By Sucheta Priyadarshini

Bhubaneswar: Lakhpadar is a remote village in Kalahandi district situated around 20 kilometres away from Narla block headquarter. In 2009, ten women belonging to economically weaker sections of this village formed Kedargouri Self Help Group (SHG) to take up income generating activities collectively.

On being informed by Mission Shakti functionaries about the State government scheme of long-term lease of Gram Panchayat (GP) tanks to women SHGs for pisciculture, this group participated in the GP tank auction process in 2019. Successfully qualifying in all SHG selection criteria, this SHG was awarded a three-year long lease of a GP tank of 14-acre water area.

Periodically, the group received training on all aspects of commercial fish farming by the district Fisheries officials. With handholding of Mission Shakti and Fisheries officials, they received a bank credit of Rs. 3 lakh and stocked 3 quintal of fingerlings. The SHG also received Rs 3.6 lakh in total as input subsidy from the Directorate of Fisheries under this Livelihood Convergence Initiative of Mission Shakti. These enterprising SHG members have harvested 10 quintals of fish worth Rs. 1.5 lakh over three phases of partial harvesting during the Covid – 19 lockdown period and sold it in local markets.

With an accrued net profit of Rs 2.1 lakh till date, these women hope to generate significant income during the final harvest. ‘

“We feel exalted when we make substantial contribution towards expenses in our households. For us, fish farming is just not a livelihood. It has conferred us with social identity, recognition and selfconfidence. Thanks to Mission Shakti for giving unique identity to women of Odisha.” says KamaliBhoi, President of Kedargouri SHG, Narla Block.

At present, there are 6 lakh SHGs in Odisha comprising 70 lakh women members, engaged in various economic activities. Mission Shakti provides sustainable livelihood solutions through need-based support services, skill upgradation, training, capacity building, institutional financial and market linkage boosting confidence of SHGs.

The Cabinet in its 1st meeting on 29.05.2019 approved provisioning of services and procurement of goods relating to different government departments through Mission Shakti women SHGs. Such convergence aims at deepening the engagement of lakhs of women with government programmes at the grassroot level, ensuring last mile delivery of services while providing additional and sustainable livelihood opportunities to mission Shakti women SHGs. This provides direct business, worth Rs. 1000 crore to mission Shakti SHGs every year. Fish farming by mission Shakti women SHGs in GP tanks is one of the several livelihood activities promoted by Mission Shakti in convergence with Directorate of Fisheries.

As fisheries sector has been recognised as a major sector contributing to the rural economy in Odisha, the demand was encased by engaging mission Shakti women SHGs into this activity in convergence with directorate of fisheries. Challenging conventional gender roles, it envisages that gender mainstreaming in fish farming shall set an example in the state.

In Odisha, approximate 64,000 Gram Panchayat tanks spreading over 51,000 hectare of water area, are being governed by concerned Gram Panchayats. Usually these GP tanks are auctioned on annual basis to different individuals for fish farming which contributes to the revenues of concerned Gram Panchayats. Government of Odisha intensified its efforts allotting these GP tanks to mission Shakti women SHGs for fish farming. In this connection in the year 2018, Government of Odisha launched a flagship scheme “Fish Farming in Gram Panchayat Tanks by Women SHGs” which was rolled out in convergence with Directorate of Fisheries under Department of Fisheries & ARD.

This scheme has brought a major policy change in the allotment / leasing of GP tanks to mission Shakti women SHGs, preferably entrusting the longterm leasing for 3 to 5 years on priority basis. Under this convergence programme, the selected Mission Shakti SHGs are tagged to specific Gram Panchayat tanks with a long-term lease of minimum 3 years. Once the lease is finalized, the SHG deposits the lease value @ Rs. 2,000/- per acre per year. On-farm technical support to the WSHGs is provided at farm-gate at least once a month by block and district level Fisheries officials.

Moreover, the scheme also provides financial support @ Rs. 90,000 per hectare to women SHGs, which makes 60% of the operational expenses towards fish production. The unit cost of fish farming is Rs. 1.5 lakh / ha / crop.
On tagging of SHGs to GP tanks, various training and capacity building activities on fish farming have been conducted focusing on improving the knowledge and skills of WSHGs and their farming practices. District level training of trainers have been conducted in all 30 districts of Odisha training 1296 mission Shakti SHG members as Master Trainers followed by training of mission Shakti SHGs at block level by these Master Trainers. IEC materials such as Training Manual on fish farming in GP tanks by WSHGs, leaflet on better management practices (BMP) for fish farming in GP tanks etc. have also been provided to mission Shakti SHG members for reference. Mission Shakti women SHGs have been trained on the practices for pond preparation, fish seed selection, transportation and stocking, feed management, water quality management, fish health management and harvesting, post harvesting handling and marketing etc.

4401 GP tanks (1972 tanks during FY 2018-19 & 2429 GP tanks during FY 2019-20) covering an area of 3579.42 ha have been leased out to mission Shakti WSHGs for fish farmimg. Having doorstep marketability, this livelihood activity has proved to be very successful in enhancing the income of the mission Shakti WSHG members & supplementing nutrition intake of women and children. Harvest of fish worth Rs. 83 cr has already been made in 4038 GP tanks so far. During 2019-20, 2400 SHGs adopted improved fish rearing practices in 2344 GP tanks.
For the current year 1580 hectare of GP tanks have been earmarked for leasing out to WSHGs. During the lockdown, 4355 mission Shakti WSHGs engaged in pisciculture have harvested more than 21000 quintals of fish from GP tanks with a market value of Rs. 30.2 crore yielding a profit of Rs. 15.1 crore for the WSHGs.

With a vision of constructing a society which is self-reliant, conscious of socioeconomic issues and sporting a spirit of cooperation thereby enabling women to be skilled and take up their choice of activities without hindrance, Mission Shakti has come a long way paving way for socioeconomic transformation of women across rural and urban areas of the state. With enabling environment, favourable policy action and supportive governance, Odisha looks forward to scaling new heights in women’s empowerment in coming years.