Production of soft-shell crab at the project in Munshiganj, Bangladesh, is expected to increase as the global market for the product grow over the next few years. And thanks to charitable organisation ADAMS it won’t just be investors who benefit when it does.
Story and photos by Tareq Abdullah/ADAMS
Tareq Abdullah, who coordinates the soft-shell crab project ADAMS (Association for Development Activity of Manifold Social Work), explains that the aim behind the initiative is to improve the standard of living for underprivileged communities.
‘We started our fieldwork in the last quarter of 2015’ Tareq explains. ‘At Munshiganj, the aim was to help the victims of two consecutive worst natural disasters in Bangladesh: Cyclone Sidr in 2007 and Cyclone Aila in 2009.
‘Although they somehow managed to come back to a regular life within a few years, they needed an opportunity to do something more and bring changes to their lives. So we focused on identifying and managing opportunities for these people.’
'By saving our valuable time and energy, MAF also has been a valuable part of our process. On behalf of all the members of ADAMS, we again say thank you!’ Tareq Abdullah
Capitalising on Crab
Munshiganj is located adjacent to two great natural resources, the Bay of Bengal and the Sundarbans forest, one of the largest mangrove forests in the world - so the idea of harnessing the resources people have available to them made good sense.
Understanding that the seafood from the mangrove and the bay has a good demand in the world market, ADAMS started to research and explored ways to they could capitalise on the natural resource and bring about benefit for the whole community.
In December 2015, ADAMs convinced a Japanese company and its local partner to invest in the development of a 30acre soft-shell crab farm and processing plant.
The setup was completed in 2017 and locals were employed and trained in Soft Shell Crab farming and processing techniques. Around 30 people are now employed in the project, a number that’s expected to double this year as demand increases.
22 years old Rina is a single mother with one child who came to work at the processing plant after she was abandoned by her husband. Well trained, independent and with a position in society Rina is now able to support her family.
Championing fishermen’s rights
And it isn’t just jobs that ADAMS are providing. They are also supporting and promoting the rights of other local fishermen and farmers engaged in the soft-shelled crab industry.
‘Under direct technical supervision of the Japanese company, local soft-shell crab farmers have been farming and selling their products to the company at current market price. We ensure that they get their payments at the right time and are also working to arrange a system so that they are financed from a government-supported bank.’
‘We are organizing a group of local fishermen who collect crabs from the mangrove forest under a cooperative society so that their rights and security are ensured. We are also working to arrange a system so that they are financed from a government-supported bank and at the same time their payments are assured.
Fresh water and sustainable infrastructure
Communities are benefiting from the long-term solutions ADAMs are putting in place including the excess drinking water that is produced.
‘Being located beside the sea, even the underground water is salty!’ Tareq explains. ‘People have to rely only on rainwater for drinking and other household activities. So, sweet drinking water is in big demand in the whole area.’
‘In the processing plant, we have set a water treatment plant to meet our requirement. However, besides meeting our requirements, we regularly help local people get free drinking water.’
In 2016, the dam for the protection of the riverbank where the Crab Farm and Processing Plant are now located was seriously damaged due to erosion caused by heavy tidal waves (around 250 ft).
There were fears that the dam might collapse and flood the whole area at any moment so ADAMs financed and repaired part of the dam and coordinated with the government authority and funded the rest of the repairs.
Shrimp and Sea Bass
In just one year, the product farmed and processed by these underprivileged locals has successfully qualified with microbiological test standards in Singapore, a key market for the delicacy. ‘Now we aim to export to other parts of the world’ Tareq explains.
There are more plans for expansion as the successful business model with soft-shelled crab is replicated with Black Tiger Shrimp and a Sea Bass hatchery and farm. If these projects go ahead, hundreds more local people will benefit – not least the children who will be able to attend the project’s school.
The ADAMS team and their investors regularly fly with MAF and Tareq extends his thanks. 'From ADAMS, we take this opportunity to convey our gratitude to the whole family of MAF, especially the Bangladesh team for their continuous support to ease our communication to our project site in such a remote place of Bangladesh.'
The alternatives to the short flight with MAF are an 11-hour journey by road or a flight and car journey combined.
Instead of spending long hours in travel Tareq is happy to report that ‘All our efforts are focused on creating opportunities and changing lives in the area. We are really happy to get MAF as part of our journey. We can't express how much their support means to us. By saving our valuable time and energy, MAF also has been a valuable part of our process. On behalf of all the members of ADAMS, we again say thank you!’
Munshiganj is adjacent to two great natural resources, the Bay of Bengal and the Sundarbans forest, one of the largest mangrove forests in the world - so the idea of harnessing the resources people have available to them makes good sense.