Migrant workers who have returned home because of the coronavirus pandemic should be encouraged to take up fish culture in unutilised water bodies as it will provide alternative livelihood to them and create rural employment, according to CIFA.
Saroj Kumar Swain, director of the Bhubanewsar-based Central Institute of Freshwater of Aquaculture (CIFA), said northern and eastern states have enormous water resources and promoting fish culture in these areas can yield multiple benefits.
It can increase protein availability, create generation of rural employment and help achieve the food security goals, he added.
Swain said the fish culture that started as a homestead activity in the late 50s in India has now emerged as a vibrant commercial micro-enterprise in many states.
The recently launched Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana has various components to support fish farming enterprises and state governments should offer special packages to the rural youth, especially migrant workers who are back to their native villages due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"They should be motivated to take up fish culture in the unutilised water bodies in the villages in a group approach adopting scientific techniques," Swain said.
However, holistic development of complete value chain system, flexible pond leasing policy, establishment of support services and proper skill development programmes are some of the key issues to be addressed by the governments to create aquaculture-based alternate livelihood options, he said.
He said scientific farming practices enabled the farmers of Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and a few other states to increase their fish production and export surplus fish to other states.
The CIFA director said integrated farming and homestead farming systems can give additional returns and ensure fish availability at the household level.
"Innovative farmers from many states of the country have adopted CIFA's scientific technologies and improved fish varieties, witnessed commendable success. Rural youth and aspiring entrepreneurs should come forward to learn scientific fish farming,” he said.
He said aspiring youth, farmers and entrepreneurs may contact CIFA on WhatsApp number 7790007797 or write on firstname.lastname@example.org to learn about the technological information for different fishes.
Swan also cited the fourth (2017) edition of the National Family Health Survey to point out that two out of every five children are stunted in India, and its prevalence was more prominent in states like Bihar (48%), Uttar Pradesh (46%) and Jharkhand (45%).
A close look at the National Sample Survey Organisation's latest report reveals that the consumption pattern of fish in these states is very low, especially in rural areas, he said, adding that these landlocked states produce less fish per capita, despite having plenty of water resources, which can be put in use for fish production.
He said the government's POSHAN Abhiyaan aims to reduce stunting from 38.4% in 2017 to 25% by 2022 by promoting intake of nutrient-dense foods, especially rich in protein.