The women of Patharghata in Barguna district have become self-reliant through crab cultivation.
Though Patharghata is known as a “kingdom of fish” in the coastal belt, the upazila is now a famous hub for the crabs.
The number of crab farmers is increasing day by day as the crab cultivation is more profitable than fish and paddy.
According to the commerce ministry, 43,000 women of the coastal region will be made self-reliant by providing training and support for marketing their goods. The Tk 2.77 billion project has been undertaken in August last.
In the last few years, 5,000 to 6,000 metric tons of crab were exported to Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong and China. The contributions of crab among the products which are playing an important role in Bangladesh’s export income are surging. From the economic outlook, among the exported fish resources, crab remains in the second place after shrimp.
Though the exact quantity of the crab now being cultivated in the country could not be determined, foreign currencies equivalent to Tk 0.25 billion are being earned annually from crab export.
Crabs based on the species remain alive in both sweet and saline water. However, sweet water crabs become small and saline water crabs become big in size. Of the total 15 species of crabs available in the country, four are sweet water crabs and 11 are saline water or sea crabs. Madcrab is the most important crab commercially and it becomes the biggest in size in comparison to other species.
The coastal women are being imparted different types of training like crab, vegetables and sesame farming and raising salinity tolerant nursery to help earn their livelihood.
Sudeepa Barman, 33, a habitant of West Kathaltali village under Kathaltali union of Patharghata upazila, spends most of her time of the day by catching crabs.
The mother of two children said they have become interested in crab farming as it is more profitable than cultivation of fish and paddy. A group of 30 people catches small crabs from rivers and canals from dawn to dusk every day and Sudeepa is included some time in the team.
The farmers buy a baby crab at Tk 10 and sell it at Tk 250 after keeping it at a pond or gher (enclosure) for three months. Tk 45 is spent for rearing every crab.
Crabs could be sold thrice a year and a farmer earns Tk 250,000 to Tk 300,000 each time by selling crabs. Six people of Sudeepa’s area set up a gher together and they cultivate crabs in half saline water and sweet water.
There are 150 farmers in Patharghata who are engaged in crab farming and fattening in advanced method and their main source of income is now crab cultivation. Palli Karma Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) and local non-government organisation Sangram are providing technical support to them.
After visiting different villages of Patharghata, it was seen that crab farming is very popular among the womenfolk. Two reasons are working behind this - firstly it is economically viable and secondly crabs could be gotten as a food within reach.
Local farmers said they used to cultivate paddy in the paddy season few years back. Before the super cyclone Sidr, the farmers of the region used to cultivate single crop, but after the cyclone they cultivate crabs on double-cropped lands.
Crabs are being cultivated in vast areas of the region. Thinking about crab cultivation was a far distance matter for the people of this region, even they did not hear it. But now they are attracted to crab farming.
Ninety per cent of total crabs that are gotten from natural sources and through cultivation are exported to different countries and its lion share comes from Patharghata. Usually crabs with both hard and soft shell are exported. But 95 per cent exported crabs are with hard shell.
Crab farmer Ridhi Rani said they are earning livelihood through cultivating the crab. “We’re engaged in crab farming and business for five years,” she said.
She continued on saying: “I and my husband are cultivating crabs on one acre of land, but the middlemen are being benefited more as we cannot market it directly.”
A number of crab farmers said the quantity of crab farming will be increased further if they get easy term loan from the banks.
Non-government organisation Sangram’s value change facilitator Giyas Uddin said there are 150 crab farmers in Patharghata upazila. “We’re giving various advices to the farmers alongside the technical support and providing loan at low interest rate,” he said.
Giyas Uddin added: “The aim of our project is to bring 1,000 people under the crab cultivation.”