Monday, 21 February 2011

From rice to crabs farming adapting to climate change in Bangladesh

In the South-West of the country, where swathes of farmland are submerged in salty water, many people have taken up crab farming after struggling to grow rice.
The financial returns are so good that some farmers are contemplating carrying on with crab-farming even if their land becomes suitable for growing rice and other crops one day.

Crabs farming is becoming the profession of unemployed farmers after their land was flooded by a tidal surge which followed Cyclone Aila in May 2009.

More than a year-and-a-half later, water still seeps in during high tide and floods acres of farmland, making it unsuitable for growing crops. Non-governmental organisation Brac, which has been helping with relief and rehabilitation work in the area in the aftermath of the cyclone is giving now giving to farmers money to buy small crabs, fatten them up and sell them back for export to countries such as Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore.
Some crabs can grow as heavy as 4kg and fetch up to $5 a piece. Each crab is allowed a maximum of 10g of fish daily, otherwise it will overeat. According to Dr Kabir, Brac's project's representative, the floodings ensure a  better economic return than land. One of the mai purpose of the project is to move people away from a relief mentality.

Furthermore, the environmental impact of crab-farming is limited, more than even rice production.
Once the embankments will be repaired, farmers will be able to flush out polluted water from their lands and prepare for crop production.
The healthy returns from crab farming have also helped overcome a social taboo by encouraging Muslim farmers to take up the practice. Traditionally it was limited only to members of the minority Hindu community, as many Muslims do not eat crabs for religious reasons and therefore see crab-farming as un-Islamic. Although crabs and lobsters are not specifically banned like pork, neither are they declared halal like chicken or beef - so most Muslims in Bangladesh just avoid them.

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