Two young men and a plate of fish transform a village

Despite poverty and hunger being constant companions, childhood friends Suresh and Shanker, two educated youth of village Karaundi in Umariya district, refused to let disillusionment and dejection overwhelm them. “We keenly wanted to change our lives for the better“, remembers Shanker.

They turned their attention to two big ponds the village has been blessed with and, in 2016, rallied their community to make the ponds the focus for changing the village’s future.

The ponds had been in Karaundi for generations. Once a thriving source of fresh water, they had turned into dumping grounds from years of irresponsibility and neglect. Now the ponds were drying up and shrinking.

But Suresh and Shankar didn’t see two dying water bodies. They saw a return of the ponds to cleanliness, they saw fresh water for the entire village, they saw fish being farmed and diets being improved. In short, they saw a transformation of the physical and emotional well-being of their tiny 557 member community through the rejuvenation of the ponds.

In 2016, following a series of discussions with the project team of terre des homme, which supports the cause of the sustainable use of natural resources and inspires active participation of communities to uplift themselves, the prospect of the ponds turning into community fisheries was introduced to the villagers. The idea of community fish farming was readily accepted. A new ray of hope dawned on Karaundi as the villagers reconnected to the value of their natural resources and brought the water bodies back into their lives.

Effective management of the unused ponds were initiated at the community level with the help of the project team and these were made ready for seeding before the 2016 monsoon – the breeding season of fish. With approximately 5000 fish seeds, the ponds, which are now effectively fisheries, yielded about 4 kgs of fish per family. All 557 members of Karaundi had fish on their plates as a new source of nutrition.

“We had forgotten all our beautiful ponds. That these could be the source of our happiness had escaped us earlier. The ponds are now like our family members”, says Suresh.

In 2017, encouraged by the previous year’s success and aided by a Rs. 50 contribution from each family, Karaundi villagers dropped 5000 fertilised fish eggs into each pond. A committee was set up to monitor production and distribution and for the overall management of the two fisheries.

Developing fisheries in small fresh water bodies offers immense scope of livelihood and establishes a sustained source of income and employment for any community. Community fish farming gave the village of Karaundi a new lease of life and introduced the nutrition of fresh fish in their diet.

Karaundi is a triumph of will over adversity, of small groups of committed people making a huge impact. Suresh and Shanker sum it up best: “Nothing is impossible with proper vision, guidance and leadership. The two ponds changed our lives and we hope to make the best use of this natural resource to reshape our fates.”