Diptimayee Nayak loves to eat fish. And, so do the other members of her six-member family, and most of the people living in Odisha (per capita fish consumption is 13.79kg/annum in Odisha, while the national average stands at 6.5 kgs per person). Though fishes like silver carp, grass carp, Tilapia, along with Rohu, Catla, and Mrigal along with and several other marine fishes are usually available in Kendujhar district, where Diptimayee lives, Odisha has remained dependent on its neighboring states for supply of fish.
The district of Kendujhar in Odisha receives more than adequate rainfall for fish farming. Besides, catering to irrigation needs expressed by smallholder famers, nearly 850 farm ponds have been constructed under various government programmes. Though the farm ponds have enough water for 7-11 months in a year, fingerlings of Rohu, Catla and Mrigal require large ponds with deep water for 12 months to attain a weight of a kilogram. Diptimayee had a farm pond where rearing big fish was never a possibility. On the other hand, fish rearing was always remunerative as an income of Rs. 150-160 per kg of Rohu or Catla was assured at the farm gates.
“Why can’t we start rearing small but delicious fish breeds like Tilapia and Paku in our farm ponds?” questioned Diptimayee in one of the SHG meetings. The idea clicked!
Diptimayee along with 66 other farmers of her block, in consultation with officials of District Fisheries Office, Kendujhar, planned for poly culture of the bigger fishes along with Paku and/or Tilapia. All the participating farmers started attending workshops on feed and water management, disease control and pond management skills.
Since June 2020, project LEAP by Walmart Foundation has facilitated farmers rear fishes in small farm ponds in both Patna and Banspal blocks. The objective here was to promote fish production in the farm ponds to ensure availability of fish up to 15kg per person for consumption every year, and an additional income of up to Rs. 10,000 for every fish-rearing family.
After a thorough water quality assessment, 88 farm ponds were selected from 52 villages for the pilot under project LEAP. Fifteen days prior to the delivery of the fingerlings, the farmers were advised to apply lime and one basket of cow dung to provide a healthy environment to the fishes. Each of the participating families received 40 kgs of fish feed from project LEAP.
“By growing paddy and vegetables on my 4.5 acre land, all I could manage to earn was Rs. 120,000 a year. This time, by selling the fish, see I have earned an additional Rs. 12,800 from my .05 acre farm pond! I had never thought that a day will come when all my family members will eat fish from my farm pond”, shares Diptimayee.
Patna and Banspal farmers have learnt that rearing Tilapia in farm ponds where water stays up to five months (Sept-February), yields better results and on an average each fish gains 400 gms in weight. These farmers have experienced that polyculture of Paku with the bigger fish varieties needs to be promoted in water bodies that retain water for 8-12 months. Analysis of production and sale data of 40 Kendujhar farmers reveals that on an investment of Rs. 1400 each of them earned Rs. 6300 on an average.
By promoting fishery in farm ponds through government programs, there are plans to ensure fish production to support consumption of 20 kg per head in each family every year, and generate an additional income of Rs 10,000 for the tribal families of both the blocks.
During 2021-22 fiscal year, 229 farmers have taken up fish rearing in their individual farm ponds and till now they have been able to grow 11.2 quintal of fish (bigger fishes and Paku) in the respective farm ponds. More financial resources have been mobilized with help from other partners to repeat the experiment of culture of Paku and/or Tilapia with Rohu, Catla, and Mrigal in another set of villages.
Edited by: Souparno Chatterjee, New Delhi