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'Blue revolution' enriches diets of millions around the world

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The “blue revolution” enriches the diets of millions around the world

Dr. Modadugu V. Gupta was named the 2005 World Food Prize Laureate for enriching the diets and lives of the world’s most impoverished families.  As a prime architect of a “blue revolution” in Asia and around the globe, Dr. Gupta has increased the protein and mineral content in the diets of over one million of the world’s most impoverished families. His promotion of aquaculture has contributed to the economic and social empowerment of men and women in poor and rural areas, and he has built a global network of likeminded scientists, managers, and leaders.

Born in India in 1939, Dr. Gupta began researching how to bring the benefits of fish production to poor farmers in 1962. After assessing the physical and social resources accessible in impoverished areas, Dr. Gupta developed two strategies for increasing fish harvests among the very poor. He taught poor and landless people to recycle farm wastes such as rice bran, weeds, and manure to support and grow larger fish stock, and he advocated the polyculture technique of raising multiple species of fish in one pond habitat to effectively feed and harvest more varieties of fish with higher nutritional value.

Using techniques based on the work of Dr. Gupta and his colleagues, poor farmers and rural families across a large swath of South and Southeast Asia (including areas of Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, the Lao PDR, and Indonesia) have turned abandoned ponds, roadside ditches, seasonally flooded fields, and other bodies of water as small as 300-400 m2 into "mini-factories" churning out fish for food and income. To give an example, over 150,000 seasonal ponds in Bangladesh which were lying fallow before Dr. Gupta's intervention are now blooming with fish.

In the early 1970s, Dr. Gupta brought these low-cost approaches to Southeast Asia, where he also identified several carp species native to India as being well adapted to the Mekong River environment. By training farmers and scientists to breed and support the new species, Dr. Gupta was instrumental in increasing fish yields and rural incomes as farmers and consumers alike attempted to recover from the impact of the Vietnam War.

More breakthroughs came in Bangladesh in the 1980s, where he identified over a million ponds, roadside canals and ditches, and seasonally flooded pools as potential water resources that were at the time untapped by fish producers. He also enlisted nongovernmental organizations in branching out to small farmers and specifically to women as means to ensure the sustainable practice of effective aquaculture.

Asia’s poorest fish farmers can now provide nutrition for their families with enough fish left to bring in added income. His novel techniques increased average annual fish production in India from barely 0.5 tons per hectare in the early 1970s to between 2 to 10 tons per hectare. The carp varieties he introduced in Vietnam currently make up 30 to 40 percent of all freshwater fish production.

Dr. Gupta’s technologies boosted Bangladesh’s fish yields from 304 kilograms per hectare to over 2,500 kilograms per hectare in less than a year – including 1,000 kilogram per hectare harvests in the dry season. Thanks to his innovations, fish production in Bangladesh continued to grow by 300% during the 1990s. By bringing the percentage of Bangladeshi women involved in aquaculture from virtually zero to about 60%, Dr. Gupta has further ensured the long-term economic and social stability of rural communities based in fish farming.

His coordination of the International Network on Genetics in Aquaculture spread aquatic biodiversity across Asia, Africa, and the Pacific, allowed leading researchers to coordinate their efforts under new biosafety protection protocols, and trained roughly 300 scientists from developing countries in continuing the development of sustainable and effective fish production strategies.

Dr. Gupta retired from The World Fish Center in 2004. Since that time, he has remained a senior research fellow at WorldFish and the chair of the organizing committee of the International Workshop on Environmentally Friendly Aquaculture. Dr. Gupta has also been active as an advisor on agricultural and aquacultural research and fisheries to the governments of Mozambique and India, and is a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Rajiv Gandhi Center for Aquaculture.

This story, which has been slightly adapted, is found on the website of the World Food Prize, which is awarded annually to recognize the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity, or availability of food in the world. Since 1986, the Prize has been awarded to laureates from around the world, including Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Cuba, Denmark, India, Mexico, Sierra Leone, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United Nations and the United States.


For other stories about fish and fisheries, see:

Fish farming is new chance for self-reliance for northern Ugandans

Indian fisherwomen develop economic independence

Helping consumers, companies protect fisheries, marine environment

First Islamic conservation guide helps Muslim fishermen protect their seas

Seaweed absorbs aquaculture industry wastes, preserves biodiversity

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