Summary: This project, undertaken in collaboration with the Bangladesh Resource Center for Indigenous Knowledge (BARCIK)/Integrated Action Research and Development (IARD), a local NGO and Pr. Paul Sillitoe, an anthropologist at the University of Durham (United Kingdom), is about matching scientists’ interventions in fisheries and aquaculture work with locals’ needs and ideas. Its main aims are to explore, identify and document indigenous knowledge and practices relating to fisheries in Charan (a village in the Tangail district of Bangladesh); to analyze the collected data according to local people’s socio-economic positions; and to prepare policy recommendations for the application of such knowledge and practices in development initiatives. Preliminary results illustrate, amongst other things, significant discrepancies between the developers and local fishermen’s understanding and judgment of fish.
When scientists involved in development look at fish, they tend to look mainly at growth rate. The faster it grows, and the bigger it becomes, the better it is in terms of cost effectiveness and economic viability. From this perspective, it also makes more sense to raise fish in ponds rather than harvest them from open waters.
Preliminary project results show that local people do not like to eat the large introduced species. They consider the small fish from the open waters to be healthier (higher in vitamin content) and better tasting. In particular, as fish heads are considered highly nutritious, people prefer many small fish so that there are more heads to go around. Local people even express a willingness to pay more for the smaller fish.
Furthermore, development activity has attracted wealthy investors from outside the region who are increasingly taking control of the fishing industry. This has led to a diminishing demand for labor and a gradual appropriation of the trade that the local Hindus of low ‘jele’ caste had practiced for generations.
As a result there has been an increased out-migration of local fishermen, leaving their homes to join thousands of others to look for menial jobs in towns and other villages.