Nelly Bassily | November 15, 2010
Mrs. Golapi Biswas wears the colourful local costume of the southern Gopalganj region of Bangladesh. The red paste symbol of her religion marks her forehead, with another in her hair. Wearing traditional necklaces, she smiles to greet her guests. Today, she is welcoming visitors from all over the world who are visiting on a media exchange program.
Mrs. Biswas used to grow rice, like most Bangladeshi farmers. But this was only subsistence farming. She wanted more: “I wanted a farming project which I could do on my small piece of land, which would earn good money.”
She shows the guests her integrated chicken and fish farming project. She explains, “Because there is a lot of water in Bangladesh, it is important to think about farming which will value this water.”
This logic led Mrs. Biswas to consider fish farming. She thought about integrating fish and chicken farming: “It is my own idea to combine fish and chicken because I thought they will feed each other.”
Fish need nutrients. And they can get these nutrients from chicken waste. Mrs. Biswas has applied this idea and it works. The chicken house is built above the fish pool. Organic waste from the chickens falls into the pool. Mrs. Biswas does not need to spend much on fish food.
Hiller Bugabo is an engineer on a project designed to promote fish production. He confirms, “This combination is very important.” He says that chicken waste has a higher level of nutrients than waste produced by other animals. Mr. Bugabo explains that the fish feed on micro-organisms which are found in the waste. This is why combining fish with chickens or rabbits is very effective.
Mr. Bugabo explains that chickens do not like humidity. He adds that it is very important to build the chicken house at least half a metre above the fish pond, so that it’s not too humid for the chickens.
Mrs. Biswas has worked hard. And it shows. Her chickens look healthy. She is one of a group of 25 women who are taking part in a loan project. She joined in 2005. She says, “When I heard about this loan project, I thought about farming and I joined.” Each woman receives a loan for small projects. They pay back the loan at an interest rate of 5%.
Before joining the project, Mrs. Biswas was earning around two American dollars a month. Few women in Bangladesh work outside the home. So they make very little money, if any. But now Mrs. Biswas earns between 3,000 and 4,000 American dollars a year from selling chicken and fish.
She keeps between 300 and 700 chickens, all of them in combination with fish. The chicken house is built with local materials and divided into rooms. She feeds her chickens on grass and cereal seeds. She employs two people.
Mrs. Biswas has plans to extend her project. She intends to build another pool, and increase the number of chickens. Her husband, Sushen Biswas, is pleased with his wife’s project, saying, “She has dared to work and now she helps me to pay school fees for our two children. Our family is respected.”