Encourages fish farmers to grow makhana as second crop in the pond for double income
“Makhana and fish farming is eco-friendly integration in fresh water pond. Farmers can get double their income by growing these two aqua crops simultaneously. Apart from two-fold revenues both these crops complement each other perfectly. Fish keeps makhana (called as fox nut in English) crop safe from pests while post harvest of makhana the left behind leaves and stalk of the plant decomposes naturally and turns into organic matter that enhance the nutrient content in the water important for growth of the fish,” shares Mr. Jay Prakash Lal Das, Founder, Fishery Clinic.
Fishery Clinic at Darbhanga, Bihar is the consultancy firm established in the year 2009. “I have trained more than one thousand farmers in makhana cum fish farming in 9 years of professional life as a consultant. In the lowland farming region having good water retention capacity this integration will lead to good returns to the farmers,” he asserts. Makhana leaves cover the top water surface of the pond while fish moves freely below it in different layers.
Makhana grows in 90% of the pond area while 10% of the pond is left open allowing the fish to breath. Giving the example of natural pond spread in one hectare, Mr. Das clarifies, “In one hectare when the farmer is growing makhana and fish at the same time then 10% of the pond area is enclosed preventing the makhana leaves to spread in this vacant area. 10% area is left vacant to compensate the oxygen depletion in the covered area of the ponds. Inadequate oxygen in the water leads to fish mortality therefore 10% vacant space is must in this process. Usually small patch in the centre and four corners of the pond are left vacant. To do so we use bamboo poles and make the area enclosed preventing the makhana leaves to spread in these spaces but allowing the fish to move around freely.”
Farmer needs to transplant makhana seed or spread the seedlings only once in the first year then after this aquatic plant survives and germinates on its own. Commonly the seed germination begins in the month of January and harvested in July-August. Then after the leaves are cut and decomposes which turns into organic matter in the water naturally. The fish that grows in this integration process are rohu, mirgal and other air breathing fishes namely singhi, magur,kabai and saur. “In this process we do not rear catla fish because it stays in the top layer of the pond which is occupied by makhana. Fish that moves below the top surface in the fresh water pond are reared. Air breathing fish grows extremely well with makhana crops and sold at high price,” elucidates Mr. Das. There is no need of changing the water as these are natural pond with fresh water.
Makhana is harvested once in the year where as fish can either be harvested 3-4 times in a year or once in a year. “Fish harvesting totally depends on the farmer. These days instead of fish fingerlings farmers either use zero size fish or fish yearlings. As the demand of fresh water fish is extremely high and sold at good price farmers prefer zero size fish or fish yearlings. The zero size fish weighs 200 gram. It is fed and allowed to grow for 3 months. It quickly gains 500-600 grams weight in three months, and then it is harvested and sold. Although the size is small but it sells at good price. Yearlings are bought at Rs. 3-5/piece and gains weight of 700-800 grams in 6 months. Farmers prefer fish yearling most,” explains Mr. Das. In one hectare pond, approximate production of makhana is 18-22 quintal. Rohu and Mirgal fish if harvested once in a year the production varies 1200 -1800 kg/hectare.
The harvested makhana looks like a complete black seed ball which is then processed to remove the black outer cover and pull out the white puffs. “The entire procedure of harvesting and processing is manual thus it is extremely laborious and tedious for the farmer. So far mechanization is unsuccessful in this process. However, as makhana is a super food and quite popular among st the health conscious consumer it has high demand and farmer can earn good income,” he highlights. Fox nut/makhana when harvested is completely black in colour. The processing begins with washing, drying, grading, first frying, storing, second frying, hammering and then final storage. Only trained labour team can process makhana. It takes 8-10 days in processing.
Selling price of makhana depends on its size. Overall the pricing of this dry fruit variant is extremely fluctuating. On an average farmer earns only Rs. 150-180/ kg for big size white puffs (makhana) while Rs. 70-80/kg for small size. On the contrary fish are sold with good profit margin. Rohu and mirgal are sold in retail at Rs. 300-350/kg. Air breathing fish variants are sold at Rs. 500-800/kg. Altogether it is profitable process for fish farmer believes Mr. Das.
Recently along with consultancy Mr. Das has developed medicinal formulation for fishery. He has launched the same under his own brand name ‘Star Aqua’. Next he wants to diversify in value addition of makhana. “I want to develop a flavourful snack from low size makhana and improve its price,” he shares.
Prior to setting up the consultancy firm Mr. Das had served in various private and government research institutes across South Indian states, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Kolkata at difference capacities. “Farming integration leads to livelihood transformation hence farmers must take it up seriously and sincerely,” he signs off.
Mr. Jay Prakash Lal Das
Bajitpur, Milky Chak, Darbhanga, Bihar -846009