Production and Conservation of Cuchia in Hilly Area
Cuchia is a kind of fish usually grown in low, marshy lands in lakes, springs of the hills and in ditches and abandoned places, usually in shallow plain lands. It is a fish normally grown wildly.
This fish is not only popular to hilly poor and other people but also considered as delicious food by them. Due to the recent atmospheric and climatic changes, the ecosystems, water flow in marshy and low riverine areas are being affected in Bangladesh. The indiscriminate catching and consuming of cuchia by the local people has threatened its existence. In this background, for preserving and expansion of cuchia IDF, with assistance from PKSF, started a project entitled “Promoting Natural Production and Preservation of Cuchia through Creating Employment for the Rural Poor by Establishing Family Farms of Cuchia”.
The objectives of the project are to:
- Establish modern farms of cuchia in the homesteads of the farmers,
- Preserve and expand cuchia through adoption of technology and management practices,3.
- Meet the demands of food and nutrition,
- Increase earning of foreign exchange, and
- Create alternate employment for the rural poor.
Progress of Activities, 2020
- Area covered: The project is being implemented in 2 districts – Khagrachari and Bandarban. In these 2 districts, 7 upazilas are included as project sites. These are 4 upazi-las in Khagrachari district. These are Khagrachari sadar, Matiranga, Guimara and Mani-kchari upazilas; the other 3 upazilas are in Bandarban district. They are Sualock, Rajbila and Balaghata upazilas. In each upazila there is Branch office of IDF.
2. Background of the project: The project on Cuchia was approved in November 2018. As stated earlier the major objective of the project was to mobilize the farmers to establish family farms of Cuchia. It is to be noted here that since cuchia is grown wildly in marshy and abandoned lands in a traditional way, but is considered to be a delicious food. People living around such places, especially, the hilly people used to harvest them for consumption. In big markets of Khagrachari and Bandarban Cuchia is available for sale also. Growing Cuchia in family farm is seldom practiced or even perhaps not practiced at all. It is mentioned earlier that climate changes in the eco-system in Bangladesh and the indiscriminate catching of cuchia by the people posed a threat to its existence. In this context, the idea of developing family farms of cuchia is conceived to accelerate its natural breeding and production. The project concept is a challenging job.
3.Establishment of a Hatchery: The project activities started with the establishment of one Hatchery plant along with necessary accessories at Sualock upazila. The accessories of the hatchery consists of 1 tank with a ditch, 1 nursery tank, 1 nursery ditch, I overhead tank, I hatchery shed and other related establishments necessary for the Hatchery. The area of the hatchery farm is approximately 30 feet by 15 feet. The purpose of the hatchery is to multiply cuchia at a large scale. The stock of cuchia seedlings were collected from the fish sellers of the markets of Bandarban sadar.
4.Preparation of a 2-day training program: While establishing the Hatchery plant, the project management prepared a 2-day training program to be implemented for the farmers. The course contents consisted of theoretical discussions on importance, nutritional values and modern way of cultivating Cuchia for one day and practical sessions for the second day. The training course was implemented by the project officials. First day speakers consisted of project officials and the upazila Fisheries Officer. For the 2nd day practical sessions, the project management took preparatory actions. As cuchia farming was new and as the project areas were spread over in seven upazilas of two hill districts, it was difficult to organize the training program in a central venue. So the training venue was decided to be at the respective IDF Branch offices located at the upazilas levels. Therefore in each upazila one farmer was selected and provided with supports so that she could start ‘demo’ in her homestead that should serve as venue for practical sessions.
5. Selection of trainees: The project management prepared a small questionnaire and surveyed the project area villages to list the farmers interested in establishing family farms for cuchia cultivation. About 200 such women farmers were selected for training from all the seven areas. They were provided with training in batches. Twenty five women farmers were given training in one batch and altogether there were 8 batches accommodating 200 trainees. The venue of the training was the seven IDF Branch offices at the respective upazilas. Of 8 batches, 6 batches were given training in 6 upazilas while two batches were given training in one upazila at Sualock.
6.Implementation of the training: The 2-day training course was implemented by the project officials at the respective upazila levels. The venue of the first day’s training was at the respective upazila Branch office. The project officials and the Upazila Fisheries Officer used to take classes on the first day. The subjects covered were the importance of cuchia, its nutritive values and the modern way of cultivation of cuchia, The venue of the second day for practical classes was the house of the selected farmer who had developed a ‘demo’ on cuchia cultivation. The trainees were shown there the practical demonstration on cuchia cultivation practices. The farmer who had developed the ‘demo’ also served as a resource person. The training was of the non-residential type. The trainees used to turn up at the IDF branch office on the first day and on the farmer’s house on the second day. All trainees were females and turned up at the training venues regularly. Sometimes some of the husbands of the trainees also accompanied them. Of the 200 trainees, 100 were from Khagrachari district and other 100 farmers were from Bandarban district.
7.Selection of farmers for cuchia farming: Of the 200 trained farmers, 100 farmers were selected who showed interest in developing family farms of cuchia and were willing to adopt technologies for higher production. Of these 100 selected farmers, 50 were from Khagrachari district and another 50 farmers were from Bandarban district.
8.Supports provided to cuchia growers: Each selected farmer was provided with some supports of materials and inputs to start the cultivation of cuchia. In order to establish the ‘demo’ each farmer was provided with tripal, blue colored polythene pipes, bamboos etc. to prepare the tank and the ditch. Cash money was provided to buy cuchia from the local markets to start the cultivation. Supports were provided for preparing vermi-compost that serves as food for cuchia. It may be mentioned here that since cuchia is a wild fish, it is important to make its living place favorable for its growth and in the similar way it is important to supply its food that are available naturally as they do not usually take any artificial food. The project personnel were providing technological supports to the farmers throughout the year.
9.Observations: All 100 ‘demos’ established by the selected farmers had been running in good conditions. In the demo areas, in order to increase the farmers’ income, they were encouraged and supported to go for mixed farming. Therefore, along with cuchia, the fishes like Tilapia and cat fishes (shing, magur) and also carp fishes were cultivated in the tank. Moreover, they were advised to grow some fruits and vegetables around the ditch. For example, papaya plants were grown around and crops like water gourds, chalkumra etc were grown with the help of preparing macha over the tank. Apart from selected farmers, some neighboring farmers in some areas also started it at their own. The project management however is maintaining records for proper assessment based which the future actions could be taken.
10. Publicity and publications: The project management published a ‘poster’ on cuchia cultivation and circulated among the concerned people. In addition, a 3-page ‘folder’ introducing cuchia was also published for circulation among the concerned population. A book on different aspects of Cuchia cultivation is being written, to be published in the next year.