Day 10 1st December The Organic Shrimp Project What it does……..

Today, Friday, is a public holiday in Bangladesh in accordance with Islam. This gives me the time to share with you some information about the Organic Shrimp Project which I am investigating at the moment, and the principles of Organic Shrimp Aquaculture.

The Organic Shrimp Project – OSP
The Organic Shrimp Project is a significant smallholder project for organic shrimp production in the region of Satkhira in the southwest of Bangladesh. It was initiated in 2005 by the Swiss Import Promotion Programme (SIPPO) with the goal of promoting small and medium enterprises through the training, consulting and facilitating trade, and implemented in partnership with the local NGO Shushilan. When in 2007 the focus of SIPPO shifted towards Europe, Africa and Latin America, WAB Trading International (Asia) Ltd took over responsibility and management of the project. Now by December 2012 1831 shrimp farmers are certified organic as per EU organic regulations, with this certification underwritten by the private German organic farmers association ‘Naturland,’ and monitored by an independent third-party body called ‘IMO Control CH’.

According to the regulations for organic shrimp farming, several criteria have to be fulfilled (see Organic Farming below). The project is organised with an Internal Control System (ICS), comprising of a quality management procedure, training and inspection undertaken by 47 staff members (though along the whole value chain, total of 250 persons are employed) to ensure both compliance with organic regulations and the quality of the product. One key aspect is to provide traceability. Every farmer who wants to join the OSP must sign a contract and be registered, to evaluate the actual status of the farm. Every pond is registered in a GPS system together with information on its important features. Following this, the farmer receives training on the following topics:

1. general issues of organic shrimp farming

2. pre-stocking management, how to prepare a shrimp pond organically

3. stocking management, compost preparation, Bokashi preparation (another type of compost)

4. the post-harvest and treatment management, such as how to ice the shrimp to obtain best quality

At least once a year every farmer is evaluated on a broad variety of issues and there are all sorts of quality tests (internal inspection). After the first approval of the farmer as “organic”, he receives his own OSP Identification Card and can sell to the collection centres in the way I have described earlier. Moreover, the project raises awareness on social issues like the worker rights and gender issues through additional workshops and other activities.

OSP head office in Kaliganj; southwest Bangladesh

Field monitoring staff

What does Organic Shrimp Farming mean?
Organic Shrimp Farming is an approach to aquaculture that follows the criteria of EU and other organic regulations, to minimise any adverse effects on the environment. This means: (i) the protection of adjacent ecosystems; (ii) a prohibition on the use of chemicals; (iii) natural treatment in the case of disease; (iv) employing only natural and necessary inputs; and (v) the prohibition of genetically modified organisms. It also requires an extensive culture technique with a low stocking density (max 15 larvae/m2). Organic shrimp farming does not allow the use of any chemical treatment (such as fertiliser, pesticides or antibiotics), or wild caught PL (post larvae) for stocking, and if feed is used it must be organic certified as well. In the context of Bangladesh and the OSP, no artificial feed is used at all. The shrimp nourish themselves on natural food. The OSP supports the farmers to prepare natural compost for the regular use in the shrimp farm to support the development of natural food. This allows the farmers to save on input-costs (like chemical fertilisers) but nearly achieve the same production per hectare. In this way it increases the farmers’ profits, while at the same time maintaining biodiversity. Moreover, 50-70% of the dikes surrounding the gher must be “greened” with natural vegetation. To ensure traceability the farmer needs detailed documentation about all inputs and outputs of his farm. In addition there are a lot more criteria regulating the organic value chain, from larvae to the processed product.

Farmers wife bringing the ID card and farmers record

Greening the dikes

Green Dikes – An impossible task?
Promoting vegetation in highly saline conditions can be very difficult. For this reason, many conventional shrimp farms resemble small deserts. However, it IS possible to promote some greenery, as a number of really good examples in the OSP show. Not only grass but also mangrove and neem trees can be grown along the dikes, as well as vegetables. To grow vegetables requires three years of preparation, but they can provide a good additional income as well as food for the family. The higher the salinity is, the more effort is needed to encourage vegetation to grow. A special task is to make farmers aware about the importance of dike greening to prevent erosion and that there is no negative impact for the shrimp. Within the frame of a development project supported by the German government (GIZ), the OSP is working in cooperation with Bangladesh Agriculture University to develop the most appropriate plantations for greening dikes. The greenery must be able to cope with salted water and protect the dikes. This knowledge will be passed not only to the OSP farmers, but also to other communities and the government of Bangladesh. The aim is to stabilize not only the dikes on the farms, but also the embankments, protecting land and people from flooding and other natural hazards. This presents a difficult, but not impossible task.

Mr. Aksya from the OSP on a dike which is still in the preparation for “greening”

‘The green miracle’; a shrimp farmer who now successfully grows vegetables along the dikes, with the help of his wife. They manage to earn an additional 2.000 taka (20 Euro) income, and provide fresh vegetables for the daily consumption of their family.

Photo © Loni Hensler