Community Based Fisheries

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Our inclusive fisheries livelihood model is being carried out for PACS in the the Palamu district of Jharkhand by the WASSAN Foundation and Vikas Seva Kendra (VSK). It focuses on working with 4000 socially excluded households from Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities, to help them to earn a sustainable income from the fisheries industry.

Project summary

This model involves:

Project context

Fish is a popular protein but in Jharkhand where this project is being implemented, nearly 70% of water bodies are not being managed effectively. Therefore, despite having large freshwater resources, the population depend on importing fish from neighbouring states like West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh.

The present fish production in Jharkhand it is 72000 metric tonnes. However total demand is more than 5 lakh. In addition, current fish seed requirement in Jharkhand is 600 million but availability is only 350 million. There is therefore a high demand, both for fish seed (for fish farmers) and for fish to eat.

Developing fisheries in small water bodies offers immense scope for livelihoods generation in the project area, establishing an important source of income and employment for socially excluded communities.

Local production and consumption of fish

Fish is a perishable resource and the focus for this model is therefore on local sales and local markets.

Fish farmers are supported to organise themselves into block-level Fish Producer Organisations (FPOs). From each community, two local fish producers are identified as Community Resource Persons (CRPs). In addition, two producers from each block are trained as Technical Resource Persons (TRPs).

The CRPs and TRPs are taught about the science of fish production including information about fish growth, nutrition and water management. The CRPs, like Prakash, provide technical support and advice to fish farmers like Bindal at a community level. The TRPs, like Bidhya, are also responsible for running the FPO and are in charge of developing and maintaining relationships with local governments, the Fisheries Department and the Central Inland Fisheries Agency.

In order to increase consumption, the FPO is responsible for promoting and encouraging the local community to buy fish from their members. As Ashrita Tirkey - Project Manager for the model - explains: "We have a dedicated team that uses posters, songs and other means of communication to spread awareness about fish and its nutritional value."

Fish producers are taught how to store, grade and transport their fish to market, thereby increasing the sale value of their fish.

Back end service delivery

In addition to the support provided to fish producers, the project also involves developing people from socially excluded groups to provide back end services to support the fish farming industry. Back end service providers, like Prem, Sunita and Manoj, are trained in developing fish-hatchery units, rearing fingerlings and yearlings (young fish), producing fish feed, or pond maintenance.

Fish sellers are also recruited from the local population to go door-to-door, selling fish directly to households.

As a result, all the stages of fish production - from egg hatching to fish selling – are carried out by socially excluded groups in the local area, benefitting many different households.

Community rights over common water bodies

Before fish production can start, the legal rights to existing water bodies have to be acquired. The FPO helps with this, providing support, advice and linking up producers to related government schemes.

For example, local people can be employed under the MGNREGA employment scheme to build new fish ponds or repair existing water bodies. In addition, funding for water bodies can be accessed through watershed development programmes and fishing equipment can be accessed through the Fisheries Department.

GIS water body mapping

An important part of the project involves mapping all community water bodies in the project area using Geographic Information System (GIS) technology.

CRPs are trained to use a mobile application to input data about the water bodies on a regular basis. Data collected includes the size of the water body, its location, current use, pH levels, water source and seasonality.

Using the information received, WASSAN provides customised advice on the best way to manage each individual water body. Such specific water body management protocols will help with technical support, monitoring and, ultimately, output.

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