Helping Small Farmers boost income through Fish Rearing

Smallholder farmers make up 70 per cent of the population of many developing countries. With limited resources, they manage multiple activities in crop and animal production to spread risk and sustain their households. However, they are overlooked in public assistance programmes and services, which are often biased towards the bigger and better-organized farmers. Numerous smallholders have less influence on policy, poor access to support services and technical inputs.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many countries are putting in place unprecedented lockdown measures designed to contain its impact on public health. However, such measures are having significant impacts on other domains of human activity, including food and nutrition security, jobs, livelihoods, gender equality, and potential social unrest. Worries of food insecurity continued to rise. While staple cereal production and stocks are sufficient, the future availability and supply of fresh food including quality proteins were said to be more uncertain due to supply chain disruptions and perishability.

Considering the present COVID-19 situation, Smallholder Adaptive Farming and Biodiversity (SAFBIN) has provided an opportunity to realign program activities more appropriately in the context of COVID-19 situation. During the discussion with Smallholder farmer’s collectives (SHFC)s and Panchayati Raj Representatives (PRI), diversification of farm components was found to be one of the major focus to make small farm resilient while maintaining their production and thereby family food and nutritional security.

Dialogue has initiated with district-level stakeholders on the provision of different farm components where SHFC took the lead along with District Farmer’s forum representatives and PRI members. Concurrently, identification and selection of Ponds were jointly done by SHFC and PRI members. 16000 fingerlings (12000 fingerlings from Sagar and 4000 fingerlings from Vidisha) were mobilised from respective District Fishery Department and provided to three smallholder farmers collectives for fish rearing.

“This could not have been possible without the support, service, technical help and motivation from the SAFBIN team. Though I am involved in SAFBIN and a lead farmer, I was not confident about the management practices but Caritas India and Manav Vikas has made it possible for our SHFC through SAFBIN,” says Ramdayal Khuswaha of Vidisha.

SHFC took efforts to renovate the ponds. Since the pond is one of the major components in agriculture considered as a permanent asset, provide a number of benefits like helping smallholders to save water, used for irrigation, livestock drinking, fish farming etc. This can have a positive effect on family nutrition, making crop and livestock production less risky and allowing families to have more farm products to consume.

Fish can also add another important ‘nutrient’ in the family diet. Since fish is an important source of protein can help alleviates protein deficiency contributing to improved growth in children and helps them in their learning abilities, fosters better health in the family. Although fish production in farm ponds may be limited but the readily available fish in small quantities allows families to easily catch a fish for a meal. Also, fish farming predominantly recognised as an important component of rural development strategies aimed to improve and diversify their food supply by generating more opportunity for market and thus family income.