Mud crab farming – An adaptation strategy

The coastal villages of Odisha are vulnerable to natural disasters occurring due to climate change. The livelihoods of the local people, particularly those working in the agriculture and allied sectors, are severely affected. The villagers in the coast line of Rajnagar block of Kendrapada district of Odisha with the guidance of DHARA and IGSSS are taking up ‘mud crab farming’ as  an alternative livelihood option in the context of climate change and disaster risks.

Fluctuations in local climate adversely affect the day to day livelihood practices of the families, living very close to the Bay of Bengal. Dependence on agriculture and fishing in tidal creeks and sea mouth region has been increasingly uncertain due to changes and uncertainties in the local climate. Loss of production and income have become  regular features. This has rendered single source of livelihood very vulnerable. Developing and facilitating alternative sources of livelihood within the given situation of changing climate is the need of the hour. DHARA (Socio-Eco-Cultural Research & Communication Syndicate), with the facilitation from Indo Global Social Service Society (IGSSS), has promoted farming of mud crabs in small bamboo cages in the brackish/saline water bodies close to homestead with five marginalized families.

As part of typical feature of the coastal area, brackish surface water bodies are available close to homesteads. Fresh water bodies also temporarily become brackish due to sea surge during storm/cyclone, which is a regular phenomenon in the area. Brackish water is unsuitable for irrigation. These brackish/saline surface bodies are of little use except for the commercial prawn farmers.

Crabs being one of the major food items in the area and even non-coastal people are fond of it, its cultivation was considered as an alternative livelihood option.  Also, as mud crab is native to the mangroves and tidal creeks of the area, they can be grown organically. Mud crab cultivation in open water body requires big investment. Considering these factors, the team worked on the farming design and cost estimate in consultation with the community. The five needy families were identified by the community members on the basis of their socio-economic condition, occupation and interest. These fishermen were given intensive training too.

Table 1: Returns from mud crab farming

Cost (Rs.)
Initial Investment cost
Making of  Bamboo cage
Size:6’ x 4 x 2’.5 (5 piece bamboo, rope, takes 5 person days). Including transport cost.
Rs. 2685
Foreshape & basket (Chimuta, jhudi,)etc
Total initial investment
used for 3 years, 24 times
Investment for one batch
Crab ( without fat)-
150 gram to 180 gram/piece -8 kg @238/kg= Rs.1904
Feed Cost per 15 day
For 15 days – estimated- own
Labour Cost
about 15 minutes for feeding in morn- evening, cleaning left over if any/day x 15 days= say 1 day
Total Expenditure per batch
Total Returns
8 kg , sold @500/kg
Net returns per batch
Rs.4000 – Rs.2479 = Rs.1521 (one batch in 15 days)
Net returns per season
minimum 8 batches per season

To ensure that the crabs would not escape, bamboo cage was adopted with little investment. Also, there are artisans who can make them locally. During September end to March, the crabs of 150-180 grams weight without fat are released to the cage. They are fed with the left over trash fish for two weeks. In two weeks time, these crabs  develop substantial fat.

The average net income during the season per family ranged between Rs.3500 to Rs.4500 within a span of four months. In a season, these fishermen could earn more than Rs.12000 (see Table 1). This is a significant additional income for the marginal fishers who regularly suffer loss of income due to various climate extremes.

Krushna Chandra Sahu
Head Livelihood
Indo-Global Social Service Society – IGSSS
118, Garfa Main Road
West Bengal

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