Tarai farmers like fisheries more than growing crops

- POST REPORT, Kathmandu
Tarai farmers like fisheries more than growing crops

Jun 11, 2014-

Until a few years ago, the Mid- and Western Tarai regions used to be largely dependent on fish imported from India. Now the scenario is quite different. The reason is that the fishery business is becoming popular in almost every village in the southern belt due to rapid growth in demand and prices.  A joint report prepared by Bimal Khatiwada in Chitwan, Narayan Sharma and Bechu Gaud in Nawalparasi, Madhav Dhungana and Amrita Anmol in Rupandehi, Manoj Poudel in Kapilvastu, Pratap Bista in Hetauda, Shankar Acharya in Parsa, Laxmi Sah in Bara, Shiva Puri in Rautahat and Aman Koirala in Sarlahi has given a comprehensive account of the past and present trends in the fishery sector.

According to the Ministry of Agricultural Development, there are 29,270 fish ponds in the country, 95 percent of them located in the Tarai region. The area dedicated to fishery amounts to more than 10,718 hectares with the total fish production reaching 65,770 tonnes this fiscal year.

The ministry’s figures show that growing commercial fish farming has led to fish production jumping by 120 percent over a span of two years. However, the country still imports fish worth Rs 520 million annually.  

Chitwan has been emerging as a major fish producing district. It has been attracting a large number of farmers to fish farming due to its small manpower requirement and handsome returns compared to other crops.  

According to the District Agriculture Development Office, Chitwan, the area under fish farming has expanded by 360 hectares this year compared to 263 hectares last year. Chitwan produced 815 tonnes of fish worth Rs 250 million this year.

There are 1,500 farmers involved in commercial fish farming in the district. Commercial farming has grown mainly in Piple, Kumroj, Tandi, Gunjanagar, Shardanagar, Madi and other areas. “Fish farming does not need a big investment and it can be done with few people,” said Nodnath Lamichhane, a technician at the district agriculture development office.  

Fishery has also gained attraction in Rupandehi, Nawalparasi, Bara and Parsa.   In Rupandehi, fish farming is done on 865 hectares. The government has been conducting a fishery campaign in the district for the last five years. Now the district produces 3,510 tonnes of fish valued at Rs 650 million annually.  Commercial fish farming is done in 126 natural ponds and rivulets in Nawalparasi at present. Various cooperatives have been formed in the district. Around 1,900 fish farmers at Dayanagar village are involved in farmers groups that operate 390 ponds.

Krishna Bhadra Adhikari, chief of the agriculture office, said that around 200 hectares of land is covered with 500 ponds in Dayanagar, Chapiya involving 11 farmers groups.

In Rupandehi, fish farming covers 403 hectares. The district produces 13 tonnes of fish annually, said Sahatram Maur, a fishery development officer. Areas like Pragatinagar, Rajhar, Kawasoti, Prasoni, Narayani, Kumarwarti and Tamsiria have seen an increasing number of farmers taking to fish farming.  

In Kapilvastu, fishery occupies 330 hectares while ponds have been constructed on 45 hectares this year. The district produces 1,000 tonnes of fish valued at Rs 21 million annually. According to Mohar Ali, planning officer at the district agriculture office, fish farming generates 200 percent more income compared to paddy and wheat production, and this has pulled farmers towards commercial fish farming.    

In Sarlahi, the land covered by fish ponds is larger than the land used for growing crops. Farmers said that fish production gave better returns compared to other crops and so they had shifted to aquaculture. Bhaktipur village in Sarlahi alone has 200 fish ponds.  There are 200 farmers involved in fishery in the district, and fish ponds cover 300 hectares.  

In Rautahat, fisheries have been attracting both young and old people. Shrinarayan Sahani, a 70-year-old fish farmer, is an example in Bariyapur village. Sahani, who has been rearing fish on 2 bighas is now a millionaire. “I sell fingerlings worth more than Rs 3 million annually,” he said. “Fishery has changed my life completely.” According to the district agriculture office, there are 2,165 farmers engaged in fisheries in the district. There are 520 ponds that produce 9 million fingerlings annually.

Bara district has been attracting fish farmers since the last four years. After the government introduced the fish mission programme in the district by providing subsidies to farmers, fish farming has been one of the major income generating activities. Farmers were provided Rs 100,000 per bigha of pond as a subsidy. “This scheme has doubled the number of farmers engaged in fishery,” said Saroj Yadav, fisheries development officer at the district. The district produces 6 tonnes of fish per hectare against the national average of 2 tonnes per hectare. The district produces 5,000 tonnes of fish worth Rs 1.5 billion annually.  

The scheme was also introduced in Parsa district. After the launch of the scheme, the district has been producing 1,650 tonnes of fish annually. The government scheme has benefited many farmers and the per hectare productivity has jumped to 4-5 tonnes from 1.9 tonnes previously. Meanwhile, fisheries have also increased to 330 hectares from 229 hectares.  

More than 150 farmers are engaged in fisheries in Makwanpur district. The fish ponds in the district occupy 60 hectares.

A large number of fish ponds have been constructed in the district by the government for fisheries.

Published: 12-06-2014 10:07

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