FAO, midwife to India's top aquaculture centre

When the Government of India moved to put more emphasis on its aquaculture sector in the late 1970s, it turned to an outside agency for assistance: FAO. Institution building has long been an important FAO activity, helping developing countries build up their capacities to develop themselves.

A scientist at CIFA looks at fish parasites through a microscope donated to the institute by FAO

The result of the India-FAO collaboration is the Central Institution of Freshwater Aquaculture (CIFA), India's largest such centre with over 500 ponds, labs and training facilities. Located near Bhubaneswar, Orissa, CIFA has a long list of achievements to its name: multiple breeding of carp, intensive carp culture with production rates of 10 and 15 tonnes per hectare per year (compared with 2 to 3 tonnes or less using traditional village methods and quality fish fry), breeding and hatchery management of catfish and freshwater prawns, formulation of diets for fish and prawn species using locally available ingredients and formulation and commercialization of a new drug for treating Epizootic Ulcerative Syndrome, a fatal fish disease that can quickly wipe out a farmer's investment.

CIFA has its roots in the Pond Culture Division of the Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute, founded in Orissa State, eastern India in 1949. The Division was later upgraded as the Freshwater Aquaculture Research and Training Centre under an FAO project that ran from 1979 to 1985 with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Government of India funding. The project paid for 14 fellowships for Indian scientists and for 11 consultants to come to give advice and train the highly specialized staff required to give birth to a modern freshwater aquaculture sector.

Further support was obtained through a regional FAO project, financed with US$1.2 million from UNDP and $277 000 from the Indian government, which ran from 1979 to 1987, helping create a Regional Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia. Finally, in 1986 the Freshwater Aquaculture Research and Training Centre attained the status of an independent institute, renamed the Central Institution of Freshwater Aquaculture (CIFA).

A third project, from 1989 to 1995, provided 16 international fellowships and ten consultancies. Many research breakthroughs were made during this period.

20 August 1998

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