Bangladeshi Survivors of Andaman Sea Crisis Find New Livelihoods in Hydroponic Farming

Migration and Development

Dhaka – IOM has established three large-scale vegetable farms equipped with hydroponic farming technologies to support the sustainable economic reintegration of a group of Bangladeshi migrants who returned home after the 2015 Andaman Sea crisis.

During the crisis, thousands of young Bangladeshis left the country by sea in search of better job opportunities in Malaysia. Many fell into the hands of traffickers and smugglers and suffered terrible exploitation and abuse. Eventually, IOM, in partnership with the Bangladeshi, Malaysian, Thai and Indonesian authorities, managed to help 2,813 of them to return home.

IOM then supported 200 returnees with psychosocial counselling and reintegration assistance, which led to the creation of a community-based social enterprise model called Returnees Economic Development (RED).

The hydroponic vegetable farms were established through RED and operate in a shared ownership business model, jointly owned by the returnees and a managing local entity. While the local partner organizations serve as a managing body, over 80 per cent of the shares are held by the returnees, giving them ownership and the stability needed to sustain the project in the long run.

“One particular issue returnees face is the lack of sustainable solutions that help them to become more resilient and self-dependent,” said Sharon Dimanche, IOM’s Deputy Chief of Mission in Bangladesh. “Through RED, these returnees are brought into a business cycle that increases their accountability and efficiency in the long run due to its unique structure.”

Hydroponics, which allow farmers to grow crops in greenhouses faster than traditional methods, without using soil or chemical fertilizers, is relatively new to Bangladesh. Each farm involved a capital investment of approximately USD 8,300 and is expected to break even within three to four years.

Despite efforts to promote safe, orderly, demand-driven migration, many poor Bangladeshis continue to opt for irregular land and sea routes. The reasons often include lack of information and exploitation by unscrupulous middlemen.

For more information please contact Chowdhury Asif Mahmud Bin Harun at IOM Bangladesh, Email:, Tel. +880 1755509476

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