Open Source Fisheries Project
The Tata Trusts’ Open Source Fisheries Project aims to help rural communities in Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Maharashtra unleash the potential of their freshwater resources by shifting them from ‘capture fisheries’ to ‘culture fisheries’. The objective is to help triple their incomes from fisheries and related activities.
The Trusts’ initiative promotes inland fishing in about 22,000 households across three states. The initiative was piloted in Andhra Pradesh in 2016, in collaboration with the Centre for Aquatic Livelihoods, Jaljeevika, a non-profit that specialises in developing inland fishing for small and marginal farmers.
The majority of the beneficiaries in the pilot project are fish farmers who grow their produce in cages or pens that sit in water bodies that come under the state government’s fisheries department. About 70% of these fish farmers are from tribal communities-- earlier, their only means of livelihood was by selling forest produce, mainly firewood, or working for daily wages. While fishing was not an unknown activity, they did not know how to do it in a scientific and ordered manner.
The Trusts provided an exposure visit to Dimble reservoir near Pune in Maharashtra where an inland fisheries project had been thriving for years, to introduce project beneficiaries to the idea of culture fishing.
The programme provides training and the fish growers are brought together as cooperatives where their produce was aggregated to fetch the best price in the market. Low-cost cages, third-party evaluations and surveys to understand how the cooperatives operate were also part of the initiative.
The allied activities component of the project includes nurseries that deliver fish seed (baby fish used to populate the cages and water bodies), fish feed, pond-based agriculture, the growing of vegetables and fruits on embankments, and the rearing of poultry.
The programme has been a huge success and income of beneficiaries has increased to about Rs70,000 a year. The Trusts hope to upscale the open source fisheries programme to reach 200,000 households by 2021.