Aquaculture for Livelihoods, Nutrition and Women’s Empowerment

The production and consumption of fish, a nutritious source of food for around one billion people, is rising globally. The bulk of aquaculture still originates from small-scale farming in developing countries, such as Bangladesh. By providing low income and marginalized communities with livelihoods and food, aquaculture can contribute to several Sustainable Development Goals. Under this program, 3ie is conducting mixed methods evaluations and systematic reviews to generate evidence around interventions working with smallholder fish farmers, particularly women, to increase productivity and diversity of their aquaculture activities and promote maternal and child nutrition and women’s empowerment.


With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 3ie is building the evidence base to inform the effectiveness of aquacultural systems as a means to improve income, nutrition and women’s empowerment in low-income contexts. To do so, we are conducting an at-scale mixed methods evaluation to estimate the impacts of WorldFish’s Aquaculture project in Bangladesh on productivity, income, nutritional diversity and women’s empowerment and examine the processes and mechanisms that explain impacts. Read our registered evaluation protocol here.

To inform the broader aquaculture sector, we are systematically reviewing evidence on aquaculture interventions in low- and middle-income countries. Our systematic review, Aquaculture for improving productivity, income, nutrition and women's empowerment in low- and middle-income countries, examines the state of evidence on aquaculture in low- and middle-income countries, particularly on women’s empowerment and issues related to gender in aquaculture value chains. Read the registered review protocol here.

Fish consumption and production play an important role in the lives of people in Bangladesh. It is a rich source of protein and the primary livelihood for nearly 18 million people, of which approximately 1.4 million are women. In recent decades, Bangladesh’s farmed fish market has increased by 25 times and the number of actors involved has tripled. This dramatic growth has taken place despite considerable challenges such as inequitable access to inputs and limited roles in production decisions for women farmers. 

WorldFish and its partners are working with smallholder fish farmers, particularly women, to increase the productivity and diversity of their aquaculture activities while promoting maternal and child nutrition and women’s economic empowerment. 3ie, with colleagues from the University of Greenwich and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, is conducting process and impact evaluation to assess the effectiveness of WorldFish’s interventions. Please watch out for the baseline report coming soon.

Systematic review | Aquaculture for improving productivity, income, nutrition and women's empowerment in low- and middle-income countries

After systematically screening 12,000 records from 27 academic databases and grey literature sources and including 21 impact evaluations covering 13 aquaculture programs in six countries, the review found that aquaculture interventions improve productivity and income for fish farmers in most contexts. The review emphasizes the need for more rigorous measurement of impact, particularly on nutrition and women’s empowerment outcomes. The review report is published here and you can find an overview of the findings in this brief and at this blog.

Practical lessons in process evaluations: The Evaluation Of An Aquaculture Project In Bangladesh

This presentation at the European Evaluation Society conference 2022 is on a paper based on a qualitative process evaluation that is layered with an experimental impact evaluation of an aquacultural value chain development project in Bangladesh. The project aims to improve farmers’ incomes, local entrepreneurship and household nutritional outcomes by implementing a number of market-based productivity-enhancing, entrepreneurial training and nutritional behaviour change communications interventions.