Opening the doors to markets and credit for poor fishers

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A guide to the analysis of fish marketing systems using a combination of sub-sector analysis and the sustainable livelihoods approach
Validated RNRRS Output. Home List by Audience List by Topic

Better information about how to sell their catches and where and how to borrow money is improving fishers’ livelihoods. When they know how market chains and fish distribution work they have better chances of getting good prices for their catches. It’s also very helpful for them to know where they can borrow money at reasonable rates. Participatory methods of collecting data have already proved useful in understanding markets and distribution chains for fish in Bangladesh. Governments not only in Bangladesh, but also in Cambodia and West Africa, and international development agencies are adopting these techniques to review and plan fisheries development. Fishing communities in South Asia, and East and West Africa stand to benefit particularly from better information on markets and credit.

Project Ref: PHF04:
Topic: 5. Rural Development Boosters: Improved Marketing, Processing & Storage
Lead Organisation: Natural Resources Institute (NRI), UK 
Source: Post Harvest Fisheries Programme


Current Situation
Environmental Impact


Research Programmes:

Post-Harvest Fisheries Research Programme.

In addition the Bangladesh based DFID project “Support for University Fisheries Education and Research Project” provided funding for studies carried out by the University of Chittagong, which fed into this project.

Relevant Research Projects:

R7969 Fish Distribution from Coastal Communities in Bangladesh: Market and Credit Access Issues
  • Mr Ulrich Kleih, (Contact:  Tel:  44 1634 883065, Ms Nicoliene Oudwater, Mr Ansen Ward, Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich, UK;
  • Dr Alam Khursid and Mr Rana Dastidar, Community Development Centre; Chittagong, Bangladesh;
  • Professors Mohammed Solaiman, Iftekhar Uddin Chowdhury, A.N.M Nurul Kareem, University of Chittagong, Bangladesh (all funded by the DFID Support for University Fisheries Education and Research Project).

Research Outputs, Problems and Solutions:

The project was commissioned in order to address the problem of how to generate and apply new knowledge to the utilisation for human consumption of fish from coastal fisheries in South Asia and coastal and inland fisheries in East and West Africa

In view of this, the following outputs have been produced:

  1. A practical method for generating new knowledge and understanding, integrating market and credit analysis techniques with a livelihoods approach in a post-harvest fisheries context.

As part of this output the following methodology has been published: 

U Kleih, P Greenhalgh, N Oudwater (2003), A Guide to the Analysis of Fish Marketing Systems Using a Combination of Sub-sector Analysis and the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach, Chatham, UK: Natural Resources Institute. ISBN 085954 522-0.

In addition to drawing on project R7969 in Bangladesh, the guide also uses elements of project “R7970  – Globalisation and Seafood Trade Legislation – The Impact on Poverty in India” as a case study. In addition to integrating sub-sector analysis with the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach in a post-harvest fisheries context, the guide provides practical examples of the use of both participatory and questionnaire type survey methods.

  1. An improved understanding of livelihoods in coastal fishing communities and the marine fish distribution system in Bangladesh, with emphasis on market and credit access issues.
  2. Policy recommendations, benefiting the poor in coastal fishing communities and the fish distribution chain in Bangladesh.

Amongst other things (b) and (c) led to the production of the following reports / publications:

Ulrich Kleih, Khursid Alam, Ranajit Dastidar, Utpal Dutta, Nicoliene Oudwater, and Ansen Ward (February 2003); Livelihoods in Coastal Fishing Communities, and the Marine Fish Marketing System of Bangladesh – Synthesis of Participatory Rural Appraisals in Six Villages, and Assessment of the Marketing System; NRI and CODEC.

Ulrich Kleih, Khursid Alam, Ranajit Dastidar, Utpal Dutta, Mohammed Solaiman, Iftekhar Uddin Chowdhury, A.N.M Nurul Kareem, and Ansen Ward (2002) Report of Consultation Workshops on “Fish Distribution from Coastal Communities – Market and Credit Access Issues”, 22 – 23 July 2002 in Chittagong, and 25 July 2002 in Dhaka. 

Types of Research Output:

Product Technology Service Process or Methodology Policy Other

Major Commodities Involved:

The output focussed on fisheries. Nonetheless, it could also be applied to other commodities such as crops, livestock and forestry products.

Production Systems:

Semi-Arid High potential Hillsides Forest-Agriculture Peri-urban Land water Tropical moist forest Cross-cutting

Farming Systems: 

Smallholder rainfed humid Irrigated Wetland rice based Smallholder rainfed highland Smallholder rainfed dry/cold Dualistic Coastal artisanal fishing

Potential for Added Value:

The aforementioned output “A Guide to the Analysis of Fish Marketing Systems Using a Combination of Sub-sector Analysis and the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach”, could benefit from a conceptual update including a section on Value Chain Analysis (e.g. Governance of value chains; distributional issues), and more case studies from other countries. Amongst others, the output can be clustered with the following outputs / projects:

R7970 Globalisation and Seafood Trade Legislation – The Impact on Poverty in India
R8111 Post-harvest Livelihoods Assessment Tool (PHLAT); Community Fisheries Development Office, Cambodia
R8286 Developing market information systems within the aquatic foods supply chain; University of Sterling
DFID projects covering similar grounds include the Support for University Fisheries Education and Research (SUFER) project in Bangladesh.
Wider, recent fisheries related initiatives by Governments, donor agencies (e.g. World Bank, FAO) and research organisations


How the outputs were validated:

Following a planning workshop, field work leading to the project outputs was carried out by the project partners including Natural Resources Institute, Community Development Centre (CODEC), and University of Chittagong.Both quantitative and participatory/qualitative survey techniques were employed to collect data on fishing communities’ market and credit access. The Sustainable Livelihoods Framework (SLA) combined with sub-sector analysis provided the overall framework for the studies.

Study findings were presented and validated at end-of-project workshops in Chittagong and Dhaka. The workshop participants included a wide range of stakeholders including members from the Government of Bangladesh, various NGOs, donor agencies, and Civil Society Organisations including representatives of fishing and trading communities.

In particular, the surveys and workshops stressed participatory methods to involve end-users / beneficiaries of the outputs in the decision making process.

Following completion of the project, the “Guide to the Analysis of Fish Marketing Systems Using a Combination of Sub-sector Analysis and the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach” was subsequently used for other surveys and policy research. In particular, the framework was used in the study “Fish Trade Liberalisation and Implications for Developing Countries”, which was commissioned by the FAO / SIFAR (Support Unit for International Fisheries and Aquatic Research) with funds from DFID and GTZ. This study included five country case studies in Bangladesh, India, Guinea, Uganda, and Vietnam, which were carried out by local researchers. The feed-back on the framework and approach was positive.

To some extent, elements of the Guide to the Analysis of Fish Marketing Systems were also validated through their recent use in a study entitled “Sustainability Impact Assessment of Proposed WTO Negotiations – The Fisheries Sector”, which was undertaken in association with the Impact Assessment Research Centre of the University of Manchester and funded by the European Commission. It assessed the impact of potential outcomes of the WTO Doha Round negotiations in the context of a causal chain analysis, looking at economic, environmental, social and governance impacts.

Where the Outputs were Validated:            

The outputs have been validated through survey work and workshops in Bangladesh in 2001 and 2002. The survey work was carried out in communities of five districts of the country (i.e. Chittagong, Cox’s Bazaar, Patuakhali, Bagerhat and Satkhira), whilst the workshops were undertaken in both Dhaka and Chittagong. Two workshops were organised in order to allow stakeholders from both cities to contribute to the project and validate its findings, including the methodology used.

The validation emphasised the livelihoods of poor members of coastal communities in the aforementioned districts of Bangladesh. Although the land-water interface is the main ‘production system’ covered by the research, its outputs, in particular the methodology resulting in the ‘Guide to the Analysis of Fish Marketing Systems Using a Combination of Sub-sector Analysis and the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach’ could also be applied in other production systems (e.g. agricultural, livestock, and forest based systems).

The methodology has subsequently also been validated through use in various projects (e.g. FAO/DFID/GTZ policy research on the implications of fish trade liberalisation; Sustainability Impact Assessment of WTO/Doha Round on the fisheries sector, which was carried out in association with the University of Manchester and funded by the European Commission).

Current Situation

Who are the Users?

For a start, the project findings and outputs have been disseminated and used by the Chittagong based NGO and project partner CODEC (Community Development Centre) in respect of preparing their draft Strategic Action Plan 2007-2011.

Some of the CODEC projects (e.g. “Integrated Development Initiatives for Coastal Children and Women” under Manusher Jonno Project and “SHOUHARDO Project” under CARE Bangladesh) have been prepared and are being implemented using the outputs of this DFID Project R7969.

Also, findings of the study related to the livelihood situation of coastal fisherfolk, and market and credit access have been used as secondary data for the study “Identification of Alternative Income and Employment Generation Activities for the Coastal Fisherfolks of Bangladesh”, which was commissioned by COFCON (Coastal Fisherfolk Network) with assistance of the Stromme Foundation-Norway and published in September 2003.

In addition, the project outputs have also been used for the Bangladesh Fisheries Sector Review, which was prepared by the Government of Bangladesh in collaboration with major donors (e.g. DFID, World Bank) in 2002. This fisheries sector review provided a guidance document for the years ahead. As a result, it would be expected that the project outputs are still indirectly in use through this initiative.

The guide to the analysis of fish marketing systems is still available on websites such as:; and

Therefore, it is expected that outputs are also used through these channels. For example, the guide has been used in 2005 by staff of an FAO project in West Africa.

Where the outputs have been used:

The NGO CODEC is using project findings for their project programming in coastal communities of Bangladesh. In addition, CODEC have disseminated project reports to a wide range of stakeholders in Bangladesh, including senior Government officials, NGOs, private sector, and donor agencies. A web search has revealed that project findings of R7969 have been used by different organisations for the preparation of documents or project activities (e.g. IFAD, FAO, Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project).

The University of Chittagong Marketing and Sociology Departments have initiated a series of smaller research projects including MSc theses, which partly built on outputs of this research project. These were funded by the DFID project “Support for University Fisheries Education and Research”.

Upon request, in 2005, project outputs have been sent to the Department of Economics, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, USA.

Also, the Department of Fisheries of the Government of Bangladesh is likely to use project findings which have fed into the aforementioned Fisheries Sector Review.

The Guide to the Analysis of Fish Marketing Systems has been disseminated widely by the PHFRP and is available through the web (i.e. globally) and as such being used in different parts of the world. For example, in the recent past it has been used in an FAO project in West Africa, and by the Department of Fisheries in Cambodia / Post-Harvest Fisheries Livelihoods Project. Also, it was used for case studies for the aforementioned projects, funded by DFID/GTZ and the European Commission.

Scale of Current Use:

In particular, the use of the project outputs was quickly established in Bangladesh (i.e. even before the project was completed).

Use of the output available on the web (i.e. A Guide to the Analysis of Fish Marketing Systems Using a Combination of Sub-sector Analysis and the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach) can be assumed to be still spreading.

Policy and Institutional Structures, and Key Components for Success:

Project partnerships involving champions of uptake (e.g. NGOs or Government departments) are important for the promotion and/or adoption of the outputs. For example, since 2004, CODEC development programmes have been formulated on selected issues (e.g. sea piracy, river erosion, women health and security, education, economic empowerment, entrepreneurship development, hardcore poor development), which were prioritized and adopted from the project output.

The fact that the Government of Bangladesh and donors undertook the Bangladesh Fisheries Sector Review provided a window of opportunity for uptake of project outputs.

Links by the researchers with other organisations (e.g. FAO) have helped promotion of outputs.

Lastly, the fact that PHFRP provided some extra-funds for dissemination of outputs once the original project was completed, proved beneficial for uptake. Often projects come to an end without giving researchers the opportunity to fully disseminate their findings and outputs.

Environmental Impact

Direct and Indirect Environmental Benefits:

The Guide to the Analysis of Fish Marketing Systems is based on the Livelihoods Approach and as such well placed to generate environmental benefits. This may include an analysis of environmental problems (e.g. declining marine fish stocks and environmental degradation in coastal areas), as well as awareness raising on these issues, as has happened in Bangladesh.

A revamped version of the guide would equally be expected to take into account environmental issues. As a consequence, dissemination and promotion of the output would be expected to create beneficial environmental impacts through environmentally sound policies or programmes.

Other outputs from R7969 include, amongst other things, sections dealing with environmental issues. Following an update, dissemination of this information should lead to positive environmental impacts in Bangladesh.

Adverse Environmental Impacts:

No adverse environmental impacts are expected in relation to this output.

Coping with the Effects of Climate Change, or Risk from Natural Disasters:

Uptake of the output is expected to increase poor people’s capacity to cope with the effects of climate change. Fishing communities are often located in low-lying areas which are particularly prone to natural disasters such as flooding or cyclones (e.g. Bangladesh). 

The project output allows a better understanding of the environmental problems and related livelihoods issues. Use of this information by organisations working with poor people in coastal communities should enhance their capacity to cope with the effects of climate change.

Relevant Research Projects, with links to the
Research for Development (R4D) web site
and Technical Reports:

R4D Project Title Technical Report
R7969 Fish distribution from coastal communities – market and credit access issues
R7970 Globalisation and seafood trade legislation: the effect on poverty in India
R8111 Poverty and Post-Harvest Fish Utilisation in Ghana
  • The Post-Harvest Fisheries Sector in the Global Context
R8286 Impact of production and marketing of freshwater aquatic products on rural livelihoods