Acting as a catalyst for change in the male-dominated profession of fish farming, Jaljeevika not only gave women financial independence, but also gave them social recognition in their community. The “Matsya Sakhis”, as they are called, are responsible for educating the farmers on how to prepare the pond, maintaining the water quality of the pond and guiding them on a daily basis regarding the fish farming. With women acting as the backbone of the program, this Jaljeevika initiative has helped establish women as farmers and fisheries extension workers.
How it works
Jaljeevika worked with 576 farmers in the Yavatmal district of Maharashtra. Thanks to the Krishi Mangal programme, the Pune-based NGO was able to increase average income by 77% compared to the previous year. It has also created 132 micro-entrepreneurs across the fisheries value chain, including 15 Matsya Sakhis under the program.
By putting the female extension worker – Matsya Sakhi – center stage, engaging with government programs and using digitized technology like the IOT-based sensor to provide pond-based advice to farmers, Jaljeevika is revolutionizing the aquaculture value chain, helping it become a sustainable source of livelihood.
Socio-economic advancement of women
The Matsya Sakhis are responsible for disseminating uniform technical knowledge for pond maintenance to the farmer. They follow farmers on their practices and provide manual support in monitoring processes from the farmer’s side. “We guide the farmers on how to prepare their pond, we provide them with good quality seeds and the type of fish feed they need. We are also responsible for teaching farmers how to test pond water and ensure water quality is maintained,” Explain Matsya Sakhi Prajakta.
Prior to this initiative, women were associated with women’s self-help groups through credit and savings schemes, where not only their income but also societal recognition was minimal. The “Matsya Sakhi” initiative has helped them build their self-confidence and generate substantial income for the household.
“These women presented themselves as torchbearers of knowledge in a male-dominated society. It is not just economic impact, but dignity and social recognition that are the real wins for us,” said Neelkanth MishraFounder and CEO, Jaljeevika.
One of the biggest challenges Jaljeevika faced was recruiting women as extension workers. Since pond assessment involved traveling long distances, the issue was initially met with strong resistance from the community. With the support of their families, Matsya Sakhis was able to overcome the obstacle.
Moreover, the limited movement due to the ongoing pandemic has not only slowed down the supply of IoT sensors, but also delayed the pilot. Untimely rains and a limited supply of fingerlings are other factors that have contributed to reducing the potential impact of the program.
However, ecosystem partnerships like those with Project Amplify, Frugal Labs, Daynil, and UMED have helped a lot in tackling the various challenges head-on.
The Maharashtra Tribal Department’s Shabari Initiative has also helped to empower women. With the support of Jaljeevika, Mahila Navnirman Mandal has successfully received a grant of Rs 80 lakh from the initiative. Raising capital from traditional government programs not only gave them access to better facilities, but also instilled faith in their vision.
Role of Krishi Mangal in building impact on the ground
Jaljeevika credits the Krishi Mangal program with helping him converge technology and data analytics with social process. The program has helped enormously to develop the idea of reaching millions of fish farmers across the country. Jaljeevika received immense benefits in terms of validation, technology upgrade, making the system more robust and user-friendly for small to marginal class fish farmers.
While physical interaction and grassroots community intervention using extension services helped farmers to some extent, it was not scalable and made it very difficult to connect with larger numbers in different geographical areas. However, the Krishi Mangal program has helped Jaljeevika test the idea of using digital inclusion-based services to help navigate different topographies. Similar unified solutions could be delivered and leveraged across the country, and stakeholder engagement could also be leveraged through diverse community members in different geographies.
“We have piloted significant opportunities for scaling through technology intervention through the Krishi Mangal initiative,” adds Neelkanth.
Krishi Mangal played a crucial role in helping to digitize the process that brought technology and knowledge to remote parts of the community. Verification and testing of technologies developed for fish farming, integration of value chain actors and support from government agencies are some of the critical roles played by Krishi Mangal in enhancing the impact on the ground of Jaljeevika.
“Our goal is to make it a platform for common interaction, mainly through technology and applications, but also through this physical space. It will be a platform bringing together the entire aquaculture value chain,” said Neelkanth.
Before the Krishi Mangal initiative, the annual income generated from the 570 fish ponds in Yavatmal district was around Rs 1.8 crore, after the implementation of Krishi Mangal practices, the final data shows that the annual income was rose to Rs 3.9 crore. The program has helped double farmers’ income in just one year of practice monitoring and process monitoring by extension agents.
After Krish Mangal’s initiative, there was a massive increase in the number of aquatic schools. “We are developing more aquatic schools, in larger parts of Maharashtra, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Once we reach 1,000 aquatic schools, that means 1 billion farmers can be reached through extension and market linkages. This is another process validation we received during the Krishi Mangal initiative,” quips Neelkanth.
Krishi Mangal’s impact has been commendable in creating different avenues of income generation. There has been a tremendous increase in interest from government agencies, banks, research institutes and stakeholder engagement. As everyone comes forward to establish more community partnerships, the future represents a new phase of connections and partnerships in the digital platform as well as the aquatic school model.