With extensive rivers and floodplains, over half of Bangladesh consists of wetlands which provide food and income for millions of rural households. The inland freshwater fish production of Bangladesh ranks third in the world. However, the rate of diminishing natural resources in Bangladesh is alarming.
Over the past thirty years, fishermen’s yields have decreased by forty percent due to disappearing water sources. Moreover, most existing wetlands are managed with a focus on maximizing short-term revenue, often resulting in over-fishing. The poorest populations are hit the hardest as their livelihoods depend heavily upon these natural resources throughout the country.
For five years, the U.S. Agency for International Development has worked together with fishers, local leaders and local government to conserve and rehabilitate aquatic habitats. The key to success has been the effective partnership between community resource management groups and local government. Together, they oversee long-term conservation of these precious resources and ensure that the revenue and food supply generated benefits the poor in these communities.
This community-level partnership has created more than seventy fish sanctuaries and established a no-fishing policy during the dry season to allow fish to repopulate. As a result, local fishermen have seen their yields increase by over one-hundred-fifty percent and generate more than ten million dollars worth of fish in 2005 alone. Greater production also means that poor people were able to eat fifty percent more fish. These conservation efforts have significantly impacted the savings accounts and food baskets of poor people in Bangladesh.
Many environmental problems respect no borders and threaten the health, prosperity and security of many nations, including the United States. Addressing these problems and achieving sustainable management of natural resources worldwide require the cooperation and commitment of all countries.