Investigating Group-level Investment Decisions in Fish Feed

Project Summary
The importance of fish markets in Bangladesh has continued to grow in recent years.  Currently 3 percent of Bangladeshis (7 percent of total employment) work in the fishery sector, comprising of 6 percent of GDP (Bangladeshi National Resources Institute, 2005).  Studies show that aquaculture provides at least 43 percent higher income than a hectare of land under crop cultivation, thereby encouraging research to further increase aquaculture productivity (Hasan & Talukder, 2004).  Communally managed small-scale water-bodies (jalmahals) are therefore of increasing interest in Bangladesh.  Approximately 13,003 of these water-bodies are leased out for one to three years by the Bangladeshi government to community based fishery management projects that require active participation of fisherman in the management process (Mustafa & Brooks, 2009).  Anecdotal evidence suggests that some community groups are better than others at overcoming collective action problems inherent in maintaining common property resources such as a water body.

While in the past these water-bodies were traditionally sold to the highest bidder (local businessmen with access to the necessary funds but whom are most concerned with maximizing profit by paying fisherman low wages), the 1986 New Fishery Management Policy gave a preference to cooperatives made of “genuine” fisherman.  Under such tightly knit cooperatives financial risk and investment is equally shared, thereby encouraging combined effort and discouraging overuse.

This project will allow us to collect data from 400 communities in order to better understand why some of these collectively run fisheries are better managed, in order to determine where improved fish feed would have the greatest potential impact.  We expect that the information we gain will be applicable not just to the study of fisheries, but also to other situations where communities must work collectively to provide and maintain public goods, in the absence of government provision or enforcement of property rights. It is also significant because it will allow us to better understand the potential impacts of improved fish feed on fish farming in Bangladesh, to be used in a follow-up study.  That is, there is potential for newly developed fish feed to greatly improve fishing yields, and correspondingly, profits for fishermen, but this benefit will only accrue to water-bodies whose management is capable of solving the collective action issues needed to purchase feed and provide complimentary inputs. 

Research Partners:
Shikha Shastha Unnayan Karzakram (SHISUK)