“Wetlands are wastelands.” This village in Bihar negated this belief and set an example for the rest of the nation.

A farmer tends to a fishery developed in the wetlands. (Photo by Mohd Imran Khan)

Mutlupur in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar is flood-prone, as it is surrounded by Gandak and Bagmati rivers on the northern and southern sides, respectively. The village had approximately 87 acres of low-lying wetland, locally known as chaur, which was considered a nuisance of late since they were not productive in any way.

But, this is history now because a group of farmers have together with concerted efforts converted these abandoned lands as a major source of livelihood.
Says Mulki Devi, a local farmer who was in the forefront to usher this welcome change, “I never dreamt that this wetland would turn productive in my lifetime,” The cultivators are happy that their wetlands, which was put to no use until now, is now a part of an integrated farm, granting them a fixed source of income. They are also optimistic that this income will multiply further in the coming days.
It was at the behest of Gopalji Trivedi, the erstwhile vice-chancellor of Rajendra Prasad Central Agricultural University in Pusa, presently practising cultivation in Mutlupur, who convinced the other farmers to put the wetlands into agricultural and other productive uses.
He says, “I persuaded the farmers to change the face of the low-lying Korlaha wetland. Despite being apprehensive and reluctant initially, they joined hands and the wetland that was abandoned for decades is the village’s centre of attraction now and a definite source of income too.

Gopalji Trivedi (right), former vice-chancellor of Rajendra Prasad Central Agricultural University at Pusa, convinced farmers in Mutlupur to use a barren wetland for agricultural purposes. (Photo by Mohd Imran Khan)

Around 22 farmers including Trivedi, whose landholdings ranged from small to big, pooled resources to develop the wetland. They formed an association and an advisory committee to monitor and manage the entire process.
They got in touch with veterinary, agricultural, fishery and horticultural experts in order to employ the latest technologies and developments in integrated farming.
Goplalji Trivedi adds, “The focal point for us is fisheries as it is the most ideal use of wetlands. He further says that they have also  integrated poultry, a goat farm and a dairy unit into their development plan.”
In the Korlaha wetlands, there are 17 big ponds, the largest spread over 14 acres. Nearly 50 local residents, mostly youth, fish in this wetland’s ponds.
Mukesh Kumar, a Dalit youth says, “Every day I take fresh fish from this wetland and sell them in villages near Mutlupur. Now, I can earn my livelihood, and I have stopped thinking of migrating to other states for work. There are dozens like me here, who are selling fish as it is a profit generating business.”
This innovation has definitely enabled the farmers to earn a living locally without having to migrate to other states in search of livelihood avenues.
Agriculture analysts and experts had reiterated that that wetlands can never be put into productive uses but the farmers are happy to have challenged this theory and to have succeeded in their experiment.
Mangala Rai, the former agriculture advisor to the chief minister of Bihar and former Director General of Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR), has applauded the farmers’ noteworthy contribution and how they have served as an inspiration to others.
Due to the success of this experiment, another group of farmers is in talks to develop their 70 acres of wetland.
Analytically speaking, if managed efficiently, wetlands of Bihar can be turned into an agricultural goldmine by employing the latest scientific and technological practices for better management of wetlands in the state.
Gopalji Trivedi further adds, “If we can develop wetlands for integrated farming in Mutlupur, people in flood-prone villages in north Bihar, particularly in Seemanchal, Koshi and Mithilanchal regions, can do the same. Use of wetlands for agriculture and fisheries would change the face of rural Bihar.”
 An official of the state fisheries department says, “There are around 941,000 hectares of wetlsnds in Bihar, which remain submerged for six to seven months a year. Of these, more than 500,000 hectares have been declared suitable for fishing.
Personally speaking, this experiment that started from a small village in Bihar can go a long way in addressing the problems of farmers and if this model is adopted nationwide, it can help a great deal in ending the hopelessness of farmers by proving employment opportunities to the cultivators thereby reducing their plight and giving the farmers their rightful dues.
Source: TBI

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