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MGNREGA leading to fishery as a sustainable livelihood option

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“Chakbhraman ke samay dabri dhan bachaye bar banaye rahein, par dabri banaye ke double fayda hois, barish tode ke samay pani ghala palaye han or ae saal machli ghala bore han” – (During planning, I decided to go for farm pond for life-saving irrigation, but now it is serving two purposes, along with irrigation I am rearing fish also in the same pond) –Phulbasan Mandavi, Shriguhan.

Phulbasan Mandavi stays in Shriguhan village of Narharpur block of Chhattisgarh with her husband and a child. She constructed a farm pond in a 13 decimal area of her lowland in the year 2019-20. In 2018, under Mega Watershed Project, PRADAN oriented and facilitated community members in-situ soil and water conservation based on the watershed approach. Phulbasan being an active member in a community institution in her village took the lead, and she herself planned for two farm ponds in her upland and lowland. Her work got sanctioned last year with the support of MGNREGA Cell and she got her work completed in the last financial year. This Kharif, her family is rearing fish in the pond expecting that water will retain more than 10 months being it in the lowland. Fish rearing will not only add income but also a great source of essential nutrients in her diet.

SHG members engaged in Fishery!

In Narharpur block, according to the National Family Health Survey 2015-16, more than 60 percent of the population is malnourished and 70 percent of the women are anemic. Fish rearing in MGNREGA ponds is a great opportunity for such families to enhance income and nutritional sufficiency. Fish is accepted produce in the local, is already present in the local food cuisine, and remains in demand throughout the year.

This is the story of Phulbasan, but she is not the only one in the block. This year, PRADAN encouraged and supported 800 families to explore fish as an additional source of food and livelihood. These families included all those whose ponds got constructed under Mega Watershed Project and MGNREGA.

Last year, with technical guidance from the fishery department many training, have been conducted at the community level. Two exposures of PRI members and villagers have been organized with support from the department to Pakhanjur, an area where farmers are well established in fish cultivation. Training and exposure were conducted with the objective to capacitate farmers around the best practices in fish rearing.

Covid-19 and lockdown have hampered the process of planning as the mobility and social gathering was strictly restricted. However, training and planning through household visits by community cadres could mobilize a community contribution of 11.3 lakh rupees for fingerling procurements as per the size of the pond. PRADAN explored several hatcheries and vendors for quality seed procurement and also supported farmers for collective procurement of fingerlings for their pond. Amidst lockdown and pandemic, the community, with the support of PRADAN successfully procured 20 quintals of quality seeds. Training is ongoing to ensure timely liming, fertilization, medication, netting, and feed management in the pond for better growth of fish.

PRADAN is also supporting farmers in pH and plankton tests in the pond water so that appropriate measures can be taken to make it more suitable for fish growth. But the next year, an additional income of Rs. 10,000-15,000 is expected from each pond along with an increase in consumption at the household level.

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