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4. National Policies, Strategies, Plans and Programs for Rural Aquaculture

Indian agriculture has passed through three very distinct phases of development during the present century. Pre-independence period of 1900-1947 was a phase of near stagnation of agricultural development, showing a growth rate of about 0.3% per annum. But after independence, the situation improved with spread of technologies, based on scientific research and supported by wide range of services including increased supply of inputs. This marked the second phase of development during 1950-80, achieving a growth rate of 2.8% in 1967-79. The development was facilitated with the policies of land reform, pricing, procurement and distribution especially in the assured irrigation belts.

The third phase aimed at further improving marketing and trade, providing institutional framework for minimizing constraints of small farmers, and maximizing their benefits through intensive agriculture in small holdings. Marked improvement was seen in land and labor productivity as well as in generation of employment and augmentation of family income.

Of late, sustainability of agriculture production and preservation of environment and of natural biodiversity are of great national concern. Greater emphasis is being laid now on optimizing ecological productive potential revolving around a watershed approach with water harvesting and efficient use of nutrients through recycling for better energy transfer. More stress is given on social and community development

Thus the strategy for development is mainly directed towards more efficient land and water use, based upon soil and water conservation, efficient water harvesting and the optimum utilization of available sources of renewable and non-renewable energy without impairing the environment. Matching with these, provisions are made for the farmers to get adequate credit, inputs, and technology and extension support along with ensuring proper distribution and marketing of their produce.

In general the main national objective of agricultural development is to build a national food security system by stabilizing farm production at higher levels and also creating rural employment and income.

In the above background Fisheries sector is viewed as an important source of earning, livelihood, foreign exchange and food supply. It grew about 7% compound in quantitative terms during mid seventies, then slowed subsequently, picking up in late eighties. It was only in the mid eighties that concerted attention was paid and for the first time in a few years and respectable growth rates were achieved in the real quantum of fish exports. The planners were then dimly aware of the great employment and income potential of the fishery sector in India. However, the appraisal of fishing harbour projects and a few inland fisheries projects by the Project Appraisal Division of the Planning Commission had shown high social rates of return (Alagh 1992).

Fisheries National Policy and Programs

The national policy on fisheries development in general stresses on optimal utilization of natural resources through their rational exploitation, centers round the concept of giving a better deal to socially backward communities, more and better employment opportunities, and increasing aquatic productivity on a sustainable basis.

The national development programs include organization of necessary infrastructure for fish production, storage and distribution, and mobilization of manpower at various levels for production and marketing, thereby accruing maximum assured benefits to the producer and consumer, reducing middle level involvement to the minimum. Earning of foreign exchange through export of fishery products, without adversely affecting domestic requirements is also an integral part of national programs (George and Sinha 1975).

Aquaculture Development Plan

FAO undertook initiative to organize a workshop in 1975 for three weeks in Bangkok where planners and aquaculture scientists from different countries of Asia discussed in depth aquaculture development aspects and formulated a Ten-Year Aquaculture Development Plan 1975-85. This was the first effort ever made to formulate a plan exclusively for aquaculture in India (George and Sinha 1975)

Long term objective

The plan objective was to progressively raise the subsistence level aquaculture activities to the level of an organized industry. To achieve this the plan reiterated the following:

Medium term objectives

Short-term objectives

Plan Projections

The development plan made realistic projections to increase aquaculture production. Matching with this, detailed projection of total inputs requirement was indicated. It also assessed the initial development cost and floating capital for stocking material, organic manure, inorganic fertilizers, feed etc. Estimates were made of additional manpower requirement and increase in employment potential etc. The document also provided certain basic information on production cost and possible return.

Considering the difficulties in procurement of adequate stocking material and other constraints, it was assumed that only 5% of the readily available freshwater would be utilized for carp culture annually from 1975. However for air-breathing fish and brackishwater fish and shrimps the starting date was indicated as of 1979, since both the systems of culture were not that ready for easily adoption in the field and also because of other associated problems. It was thus envisaged that in 1985 average production rate for carp would be about 1300 kg/ha/yr (ranging from 600-2000 kg/ha/yr) whereas for air breathing fish and brackishwater shrimp and fish @500kg/ha/yr.

According to the plan, it was expected that in 1985, aquaculture production from carp would be about 0.776 million tons, from airbreathing fish about 0.26 million tons and brackishwater fish and shrimps about 0.45 million tons. However, while carp total production reached a figure of 0.672 million tons in 1986, air-breathing fish and brackishwater fish and shrimps did not contribute as expected.

The plan document significantly identified one of the major constraints in attaining the objective of aquaculture development, as the lack of an advanced center for aquaculture research, with properly designed experimental fish farms both for freshwater and brackish water where aquaculture systems could bedeveloped. It was estimated that approximately Rs 30 million would be needed to establish the center by 1984. However, for such center, external assistance was required in terms of equipment, consultancy and fellowships and the thus the plan identified specifically those components.

While the Govt. of India/ICAR initiated establishing the FARTC at Dhauli/Bhubaneshwar in 1977, which became functional in 1979 under CIFRI, a FAO/UNDP project was formulated on the basis of the above plan on Intensification of Fish Culture and Training and was implemented at FARTC in 1979. The project had three major components such as consultancy services, fellowships and certain equipment, costing a total of about USD 0.5 million. On completion the Center not only became a national asset, but also played a significant role in carp farming research and training in the region under a UNDP/FAO Regional Project on the establishment of a Network of Aquaculture Centers of Asia.

The Ten-year Aquaculture Development Plan was formulated most meticulously with highly realistic assumptions and matching with these, the priority programs undertaken in the subsequent Five-Year Govt. of India Development Plans enabled the nation to achieve the objectives as set out in the plan. However, in any development planning, the need to synchronize the various aspects of development cannot be over-estimated. In case of aquaculture, these aspects were development and transfer of basic technology, training of manpower at various levels, availability of inputs at reasonable cost, provision of credit and financing facilities and to give effective supervision and leadership. These will, naturally be required in a continuous manner in future also for further development.

Brackishwater Rural Aquaculture

Brackishwater aquaculture development in general got a boost in India only during the mid eighties with the expanding world demand and high price for shrimps in the overseas market. However the focus became more tilted towards export earning rather than the rural development through traditional shrimp farming. Unfortunately the country relied on technology import from other countries particularly from Southeast Asia. Entrepreneurs followed the high energy intensive coastal aquaculture technology which increased the production level from 1-2 t/ha/yr to over 10-20 t/ha/yr. This resulted in creating certain environmental problems as indicated in para 3.4.

A Ten-Year Plan has been recommended for the development of brackishwater shrimp farming in 0.1 million ha comprising 75,000 ha under extensive 20,000 ha under semi-intensive and 5,000 ha under intensive culture system.

While efforts were being made to achieve such a target, the sector suffered a serious turbulence because of disease epidemic and certain environmental problems. However, it is expected that with the establishment of Aquaculture Authority of India, systematic development will take place and also traditional aquaculture will get priority attention. However, it is important to adopt the following site specific development strategies to have a balance development (Ghose and Sinha 1991).

1. Area having large resources where traditional trapping and growing is undertaken, the farmers need to be given support for:

2. Areas where fisherman population and resources are both high such as Chilka lake and Pulicat lake

Such large areas having traditional fish farmers need to be developed into cluster of fish farms. Support services as shown above should be provided by the Government.

3. Areas with no tradition of brackishwater farming but having a fairly stable and developed sea fisheries such as all along the coast of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and southeast coast of the country

These areas to be increasingly used for semi intensive farming by entrepreneurs and industrial houses, which could afford to invest to develop infrastructure and facilities required for commercial culture of shrimps.

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