Category Archives: Dr B. Shanthi

Women’s voices, gender equity champions and a gender lens all matter – converging messages from GAF6


A Thai woman gets ready to process threadfin salmon for the market. Photo: Supaporn Anuchiracheeva, the Small-scale Fishers and Organic Fisheries Products Project.

In bold outline, the take home messages from the GAF6 full report – Engendering Security in Fisheries and Aquaculture – converge on the following: women’s voices and gender equity champions  can make a real difference; and a gender lens lets us see inequalities and how to remedy them. These points were woven through the 68 rich and varied presentations, panels, posters and workshops of GAF6. Read the full report here, see the take home messages below.

  • Participants were urged to focus on gender relationships, not simply roles, and on intersectionality, as women’s and men’s lives were interconnected and gender interacted with other systems in society, e.g., cultural, political and economic structures.
  • The 2014 Small-Scale Fisheries Voluntary Guidelines are opening up new policy space on gender equality. Yet, in implementing the Guidelines, women have been deterred from taking part in decision-making, are invisible in most fisheries statistics and their interests excluded from national policies – unless NGOs and women’s groups have advocated for inclusion. Even when women’s needs are recognized, money and expertise may not have been allocated. In a hopeful sign, some recent projects are committed to gender equality.
  • Aquaculture is gendered. Gender roles and relationships in aquaculture follow typical social patterns of ownership, rights and power. Unless they break out as entrepreneurs, women are positioned in small-scale, near-home, and low technology aquaculture, or as low-paid labour in medium and industrial scale operations. Nevertheless, small-scale household aquaculture can fulfill important subsistence roles and be improved to better satisfy food security and nutrition.
  • A persistent thread on fair livelihoods in fish value chains was that gender equality and equity must be fought for, and protected by active measures, rather than expecting it to happen through a sense of natural justice.
  • Using a gender lens brings deeper understanding of climate and disaster adaptation. Flexibility, versatility and agency are keys to people’s resilience. Gender-blind efforts to help people adapt should always be challenged.
  • Real progress in securing gender equality will not be achieved unless social norms are transformed.

Read the whole GAF6 report here – Link

Mrs Usha becomes a community leader through aquaculture

Mrs M Usha (center) weighing crabs for market. Photo: Dr B. Shanthi, CIBA, India.

Mrs M Usha (center) weighing crabs for market. Photo: Dr B. Shanthi, CIBA, India.

Mrs. M. Usha belongs to the Indian Scheduled Irular tribal community. She lives in the remote area of Kulathumedu, a Scheduled Tribal village, Palaverkadu (Pulicat) Post, Ponneri Taluk, Tiruvallur dt.,Tamil Nadu, South India.

Reaching her farming site is quiet tedious. Either you need to trek to these remote villages or go in by boat. When the lake becomes dry during the summer season, you need to walk in through slushy waters to reach the ponds.

Irular tribal people are fishers and crab collectors. They fish in Lake Pulicat as well as in the adjacent sea. During the lean fishing season, their income is affected and they are compelled to look for alternative incomes. Thanks to a collaboration with scientists from the Central Institute for brackishwater Aquaculture, they are now able to consider alternative livelihoods through brackishwater aquaculture technologies like mud crab farming, seabass nursery rearing in hapas and polyculture farming of crab and seabass in a scientific way in the tide fed and community brackishwater ponds in Mrs Usha’s village.

Mrs. M. Usha has developed strong expertise in these brackishwater aquaculture technologies. Utilizing the common brackishwater resources and inputs within her village she has adopted all these technologies and has facilitated the tribal families in her village to take up alternative livelihoods for additional income during the lean fishing season.

An in-depth case study was conducted by Dr. B. Shanthi, Principal Scientist, Social Sciences Division, ICAR- Central Institute of Brackish Water Aquaculture, (CIBA, Chennai). On the basis of her study, Dr Shanthi found Mrs. M. Usha to be versatile and self-confident, have good leadership qualities, be a good motivator, and always fast to grasp new ideas. She has led 150 tribal people, both women and men in families, of this village to adopt polyculture farming of crab and seabass in the community ponds. A Women’s Self Help Group (WSHGs) named ‘Marikolunthu’ adopted crab farming in tide fed pond and Asian seabass nursery rearing in hapas.

The brackishwater aquaculture carried out by Mrs. M. Usha and other tribal families have enhanced the group’s savings. From the profit, they grew their bank accounts and reinvested this in farming. Mrs Usha communicated with others in the self-help group and strengthened internal lending among the group members. Polyculture farming has helped Mrs. Usha and other Irular tribal beneficiaries learn a new occupation for the lean fishing season. The developments also provided demonstration and leadership leading to impact among other tribal families who have slowly started adopting the technologies by investing money from their own their savings.

In the village social taboos prevailed, such as that women should not walk in front of men when the men are returning from fishing because this would lead to poor sales that day. In addition, women should not go outside their village to participate in meetings and events, and should not talk out in front of men. After the technical interventions, the tribal men became more aware of the inequalities and gave more power to the women. Actually, the women in the village overcame the taboos and beliefs when they started going outside their villages to do crab marketing. Mrs. Usha contributed her part to this empowerment.

Noticing the interest of Mrs. M. Usha and her tribal WSHGs, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) assisted the Post -Tsunami Sustainable Livelihoods Programme (PTSLP) in Tamil Nadu. Mrs. M. Usha and her groups received funds and subsidy of Rs. 1 – 3 lakhs (I lakh is 100,000) per each group to assist them adopt crab farming. For their work, Mrs. Usha and her SHG group in Kulathumedu village were subsequently awarded the “Best WSHG of Tiruvallur District”.

In addition on the technology front, these were the first tribal families in India to take up the tedious and risky task of rearing Asian sea bass in nursery hapas in brackishwater ponds and creeks. Farm made feeds developed by Mrs. Usha and her groups gave helped nourish the seabass fingerlings.

Mrs. Usha has enhanced her knowledge and skills through training on mud crab aquaculture from the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Aquaculture (a Society under the Indian Marine Products Export Development Authority) and, from CIBA, on fish sampling, packing of seabass fingerlings for marketing and record & account keeping.

The enterprise has developed a systematic marketing strategy that has helped the villagers learn the modern crab marketing. Mrs Usha has her own style in establishing rapport among the tribal families, WSHGs and crab marketing agents. She gains their confidence to stock water (post-moult) crabs for farming in pond and seabass fry in hapas and then to supply the harvested crabs and seabass fingerlings to the retailers and marketing agents. She has helped transfer this approach to other tribal coastal families and WSHGs.

She has strived hard to bring in a diversification of livelihoods among the tribal families by making them understand that they need an alternative livelihood to earn an additional income apart from fishing to improve their standard of living. Every day she walks 4 kms in the water-logged land to reach her work spot. She along with other tribal family members in the village devotes most of her time to improving their farming enterprises.

The adoption spread from, at first, two WSHGs and three families, and later others came forward. At present in the village, 20 families farm 20 crab ponds and 12 SGHs practice crab farming in tide fed ponds. Seeing the success, a total of 150 irular tribal families both men (82) and women (65) including new 5 WSHGs came forward with a new proposal of polyculture trials.

Mrs. M. Usha receiving the award from Hon’ble Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare of India Shri. Radha Mohan Singh and the Hon’ble Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Processing Industries of India Dr. Sanjeev Kumar Balyan. Photo: ICAR

Mrs. M. Usha receiving the award from Hon’ble Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare of India Shri. Radha Mohan Singh and the Hon’ble Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Processing Industries of India Dr. Sanjeev Kumar Balyan. Photo: ICAR

For all her contribution to her society in the adoption of brackishwater aquaculture technologies, Mrs Usha was selected for the “ICAR – INDIAN AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH INSTITUTE – IARI Innovative Farmers Award”- 2016 of India. She received this award from the Hon’ble Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare of India Shri. Radha Mohan Singh and the Hon’ble Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Processing Industries of India Dr. Sanjeev Kumar Balyan. Hon’ble Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi, inaugurated this Mela during the KRISHI UNNATI MELA 2016, 19-21 March 2016 held at New Delhi.

Acknowledgement: Drawn from material prepared by Dr B. Shanthi, Central Institute for Brackishwater Aquaculture, Chennai, India.

Dedicated extension scientist and team win Outstanding Interdisciplinary Team Award


Dr. B. Shanthi receiving the award from Dr. Sanjeev Kumar Balyan, Hon’ble Minister of State for Agriculture & Food Processing Industries, and (r.) Shri Radha Mohan Singh, Hon’ble Union Minister of Agriculture. The Chief Guest at the ICAR awards programme was the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi.

Dr. B. Shanthi, Principal Scientist (Home Science), and team, Central Institute of Brackishwater Aquaculture (CIBA), Chennai (India), recently won the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) Award for Outstanding Interdisciplinary Team Research in Agricultural and Allied Sciences – 2011-12, for work done under the Department of Bio-Technology funded project on Diversification of Livelihoods among Women Self Help Groups through Coastal Aquaculture Technologies.

This project was implemented at the field level, in Pulicat Village, Tiruvallur district, Tamil Nadu, for 3 years during 2007-2010. Three key technologies, crab fattening as an alternative livelihood in various environments, design, development, fabrication of prototype and installation of mini shrimp feed plant of 200 kg/ day capacity and establishment of fish pickle making unit were introduced. The highlight of this project was the last mile connectivity established through NGO’s working in the district and also ensuring the end to end supply chain of inputs and assured buy back of different output. The project resulted in a 50% increase in the number of days of gainful employment, 28.35% improvement in money income, enhanced awareness of the importance of education, health and hygiene, linkages with bank finance and also resulted in recognition of outstanding work done in the project by stakeholders by important organisations and institutions.

Dr. Shanthi led from the front and the success of the project can be largely attributed to her single handed effort. Hearty congratulations to a dedicated extension scientist!

[Thank you to Dr Mohan Krishnan for this information on “The Fisheries Social Scientists” Facebook page.

Here are two recent outputs from Dr Shanthi and her team:

Picture1Polyculture of Mudcrabs and Asian Seabass by Irular Tribal People in a Community Pond”    Download here

CIBA-e- publications series No. 27 “Opportunities for social mobilization among the irular tribal people using common water bodies for aqua farming” by B. Shanthi, M. Kailasam, V.S.Chandrasekaran, P. Mahalakshimi, C.P.Balasubramanian, K. Ambasankar, Ravichandran and A.G. Ponniah.    Download here [Caution: 7MB file]

For some of our past posts on Dr Shanthi and her team’s work, click here

Diversifying options for women in Indian brackishwater fisheries

Women grading juvenile seabass, Pulicat Lake, Tamil Nadu, India. Photo: Dr. B. Shanthi, CIBA

Women grading juvenile seabass, Pulicat Lake, Tamil Nadu, India. Photo: Dr. B. Shanthi, CIBA

In coastal communities in India, fisheries and aquaculture can provide women and men  with many opportunities for work and livelihood. In Tamil Nadu state, the Central Institute for Brackishwater Aquaculture (CIBA) has long worked on the ground and out in the villages to improve those opportunities with science and people-based projects. Recently, CIBA published two brochures describing two such opportunities.

The first technology brochure is on the processing of jelly fish for the food market.  Although the work is difficult and labour intensive, it provides income for women and men in the off-season of their crab fattening industry (see our previous posts: “Irular women succeed in raising fish and their incomes,” and  “Indian researchers help women succeed in sea bass culture and crab fattening.”  This brochure describes the nature of the jelly fish catching and processing and details how people around Lake Pulicat are involved in it.

The second technology brochure is on sea bass nursery culture Sea bass nursery brochure. The brochure provides detailed information of the different steps in sea bass (Lates calcarifer) nursery culture in hapas in Lake Pulicat.

Thanks to CIBA and Dr B. Shanthi for providing these new brochures for download.

Jelly fish processing brochure: download here

Sea bass nursery culture in hapas brochure: download here

Irular women in Tamil Nadu succeed in raising fish and their incomes


Irular women engaged in sea bass (Lates calcarifer) culture. Stocking, feeding, grading and segregating seed. Photos: Dr B. Shanthi.

A report and news story have come out on “Capacity building of tribal women self help groups on brackishwater aquaculture integrated with agro – based technologies” by Dr B. Shanthi,  and her colleagues M. Kailasam, K. Ambasankar,  P. Mahalakshimi, V.S. Chandrasekaran, S.M. Pillai and A.G.Ponniah, all of the the Central Institute of Brackishwater Aquaculture (CIBA, Indian Council of Agricultural Research), Chennai, Tamil Nadu (South India). The report covers work under the tribal Sub Plan demonstration programme titled DEVELOPMENT OF ALTERNATE LIVELIHOOD OPPORTUNITIES AMONG THE (ST) WOMEN SELF HELP GROUPS THROUGH AQUACULTURE INTEGRATED WITH AGRO – BASED TECHNOLOGIES. Under this, in 2012-2013, CIBA  adopted sixty scheduled tribal women self help groups from Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram Districts of Tamil Nadu.

Nursery rearing of brackishwater finfish Asian seabass juveniles in hapas was demonstrated among 30 Irular tribal women SHGs of Kulathumedu village, Tiruvallur dt., farm made fish feed development, ornamental fish farming and mushroom farming were demonstrated among 30 Irular tribal women SHGs at New Perungulathur, Kancheepuram dt.

Read two well illustrated short reports of the Irular women’s achievements here:

pdf_icon_smallFishing Chimes 33(3) article


Capacity building of tribal women self help groups

Also see previous stories on CIBA work with women in brackishwater aquaculture:

Indian Researchers Help Women Succeed in Sea Bass Culture and Crab Fattening 

Successful Women Entrepreneurs in Aquaculture Sectors: Case Studies of Tamil Nadu, India 

Indian Researchers Help Women Succeed in Sea Bass Culture and Crab Fattening

Newspaper clipping. Source : Dr B Shanti, CIBA.

Newspaper clipping. Source : Dr B Shanti, CIBA.

Dr B Shanthi of the Indian Central Institute for Brackishwater Aquacutlure (CIBA) and other researchers have been working to get technology into the hands of women’s groups in India (see Dr Shanthi’s PPT and paper from GAF3, 2011). Recently, the successes of some of the women entrepreneurs from southern India have been highlighted in the press, with two stories, and a new “how to” poster from Dr Shanthi and her CIBA team.

1. “Crab Fattening Sends Her to Korea” news story from The Hindu, October 2012. 

2.  “Irula Women, Farmers Reap Rich Profits from Selling Sea Bass” news story from The Hindi, December 2012.

3. CIBA POSTER: Oyster Mushroom Farming, Ornamental Fish Farming and Sea Bass Nursery Rearing

Malaysian workshop upgrades knowledge, develops plans for gender equity in Asian aquaculture

Workshop short report by the following four colleagues from the Indian Council for Agricultural Research.

Group at ASEM Workshop. Photo. Dr B. Shanthi

Dr B. Shanthi, Senior Scientist, CIBA, Chennai

Dr.B.Meenakumari, Deputy Director General, (Fisheries), New Delhi

Dr.P.Jayashankar, Director, CIFA, Bhubaneswar, Orissa, and

Dr.Vipinkumar,V.P, Senior Scientist, CMFRI, Kochi, Kerala.

Under the UPM (Universiti Putra Malaysia) led ASEM Aquaculture Platform WP7 (ASEM stands for Asia-Europe Meetings), a workshop on “Empowering Vulnerable Stakeholder Groups” was held from 6-10 February 2012 in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia. From Indian government institutions Dr.B.Meenakumari, Deputy Director General, (Fisheries), ICAR, New Delhi, Dr.P.Jayashankar, Director, CIFA, Bhubaneswar, Orissa, Dr B. Shanthi, Senior Scientist, CIBA, Chennai and Dr.Vipinkumar,V.P, Senior Scientist, CMFRI, Kochi, Kerala, participated in this programme. There were 28 participants (14 women and 14 men) from India, Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia.

The workshop was led by the WP7 (gender) Platform Programme Director, Prof. Dato Dr. Mohamed Shariff bin Mohamed Din (UPM) and Dr. Zumilah Zainaludin as Co-ordinator. In addition the major resource persons from UPM were Dr. Jariah Masud and Dr. Husna Sulaiman.

The major topics covered were basic understanding of gender, poverty eradication policy and programme, gender issues in development, gender issues and barriers in aquaculture, gender analysis tools, livelihood analysis, development context, stakeholder analysis, empowering vulnerable stakeholders, gender mainstreaming and budgeting, gender disaggregated data, scaling up, best practices in aquaculture food production, logical framework analysis and action plan preparation and presentation.

Kerepok lekor machine seen during field visit. Photo. Dr B. Shanthi.

The participants enjoyed a field visit to entrepreneurial ventures of women – two kerepok lekor (fish sausage) enterprises and a community project for culturing red tilapia – and to the Fisheries University at Kuala Terengganu.

The workshop is one of the work packages under the AqASEM09 (Asia−Europe Meeting Aquaculture Platform) –a European Commission supported project under the 7th frame work programme (FP7) Cooperation Theme: Food, Agriculture, Fisheries and Biotechnologies. Coordinated by Ghent University, Belgium, it involves nine participating European and Asian institutions/organizations.

The project intends to work out an action-oriented agenda for co-operation and to develop a multi-stakeholder platform for dialogue, networking and continued coordination concerning sustainable aquaculture between EU and Asia. Through its different stakeholders the platform aims to reconcile ecological and socio-economic demands and introduce or consolidate concepts of sustainability in aquaculture development in both regions. The platform connects experts, the public and policy-makers by disseminating knowledge up to policy levels as well as down to farmers or consumers.

The major purpose of the gender workshop was to learn about gender analysis tools, share country experience in aquaculture, and develop action plans for empowering poor fisherfolk including women and men. In addition to the training sessions, workshop participants shared best practices in poverty eradication and addressing gender issues among aquatic food production communities. Participants prepared action plans for their respective countries. The deliberations and country experiences presented during the workshop were widely distributed among the members of the workshop for integrating gender issues in aquaculture.

Prof. Dato’ Md Shariff presenting workshop certificate to Dr B. Shanthi. Photo. Dr B. Shanthi.

Each country delegation consisted of two policy makers (one woman and one man) and two extension workers (one woman and one man). An example national goal for women in fisheries is “To achieve sustainable economic empowerment of women fisher folk in country’s fisheries sector.”