Fish is a major component of daily diet for people in Tripura. With over 95 percent population being non-vegetarian, the hilly state is witnessing a gradual rise in the demand for fish consumption. The growing levels of income and urbanisation are pushing the demand further. The state is thus going through a transitional phase to become self-sufficient in fish production.
Looking at the situation, Tata Trusts have signed a MoU with the government to develop models of livelihood that can be replicated in the entire state for the social upliftment of people in rural areas of Tripura. In South Maheshpur, a gram panchayat in Sepahijala district of the state, most families own a pond with an average area of 1 kani (1,600 sqm). Despite the existence of such a large resource of water, most people in the region rely on agriculture as the prime activity for their sustenance. Therefore, several initiatives have been undertaken to encourage fish rearing and to attract unemployed youth towards taking up fishery as a livelihood.
With an aim of doubling the existing fish production, the Trusts’ fishery development project in South Maheshpur has been implemented by the Centre for Microfinance and Livelihood (CML), a partner organisation of the Trusts. The initiative kicked off after conducting a baseline survey that led to the formation of Activity Groups (AG) at the hamlet level. Subsequently, representatives from each AG came together to form a Producer Group (PG) at the village level. After the formalisation of the AG and PG, the fishers were taken for exposure in the areas of intervention. All the group members were provided with basic training on fish farming – starting from pond development and management to seed stocking and disease control.
Narayan Dey is one of the 10 fishers from Saathi Matshya Utpadan Samity, an AG in the region. When his group became aware of the initiative, they were all very enthusiastic about taking up fishery as a livelihood activity. During the course of their training, the fishers were introduced to magur (Clarious Batrachus) breeding. Magur is a high yielding variety of fish. Owing to its limited supply and the therapeutic value associated with it, the demand and price of magur is relatively high. Interestingly, one can start breeding this variety of fish even with a small investment of Rs 3,500. Looking at the benefits associated with magur, Narayan immediately agreed to experiment the fish breeding process.
The arrangements required for conducting magur breeding were done in consultation with Dr AK Sahu from the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India. The breeding was conducted in June 2017 and its results were quite encouraging. The experiment led to the hatching of fertilised eggs in a huge number. Thereafter, the hatchlings were shifted to rearing tanks where they were regularly fed. Once they reached a certain stage of growth, Narayan sold them for Rs 10 per piece and earned over Rs 16,000. He was thrilled by the entire experience. He said, “It has been a great pleasure to learn from Dr Sahu and to be associated with Tata Trusts. I will continue doing magur breeding next year and I also plan to expand my business in the near future”.
Since the launch of this initiative, many people in the region have joined AGs. They are being trained on several aspects of scientific fish cultivation. The fishers are now able to produce their own seedlings, thus meeting their family’s requirements and also selling their produce in the local markets to earn profits. After witnessing Narayan’s success with the experiment, many other fishers in the region have replicated the breeding process and they have been able to make good profits from their new venture. Some of them have also experimented with high yield varieties like prawn cultivation and pabda breeding. This experience indicates that magur breeding can become a lucrative livelihood option for the rural, unemployed people of Tripura. With proper guidance and handholding, the initiative can also be promoted in other parts of the state.