Food compensation

Published: 23 July 2020
Last edited: 05 August 2020

During seasonal fishing bans, the government distributes sacks of rice to a proportion (around 248,674) of affected households across 15 districts. The scheme was introduced in 2004, with the primary goal of reducing food insecurity and vulnerability, but it also provides an incentive for compliance with fishing regulations, by compensating for income foregone during fishing bans. Based on research led by the International Institute for Environment and Development in partnership with the Bangladesh government's Department of Fisheries, Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies, Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute and Bangladesh Agricultural University, the scheme has been expanded and redesigned to enhance its effectiveness as an economic incentive. Coverage of affected households has increased by more than seven times since the scheme began, and families now receive 40kg of rice per month for four months, as opposed to the initial 10kg for one to three months. Instances of rice misallocation have also been reduced through the introduction of ID cards for fishers.


Sustainable financing
Sustainable livelihoods
Scale of implementation
Phase of solution

Enabling factors

In order to incentivise compliance, compensation must be deemed appropriate and sufficient to offset or reduce the income foregone by abiding by seasonal fishing restrictions. It must be therefore be underpinned by rigorous socioeconomic research.


Success of the incentives also relies on social acceptability, and so activities to raise awareness and understanding of the need for sustainable fishing practices and the importance of compliance with the fishing restrictions are essential.

Lessons learned

The food compensation may have had some negative unintended consequences, including impacts on local rice prices, labour markets, and microfinance markets. Incentive schemes should always investigate and try to mitigate these unintended consequences.


There is also evidence that disproportionate benefits have been accrued by landowners, rather than the most vulnerable, landless fishing households with lowest income levels. This issue highlights the necessity for inclusive incentive schemes to use systematic and positive bias in favour of those most in need.


Similarly, local power structures have limited the impact of providing food compensation to fishing households. Reliance of fishers on middlemen for credit limits their ability to stop fishing during seasonal closures, because they are still bound to repay their debts.