Wayanad: The new aquaculture destination
Manathavady: Forget the days when farmers abandoned their paddy fields due to uneconomic production costs and animal raids, Wayanad has emerged as the destination for aquaculture, minting gold in the fish cultivation segment. An erstwhile hotspot for paddy cultivation, Wayanad today has very less paddy thanks to the high cost of production, labour shortage and animal raids. Acres of barren land can be seen at different locations in places like Thirunelli.
The state government had initiated the Matsya Keralam program in 2009, which was later renamed to Matya Samridhi in 2015. The program recieved a rousing response from the farmers who were exasperated by repeated crop loss and economic insecurity. In 2013- 14 there were 3900 farmers engaged in aquacultue in around 200 hectares of land. In 2015- 16 it grew to 4136 farmers on 225 hectares of land. By 2016 the numbers again rose to 5066 farmers on 240 hectares of land in Wayanad alone. Twelve hectares of land is under aquaculture in the Meenangadi panchayat alone and another 22 hectares in Thirunelli eventhough with a lesser number of farmers involed.
The fisheries department is currently providing Rs.368 as a subsidy for building ponds per cent of land involved. They are also providing 40 fry (baby fish) per cent.
Selected farmers are being supplied with pearl spot fry as well. Other varities cultivated are 'chempalli', 'rohu', Fisheries clubs have been established by the Fisheries department in collaboration with the local bodies. With the number of farmers on the upward spiral, the subsidies provided by the government agency are under fire for inadequacy. They are demanding more assiatnce for the fish food and for drying the pond for harvest along with a raise in subsidy for pond
The project is on full swing under the Asst. Fisheries Director at Pookode, Mr. Sudheer Kishan and his team comprising of a Nodal Officer and Project Assistants at the block level at Sulthan Bathery, Kalpetta and Mananthavady respectively. Aquaculture coordinators have been employed at the Panchayat and Muicipality levels too.