Protecting ecosystems and livelihoods in Bangladesh

Bangladesh shifts towards more effective, equitable and sustainable approaches to safeguard hilsa fishing.

Article, 09 October 2014
Bangladeshi man stands next to a woman who is working on a sewing machine

Supporting alternative livelihoods, IIED and partners are helping the Bangladesh government to develop an effective, equitable and sustainable compensation scheme (Photo: Abdul Wahab)

IIED and partners are working with the government of Bangladesh to introduce payments for ecosystem services (PES) to encourage fishers to avoid overfishing the hilsa fish and raise awareness about the positive impact of sustainable use on their livelihoods.

The project builds on the government's Hilsa Fisheries Management Action Plan (HFMAP), which bans fishing in major hilsa spawning grounds and compensates affected households and communities.

Building trust 

In order for IIED and partners to be taken seriously by government officials, they needed to build trust. At a meeting in March 2013, IIED highlighted the government's successes and framed HFMAP's compensation as a PES approach. As a result they won the public officials' trust and were able to work with them to suggest a way of capturing comprehensive information across all areas of the hilsa fishing industry.

A multi-stakeholder workshop organised by IIED and partners brought together high-level officials, scientists, civil society leaders, fisher representatives, media and local and international NGOs. IIED found that this diverse group benefited from sharing views – fishers were able to air their concerns on administration and corruption and officials could better understand the impact of improvements to the scheme.

The project changed the government's perceptions.
– Abdul Wahab, PhD 
Bangladesh Agricultural University

Tri-country management 

IIED is working with the government of Bangladesh to set up a tri-country management system with India and Myanmar to explore joint management of the hilsa fishing industry.

IIED and partners plan to use the political will generated so far to develop an effective, equitable and sustainable PES project across all three countries to both protect the regional marine ecosystem and support the livelihoods of hilsa fishers.