Integrated Fish Farming - better farming practices for better lives | Milaap

Integrated Fish Farming - better farming practices for better lives

It was when in my six months of fellowship with Milaap, I happened to travel to Odisha and work with one of the best NGOs in the country "Gram Utthan". After joining and a month of cooling off period I was really close to the people here and became a part of their work family. Seeing the groundwork done by Gram Utthan, gave me a proud feeling indeed being associated with them. The institution had executed many great projects that had changed millions of lives in and around Odisha. One such success story of Gram Utthan was on Integrated Fish Farming or simply IFF.

The name IFF fascinated me. The term says a lot about the program saying something good to do with fish farming. Still, it hides a lot of facts. Multiple questions started popping up as to what does a fish farming mean? What is integrated into it? How can this help in changing the lives of the villagers? Why is this a success story as defined by Gram Utthan. I had to delve deep into the subject.

India is one of the pioneer countries when it comes to fishing. Inland fishing in India accounts for almost 70% of its production. Major sources being lakes, ponds, rivers etc. Odisha too is a top producer when it comes to fishes. Odisha being a coastal state has one of the highest potentials in IFF. If the farmers are made aware to tap into this resource in the right scientific manner, it could impact a lot of lives increasing their incomes and uplift their lives. Gram Utthan just did that thing of enabling fish farming farmers and saw a tremendous success.

Fish farming as a whole is the process of producing fishes. The fishes are produced in a farmland, which is made as an artificial pond and various types of fishes are left in them to grow.

Half acre IFF pond in Rajkanika

Talking to the Gram Uttan IFF project coordinator Bansidhar Das, he says,” Major of the people in villages involved in fish farming, they do not follow the proper scientific practices. This reduces their production and also results in minimal income for their produce. We showed them to make recommended changes and get more desired output.”

Bansidhar sir explaining the manuring process in IFF

The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), KfW development bank and GIZ are collectively implementing the “Umbrella Programme for Natural Resource Management (UPNRM)”, the aim of which is to promote the environmentally sustainable growth of rural population by encouraging more private investments that are pro-poor. The institutions collectively have prepared a business model for sustainable use of available resources, without causing major environmental degradation and providing better income and livelihood to all farmers for their produce. As an investment into this project, loans are given by Gram Utthan to the rural farmers who take up integrated fish farming. Milaap too has been funding Gram Utthan to help it provide loans to the farmers. Gram Utthan with the help of these institutions took up the district of Kendrapara in Odisha to implement the Integrated Fish Farming method. Gram Utthan has set up an experience center where farmers can practically study all things about IFF.

Gram Utthan IFF experience center, Rajkanika, Kendrapada district
When in Integrated fish farming, a technology called “Heavy stocking and multiple harvesting” is used. Prior to the introduction of fish carps, there are certain things to be taken care of. This involves clearing the edges of the pond, cleaning the pond, Manuring the pond with cow dung and then adding essential calcium using limestone and other necessary minerals for fishes to survive. The major fish variety carps like Catla, Rohu, Mrigal are introduced in this pond in a certain ratio. The fish seeds are taken from well scientific bodies like the Central Institute of Freshwater Aquaculture(CIFA). These give a better healthy produce. A farmer can start harvesting fishes from the 4th month onwards. This traditional practice is “integrated “ with many other individual agricultural practices in order to better support the farmer.
  • In the pond, the freshwater prawns are introduced. The prawns being bottom dwellers do not compete with fish carps for food. They also have a better rate in the market compared to fishes.
  • Duckery is also introduced. The ducks are known for their swimming habits. Thus the movement of ducks increases the oxygen circulation in the pond by flapping and moving around to increase more surface oxygen to be dissolved. The planktons in the water are nourished well due to their manure and planktons, in turn, increases the oxygen in the water. They are also the feeds for few types of fishes. All these help for the better survival of fishes. The ducks are reared in the embankments of the ponds.
  •  The free area surrounding the pond is also used to grow vegetables. The vegetables to be grown are chosen carefully. Usually, the ones which are dwarf and require less shady, short-term yielding ones are preferred. Vegetable crops like brinjal, tomato, cucumber, chilly, cabbage, beans, spinach, ladies finger, & bitter gourd etc are grown. Also in between these in intercropping pattern fruits like pineapple and banana can be grown. These hold the bunds of the pond strong and does not allow the mud to fall into the pond.
  • Further dairy farming is also taken up. The advantage in addition to the milk, the cow dung can be used as an manure in the fish pond and to grow vegetables.
Ducks in the Fishpond and vegetables are grown near the fish pond

Gram Utthan supplies Fish feeds and tests water quality for farmers as a part of IFF project

Steps to be followed in IFF

The implementation of this project has been changing the lives of the farmers. They earn by selling their fish, vegetables, eggs from ducks, milk and milk products.

Upendra Nayak
“We had a wasteland behind our home. A few years back this was a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Gram Utthan with the technology monetary terms helped me to convert this barren land into an IFF pond. Now I harvest every month about 10 to 15 quintal of fish and I get a profit of around 2 Lakhs with the selling of fishes, prawns, eggs, and vegetables”.

Bhagyasree Das 
“We majorly depended on agriculture, dairy, and poultry for major of our revenue. With the awareness created by Gram Utthan, we started IFF. With proper monitoring of fishes, we get around 9 quintals of good quality fishes from this pond. We earn a profit of more than a lakh in a year. Also, we use the compost generated from poultry and dairy for our organically grown vegetables in the fish bunds. The organic vegetables fetch us a better market price. We have increased our income around 2 lakh in a year with IFF”.

Gram Utthan has been successful in this implementation. The success has been appreciated in international level. Now, Gram Utthan has been a consulting and training body for the IFF implementation and also are gearing up for Odisha statewide implementation of the project.

Milaap as a private body helps Gram Utthan provide loans to the farmers. Being associated with Milaap, I happened to see multiple instances of farmers practicing IFF which are being part-funded by Milaap and the lives of people have improved. Indeed it is a proud moment for me in being a small part of it.

IFF implementation team, Gram Utthan, Rajkanika, Kendrapada district