Meet the Asia Regional Coordinator: Md. Gulam Hussain

Hussain at field visit

Md. Gulam Hussain, PhD

Tell us about your background and research-for-development interests.

I have a master’s degree in aquaculture and management and a PhD in fish genetics and biotechnology from the University of Stirling, Scotland, UK. My current primary research interest is to promote aquaculture and fisheries management systems to ensure food security, nutrition, and livelihood of the populations of Bangladesh and other low-income food-deficit countries in the Asia region that rely heavily on fish for animal protein and micronutrients.  

How does your background in aquaculture and fisheries in Bangladesh inform your approach at the Fish Innovation Lab?

My professional career of over 35 years can divided into three phases. During the first phase, I started my journey in 1978 as a young aquaculture researcher with a research station of the government Department of Fisheries in Bangladesh and worked there for three years. Immediately after that, I was appointed as a United Nations Volunteer (UNV) Fisheries and Aquaculture Specialist to work in Syria under the UNDP and worked for five years teaching fish breeding and aquaculture farming practices to Syrian fish farm managers and technicians.

The second phase of my professional career started after joining Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute (BFRI) as the Principal Scientist, subsequently promoted as the Chief Scientist. Later, I became the Director (Research and Planning) and Director (Admin.) and finally was appointed as the Director General of BFRI, an executive-level position I retired from in 2011. In my long professional career (1986 – 2011), I have the most remarkable and outstanding achievement of implementing as the Team Leader/Chief Technical Officer/Principal Investigator of a good number of government and donor-funded research projects financed by ACIAR, Australia; USAID; IDA, World Bank; and BOBLME, FAO/GEF. Along with my research teams, I successfully innovated a good number of adaptive and improved aquaculture technologies. A majority of those technologies were disseminated and transferred to support millions of resource-poor rural farmers for ensuring their food security, nutrition, and livelihood in Bangladesh. Additionally, I took many initiatives for capacity building of fish hatchery, nursery, and fish-farming staffs of public and private sectors and organized a good number of training programs, workshops, and seminars in Bangladesh.

The third phase of my career involves consultancy services with WorldFish, Bangladesh and South Asia and with an international NGO in Nigeria. I also am involved (2016 – 2018) as the Key Expert-Fisheries and Aquaculture with European Union – Bangladesh’s joint collaboration on the Blue Economy program under the government Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangladesh and implemented successfully the goal of the program in the formulation of a national vision and governance framework in the field of the blue economy, specifically marine aquaculture and coastal/marine fisheries resources development in the country. All of my background in aquaculture and fisheries inspires and attracts me to the three impact pathways and the themes and approaches of the Fish Innovation Lab, where I am presently responsible for coordination, monitoring, and technically advising research projects in Bangladesh and Cambodia supported by Fish Innovation Lab grants.

In your view, what are the most pressing challenges related to food and nutrition security worldwide and what are some ways we can overcome these challenges?

The most pressing challenges for us today to ensure food and nutrition security for the vulnerable populations of the food-deficit countries of the world, where fish will be the only cheap and reliable sources of animal protein, essential fatty acids, and micronutrients. Fish farming could also ensure income and livelihood security of those people. So research should be designed to maximize sustainable aquaculture and fisheries management systems of food-deficient countries.  

What do you wish other people knew about fish and/or food security?

I strongly wish that all people in a society should know and be aware about eating more fish, which have enough nutrition benefit to keep their health well and boost up the body immunity to fight against all type of diseases, including novel coronavirus we are currently experiencing as a pandemic. In this case, children, women and elderly members of a family should have access to fish regularly in their diet. It is worthy to mention that in Bangladesh, many NGOs are working to demonstrate to rural women how to get nutritional benefit for them as well as for their growing children by taking small fish curries using mola, kaski, punti, and batashi fish varieties.     

If you weren’t a fisheries and aquaculture expert, what other careers might you have pursued?

I would prefer to become a development leader or an agency chief to work with the international organizations. As you might have seen during the early phase of my professional career, I was a UN Volunteer under UNDP and worked five years in the field of my expertise at the grassroots level in Syria, a Mediterranean developing country. I could continue this work and join other such types of organizations like FAO, UNESCO, World Bank, etc.

What are your hobbies or activities outside of work?

My favorite hobbies are shooting photography, listening to instrumental and classical music, and walking in a park or beachside. Travelling to historical places and museums while travelling abroad is also my hobby.    

What is on your bucket list? (What do you hope to do, accomplish, see, experience, etc. in your lifetime that you haven’t yet?)

Presently in my bucket list is first as the Fish Innovation Lab Asia Regional Coordinator to be responsible at least three years for facilitating technical and logistics support in Bangladesh and Cambodia for implementation of research projects, organization of meetings, capacity building, etc. Meanwhile, I have initiated my private consultancy firm titled “Blue Aquaculture Consulting” where I’ll work in the near future to support my country and my people to build up sustainable fish farming as a source of good income and nutrition. Last in my bucket list, I have to write and publish two or three more textbooks based on my long experience on fisheries and aquaculture.     

If you would like to, tell us about your family, where you are from, and any personal details you would like to share.

I was born in a countryside of Mymensingh, Bangladesh. My father was a renowned homeopathic physician and mother was an ideal housewife. I am married, and my spouse is Habiba Akhter, a former English teacher in a kindergarten school. We have two boy children, Sazzad and Ali. Both have been educated and are serving in Sydney, Australia, and they are settled over there with the families.