The success of its fish farming initiative has earned Kanchiyar grama panchayat in Idukki district this year's award for the best Matsya club in the State.

Fish farming in ponds was launched in the reservoir areas at Kanchiyar, home to a large number of Mannan tribesmen, about a year-and-a- half ago. About 250 fish ponds have been formed in addition to a large number of private ponds where fish species are grown. There are 156 members in the Matsya Club and over 200 farmers in the fish farming sector. Many ponds also provide water source for agriculture purpose.

Explaining the features of the project, grama panchayat president Mathew George told The Hindu that the fish farming sector was developed after intensive implementation of the watershed programme. Ponds were provided to farmers under various schemes. They were also given seeds conducive to the topography and climatic conditions. Training classes were conducted regularly for the members of the club.

A major advantage of the grama panchayat is the proximity to Idukki reservoir, where the water source is perennial. Even before the Matsya project was initiated, farmers had begun fish farming, though not in a successful way. Mr. George said the project coordinated the efforts of the farmers and provided them with guidelines to continue in the field. “Out of the 15 wards in the grama panchayat, 10 wards were found conducive to fish farming throughout the year as perennial water sources could be utilised,” he said.

Mr. George said the panchayat would soon construct 100 more ponds and provide the farmers with fish feed at subsidised rate. He said a marketing system would be put in place to tap the full potential of fish farming. The Fisheries Department has sanctioned Rs.5 lakh to construct a building for the Fish Club and more farmers would be enrolled as members of the club, he said.

The panchayat will implement a ‘One Paddy, One Fish' project in the Kodalipara paddy field, an area inhabited predominantly by tribesmen.

Kurien Joseph, a fish farmer, said he had a large pond where fishes were grown. However, after becoming a member of the club, he got tips to grow fish conducive to the area. He regularly attends the training classes taken by experts of the Fisheries Department. He said if there was a regular marketing facility, fish farming could be an additional income for many farmers.

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