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Fish farming in Bangladesh; cage aquaculture

Over the next few months I am working for CHALLENGES WORLDWIDE contracted to BIF to assist development of an entrepreneur driven fish farming industry in the south of Bangladesh.

This project aims in the first year to engage 100 landless families under extreme poverty living on the banks of the Andhamanik River near the southern coast of Bangladesh in cage culture of Tilapia (Figure1). Full support on a business basis and without grant aid will be available to beneficiaries including training in cage construction and fish husbandry, disease recognition, marketing and credit planning. Credit will be supplied for each participant to run a 10-cage farm with a capital pay back arrangement.

The project’s business model aims to encourage entrepreneurship and it is expected that the numbers of people involved will expand exponentially for the first few years; new people will try the scheme, new fish species will be farmed and new markets will be sought out.

This project will empower extremely poor landless families to commercially produce fish from waters released by the Bangladesh Government under licence for cage farming.

David Rogers, Professor of Freshwater Biology, Derby University link:  

David Rogers Associates Company website link:

Views: 3141

Tags: agriculture and food, bangladesh, bif, farmers, shiblee

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Comment by David Rogers on March 21, 2012 at 18:07

Hi Shiblee,

Thanks for the comment and I agree that the Tilapia cage culture project fits in well with Ashoka aims. We have been getting on with the management and business plans back here in the UK and I hope to make a second visit 16-30 April; look forward to seeing you then.

All the best,


Comment by Mostafa Shiblee on March 21, 2012 at 17:25
Dear David, Thank you for the post on cage aquaculture project. I was talking to an Ashoka Fellow from Bangladesh, Mohammad Zakaria, working on climate proof livelihood,  today and later wrote to him the following:

I have piloted 'cage culture fisheries' and 'crab fattening in cages' as two most potential options in order to deal with ever eroding land in the coastal area of Bangladesh. In 2007 when the super cyclone 'SIDR' destroyed one of my best farms located in Kuakata, i had to look for sustainable option that wouldn't destroy my livelihood so easily.

With ever decreasing land in the southern Bangladesh, where cyclones and sea level rise is a tangible phenomenon, moving in to water is one good way to fight increasing water! So i chose to move into water with my farm and try fish farming in a different way. 'Cage culture fisheries' by then has been a well tested technology and so was 'crab fattening in the cages'.

I tried tilapia in cages in 2009 and later crab in 2012 and both have been successful. I have also offered hands on training to a small number of unemployed rural youths and every one became interested to take up cage culture fisheries as a livelihood.

Now, i have been negotiating with a number of Bangladeshi banks to help me start a contract farming involving coastal area youths since last few months. Unfortunately there hasn't been any luck yet. Banks do not have the mechanism to finance small farming enterprises without immovable security or collateral.

Many NGOs receive funds and start wonderful livelihood projects in all over Bangladesh involving poor people or farmers. Training, technology transfer, market linkages; all happen one after another followed by glossy reports. But once the project is over, most, if not all, cease to exist. There was one missing link; involvement of a for profit private sector business.

My small experience of running a farm & a hatchery having focus on fresh water prawn in the south and working with local, international organizations, donors etc suggests, no livelihood project will be sustainable until businesses are involved.

I know one day my dream of running a large contract farming project on cage culture fisheries involving my ultra poor neighbors will come true which will offer solid and sustainable income to them as well as a wonderful example to others for adaptation.

Wish me luck, my mentor!


Mostafa Shiblee

Ashoka Fellow


Managing Director

Shiblee Hatchery & Farms Ltd.


Cell: 88-01711-544777, email:
Comment by Caroline Ashley, Editor on March 16, 2012 at 10:34

Thanks for this David.   When I met you and Mr Shiblee, the entrepreneur behind Shiblee Hatcheries, I was struck by a couple of things in this model.  The first is that it is essentially 'contract farming' - but not for maize, cotton or fruit as is common, but for fish.   The lead business provides the necessary inputs, including training, access to capital and fishlings (rather than seed, as in the conventional model), and a guaranteed market for output.  That is the way to get it going. But as we discussed, it may shift over time from a contract-farming model to an entrepreneurial or franchisee model.  That will be a fascinating transition.

Secondly, I was struck by the focus on product quality, and how this is a core driver of success.  Because these tilapia will be reared in river water not farmed in lakes, Mr Shiblee is confident they will taste better.  That will help drive price and market, making the model viable.   So while there is plenty of innovation in how the business engages with producers, there is also innovation in the technology (fish farming in different type of water, which Shiblee has already tested) and innovation via product quality improvement (which is exactly the high-end fish market that Shiblee Hatcheries is expanding).  Innovation at each level supports the other.    

Good luck to you and Mr Shiblee in this exciting project.


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