Case StudySafbin

To promote Local Food And Nutritional Security through Adaptive Small scale
Farming in four rainfed AES in South Asia in the context of climate change

  • Bringing back snails and oysters – traditional food basket of the Santal

  •   | 
  • 02/03/2014

Bangladesh is a multicultural country in which 45 tribes of indigenous people live. The Santal is one of them who live in SAF-BIN project area. Sale Hasda (45), a poor farmer, also belongs to this group. He has a family of four that depends on the income of Hasda’s income as agricultural daily labourer. Close to his house, he owns a ditch nearby 0f 0.032 hectare.

During a meeting of the smallholder farmers collective (SHFC) of Shambati Village, initiated through SAF-Bin project, in April 2013 Sale Hasda remarked:

"Once, the tribal people of our locality depended on their traditional food baskets for food and nutrition. The open water bodies and the nearby bush were used for collection of different food items. Now there is no bush and open water bodies dry early.”

He was referring to a diverse food base consisting, among others, of snails, oysters, potatos, water lily, frogs and fish. The lower rainfall, a result of climate change, led to a loss of these traditional sources of food leading to a situation of food and nutritional insecurity. As Sale Hasda explained further, eating meat for him is an expensive, rare event only once every 3-4 months.

This opinion was shared by the other members of the SHFC. The SHFC members and SAF-BIN team proposed that Sale Hasda should collect some snails from nearby river Atrai, and other wetlands, and cultivate them in his ditch.

This was done in May 2013. Snails and oysters from the river were collected and introduced into the ditch. The experiment was observed rigorously.

"I have monitored the snails and oysters in my ditch regularly along with the other SHFC members and observed their growth and numbers”

In November 2013 Sale Hasda was able to collect 320kg of snails and oysters from his ditch. A profitable enterprise as the local price per kilogram, in 2013, was BDT 25 which ads to a total worth of BDT 8.000. From December 2013 onwards Sale Hasda is collecting on average 2-3kg snails and oysters weekly for home consumption and sale. This strategy has reduced the protein deficiency of his family. The family appreciates also the taste of these traditional foodstuffs. Sale Hasda could share some snails and oysters with neighbours but also sell surplus on the local market.

Following the successful example of Sale Hasda, three other farmers of the village have started their own ditch cultivation of snails and oysters. Through this action the farmers of Shambati village are contributing to the reintroduction of the traditional food basket of the indigenous community as well as ensuring food and nutritional security.

picture: The family of Sale Hasda enjoying snails and oysters (c) SAF-BIN/Carias Bangladesh