Don’t just research, use it: World Food Man - by Nirmala Ganapathy Back   Home  
Blue Revolution pioneer Dr M V Gupta returns to live with fish farmers of Andhra Pradesh
NEW DELHI, SEPTEMBER 11: Word has spread among Andhra’s fish farmers that the man who pioneered the Blue Revolution and won this year’s World Food Prize, now lives among them.

Biologist Dr Modadugu Vijay Gupta, who shifted to Hyderabad after his retirement last year, has spent just two months in India. But in that time, he has given advice to scores of fish farmers on increasing their yield and breeding new species.

Gupta was with the World Fish Centre, an international fisheries research institute under the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

The 66-year-old, who will be picking up his World Food Prize on October 13, in Des Moines, Iowa, has helped over a million farmers attain nutritional security in countries like Vietnam and Bangladesh.

Things started moving for this Andhra-born biologist while he worked on an ICAR research project in Kolkata to increase fish yield.

The success led him to join the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific. From there, he travelled to Laos after the Vietnam war and trained local farmers in breeding carp.

But it was his 9-year work in Bangladesh, that changed the lives of thousands.

‘‘Two-thirds of Bangladesh gets flooded almost every year. I found that roadside ponds, small ditches were covered with water hyacinths and other weeds. Perfect for small-scale aquaculture,’’ he told The Indian Express from Hyderabad.

With his help, landless farmers and poor women turned a million such abandoned water bodies into fish-producing areas. Initially, he trained 200 farmers in everything—from choosing and breeding the fish to use of fertilisers.

Consequently, ‘‘yield increased from one-and-a-half tonnes to 3 tonnes per hectare,’’ he said. In 1987, Bangladesh produced 75,000 tonnes fish. Currently, the produce is 8,50,000 tonnes.

Later, Gupta also worked in Thailand and Burma.

Acknowledging his contribution, ambassador Kenneth M Quinn, president of the World Food Foundation, said the methods led to a dramatic rise in freshwater fish production in these countries—by as much as three to five times.

Today, the direction of much of the ongoing research around the world worries Gupta.

‘‘Science is not for science sake. You do research, publish papers and think the work is over. But I think in developing countries, science is for development. If it doesn’t have impact, it is not useful,’’ he said.

‘‘In the past, you could do research and then go with the technology to the farmer. But now, you need a bottom up approach. Start with farmers. Every company first does market research.’’

One of the problems in India is the gap between research and its use, he said. India, he felt, needed to concentrate on farm management and introducing sustainable aquaculture.

Despite his formal retirement last year, Gupta has no plans to ‘retire’.

Apart from helping out the fish farmers, he lets on that he will be working with the World Fish Centre soon on an aquaculture project for India.

He spends time in Mozambique too, where he is helping the government develop its fledgling aquaculture industry.

And he also flies down to Delhi frequently to offer his expertise on ongoing aquaculture research at the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR).

Unfortunately his expertise cannot come in handy when it comes to suffering crop farmers in his own state.

‘‘Aquaculture can only be incorporated with paddy farming and increase profitability of farmers. Cotton farmers are suffering from loss of crops,’’ he said about the situation in his state.

The World Food Prize was conceived by Dr Norman Borlaug, recipient of the 1970 Nobel Prize. Gupta is the sixth Indian to receive the prize since it was established in 1986. Others include Dr MS Swaminathan (1987), Dr Verghese Kurien (1989), Dr Gurdev Khush (1996), B R Barwale (1998) and Dr Surinder K Vasal (2000).
Published in September 12, 2005 edition of Indian Express.