Women became fish farmers to stand on their feet


By Chandrika Patnaik

15 June 2022

A women's self-help group in Gramadebati village in Ganjam district leased the village pond to farm fish. They have made a profit in a couple of years, earned enough to pay the annual lease and provided for their families.

The women of Maa Saraswati SHG show us their catch.

Photograph by Prasanta Kumar Naik

“I remember, in 2020, along with two other SHGs, we went to the Khetamundali Panchayat office to participate in bidding for a three-year lease for a pond. When the Sarpanch declared that the base price for the pond was ₹22,500, the other two SHGs present decided to drop out and not take part in the bidding. They felt the price was too high. It left the Sarpanch with no other option but to lease the pond to us for three years with the base price”, said a beaming Satya Jani, President of Maa Saraswati Self Help Group from Talasahi, a small hamlet of Gramadebati village in the Jagannathprasad block in Ganjam district. Soon after her husband’s demise, Satya, 40, shifted with her son Sukura, 14, to her elder brother-in-law Shyam Jani’s house. She works as a farm labourer in her brother-in-law’s land, where they grow horse gram, finger millet, maize, and vegetables.

Gramadebati village has 46 households and is divided into three hamlets – Gramadebati Talasahi with 19 families, Mundia Sahi with 20, and Dhobi Sahi with seven families. For the past four years, the women of Maa Saraswati SHG in Talasahi have been hoping to improve their lives by using their spare time productively to earn an extra income.

Due to a water shortage during the dry months, farmers in the village do not cultivate their fields. As a result, women like Satya work as farmhands in nearby villages. Satya wants to earn well to support her son’s education. She recalls “I was thrilled when all the members of our group agreed to start fish cultivation together. To single-handedly start and manage an enterprise is difcult. Starting an enterprise in a group together with other members and sharing responsibility has helped us form a strong bond among us.”

In 2020, the group planned to bid for the pond for pisciculture. Subhasini Mallik, 28, Secretary of the group, adds, “Though the base price was quite high, we were confdent about our decision to go ahead with the bidding. The group had met a couple of times to discuss every aspect of the business before the bidding. With some good advice from the elders and well-wishers we went ahead.”

Subhasini Mallik’s husband, Ramesh Mallik, says, “My wife wanted to utilise her spare time productively and add to the family’s income. Our son is just two years old, and it was not easy for her to leave him alone at home and work as a farmhand in nearby villages. I work the entire day in my feld. When their group bid for the pond, I told her to go ahead with the group’s decision. I decided to support my wife by taking responsibility for looking after our son for some time in the day whenever it was required.”

After procuring the lease, the members bought fingerlings of salmon and Katla from the nearby Gerada bazaar for ₹12,000. In April 2021, the group harvested three quintals of fish. They sold the catch to residents from neighbouring villages like Khetamundali, Sisunda, Gerada, and Tirigoccha for ₹140/kg. They earned a total sum of ₹42,000 that year. “Our investment included ₹12,000 for the fingerlings and ₹5000 for the net we rented from Kokalaba village to harvest the fish. The group paid off the first year’s lease amount of ₹7500, while we deposited the remaining ₹16,500 in the group’s savings accounts,” said Satya.

After leasing the pond, the members dutifully fed the fish and ensured the pond was clear of weeds. One evening, during a random check, the women spotted several men with a net inside the pond, attempting to steal the fish. The intruders fed upon seeing the women, abandoning their net behind. From that day forward, the women took turns guarding the pond for two months, until the fish were ready to be harvested.

Subhasini Mallik says, “During June 2022, we caught a total of 2.45 quintals of fish and sold at ₹130/kg earning ₹31,850. Our expenditure on fingerling was ₹11,000, and the netting was ₹5000. Our proft in the second year was ₹16,850. I took a small loan from the amount we earned that year for sudden expenses in my family.”

Rasmita Jani, 25, a group member, says, “We harvested three times this year and have sold over four quintals of fish for ₹56,000 at the rate of ₹140/kg. We purchased fingerlings for ₹9780 and ₹15,000 for netting three times. We have also paid the annual lease amount of ₹7500. After meeting all the expenditures, we have earned an amount of ₹23,720 this year. We will try to bid for the pond yet again.” The women say that the income has made them confident in meeting sudden expenses in their families and they don’t have to depend on anyone for money.

The SHG members involved in fish netting in the village pond.

Photograph by Prasanta Kumar Naik


Basanti Devi, District Manager, Prasanta Kumar Naik, Thematic Coordinator in Planning Monitoring Documentation and Communication, and Kalpana Moharana, Thematic Coordinator in Village Institutions, helped in data collection for the story. Priya Pillai edited the story.


Chandrika Patnaik leads content production within the Communications team in Gram Vikas.


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