Putul Rani

“Before, we couldn’t find a fish. Now, we catch four to five fish daily”

Bangladesh

Putul Rani is a passionate advocate for conserving hilsa, the national fish of Bangladesh. She is the general secretary of a hilsa-conservation group (HCG) in the remote fishing village of Kalapara, Patuakhali in the south of the country.

“If the mother fish survive, we can save millions of hilsa for the next generation,” says Putul, whose family’s livelihood depends on fishing.

The 30-member group encourages community members to protect fragile hilsa stocks.

“We tell people not to catch the juvenile and mother fish because one mother fish can lay 2.2 to 2.3 million eggs, if they don’t get caught,” she explains.

The conservation group is one of many formed and supported by the USAID-funded Enhanced Coastal Fisheries in Bangladesh (ECOFISH) project (2014–2019). Before her involvement, Putul’s husband used to catch juvenile hilsa, related to the herring, despite the government’s annual fishing ban, usually during September and October.

Putul says she has since convinced her husband not to catch the young fish. Since the project began in 2015, Putul has noticed that fish catches have increased.

“Before, we spent all of our days in the river but we couldn’t find a fish. Now, we catch four to five fish daily.” 

To help fishers earn an income during the ban period, the project has trained HCG members in alternative income-generating activities. Putul farms tilapia and carp in their homestead pond and grows vegetables—including sweet potato, beans, radish and bitter gourd—for food and extra income.

“Fish and vegetable farming brings happiness to my life.”

This food hero plans to continue this approach, hoping to lift her family fully out of poverty while promoting sustainability in her country.

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