Fish feed company Skretting, a subsidiary of Nutreco, has started a project to help improve the lives of thousands of poor families in Bangladesh through the development of small-scale integrated combinations of fish farming, chicken farming, and homestead gardening.
The Empowerment of the Poor through Integrated Agriculture (EPIA) project aims to reduce poverty in the Patuakali district in the southern delta region of Bangladesh by establishing 3,000 integrated family farms.
Hans Vink, general manager of Skretting North West Europe, is part of the Skretting/Nutreco team that will follow up the project. His role is to provide competence and guidance in the field of fish farming, while his colleagues from Nutreco will provide equivalent competence in the field of agriculture.
In December 2009 Vink visited the project together with colleagues from Nutreco. He said: “The purpose of our first visit was to get an idea of what the project will need to successfully develop the farms. We were already able to give some initial advice. In our visits to come we will be able to go into more depth.”
Approximately 200 farms are already established and have started gaining an income from this integrated agriculture.
Model farms have been created in order to convince other families to join the project and to accept a small loan (micro-credit) to build the poultry barn, buy the feed and the day-old chickens and fingerlings.
“By our standards these people have nothing. One experience that made an impression on me was meeting a woman whose only source of income was two brood hens. The birds lived in her bedroom and the eggs they hatched were her only future,” Vink said.
But Vink said he felt that people had hope for the future and were struggling to improve their lives rather than dwelling on the past.
“The scope for improvement through EPIA is tremendous. Rather simple and cheap measures, combined with training, improved farm management, guidance and the supply of some micro-credits will surely make a huge difference to the poor and marginalised households in this rural Patuakali population.
“It is a great experience that Nutreco and Skretting can contribute through EPIA to the welfare of these families in Bangladesh.”