture 2010 (pp. 57-73). Phuket, Thailand: FAO, Rome and NACA, Bangkok.

  71. Thorpe, A., Reid, C., van Anrooy, R., & Brugere, C. (2005). When fisheries influence national policy-making: An analysis of the national development strategies of major fish-producing nations in the developing world. Marine Policy, 29(3), 211–222.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  72. Tulchinsky, T. H. (2010). Micronutrient deficiency conditions: Global health issues. Public Health Reviews, 32(1), 243–255.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  73. United Nations (UN). (2012). The millennium development goals report 2012. New York: United Nations.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  74. United Nations (UN). (2015). The millennium development goals report 2012. New York: United Nations.

    Google Scholar 

  75. Weeratunge-Starkloff, N., & Pant, J. (2011). Gender and aquaculture: Sharing the benefits equitably. The WorldFish Center Working Papers, 2011-32.

  76. World Food Programme (WFP). (2008). Food consumption analysis: Calculation and use of the food consumption score in food security analysis. Rome, Italy.

  77. World Food Programme (WFP). (2016). Strategic review of food security and nutrition in Bangladesh, Dhaka: Bangladesh.

  78. WorldFish (WF). (2010). Gender and fisheries: Do women support, complement or subsidize men’s small-scale fishing activities. Issues Brief, 2108(8).

  79. WorldFish (WF). (2015). Aquaculture for improved income, food security and livelihood: Initiative and success. CSISA performance Report. Dhaka: Bangladesh.

  80. Zellner, A., & Theil, H. (1962). Three-stage least squares: Simultaneous estimation of simultaneous equations. Econometrica: Journal of the Econometric Society, 30(1), 54–78.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


We thank the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Germany for providing the financial support for this study under the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) project from 2014 to 2017. We would also like to specially thank Dr. Michael Phillips (Director, Aquaculture and Fisheries Science), Dr. Sven Genschick (Postdoc Fellow) from WorldFish Centre, Penang, Malaysia and Dr. Priyanka Parvathi (Postdoc Fellow) from the Institute of Development and Agricultural Economics, Hannover, Germany for their constructive comments on an earlier draft. We also thank Dr. K. A. Sayeed Murshid (Director General), Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, Dhaka, Bangladesh for logistic support during the survey. Special thanks to all enumerators who helped us collect the data for the household survey.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Hermann Waibel.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest regarding the manuscript.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Ahmed, B.N., Waibel, H. The role of homestead fish ponds for household nutrition security in Bangladesh. Food Sec. 11, 835–854 (2019).

Download citation


  • Aquaculture
  • Nutrition security
  • Agriculture household model
  • Two stages least squares
  • Simultaneous equations model
  • Developing country