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Aquaculture, Poverty and Food Security

For over 40,000 years, humans have developed techniques to breed, rear and harvest animals in water environments. Today, the process is called aquaculture, but only until recently have researchers been able to find the link between aquaculture and poverty reduction.

In a recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal World Development, researchers looked at Bangladeshi fisheries in the period between 2000 and 2010 and found that the growth of aquaculture led to greater consumption among the extremely and moderately poor in Bangladesh.

The “expansion of commercial aquaculture has tended to stabilize or reduce the price of fish, which has become relatively more affordable as incomes have risen,” the study found.

In those ten years, Bangladesh saw a substantial reduction in poverty. Those living below the upper poverty line shrunk from 48.9 percent to 31.9 percent, and those living in extreme poverty decreased from 34.3 percent to 17.6 percent, according to the study. Rising wage rates during this time led to poverty reduction and the increased aquaculture production led to cheaper fish prices.

For Bangladesh, combating food insecurity and malnutrition is remarkably important. The country ranks poorly for food and nutrition security and malnutrition is estimated to cost the economy $1 billion annually. Changes in the supply and consumption of fish, the study argues, have “major public health implications.”

More and more households were able to afford the consumption of fish and the added nutritional value helped make households more food secure. Fish are an excellent source of protein, fatty acids and vital micronutrients that maintain and support health.

The success of Bangladeshi fisheries in alleviating poverty over the past decade brings greater attention to the role of aquaculture in helping the poor meet their nutritional needs. Farming fish efficiently means the cost of fish is cheaper and stable fish prices mean the poor are better able to meet their nutritional needs.

Advancing aquaculture techniques in low-income countries is important insofar as it can help the poor meet basic needs. Bangladesh has had tremendous success in recent years reducing the share of its citizens that live in poverty, but governments can learn from the country’s success by adopting policies that favor the expansion of capture fisheries to most effectively meet the needs of the poor.

– Joseph McAdams

Sources: Science Direct, Daily Link, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, World Fish Center
Photo: Banglabox