Multi- use common water bodies (MUCWBs) constitute an important component of community assets in India and have been used as traditional commons by the village communities to meet their domestic needs and practice fish farming. Governance and institutional structures of MUCWBs for culture fisheries have considerable potential to contribute to poverty alleviation. In recent years there has been a spurt in the growth of freshwater aquaculture in India. In a few Indian States, including Chhattisgarh, efforts have been made to design more efficient policies and governance regimes for sustaining culture fisheries in MUCWBs in view of devolution process of Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRIs) or local governing institutions in terms of function, functionaries, and funds. In recent years fish culture in ponds and tanks has been managed under internal institutional structures of distributed governance or shared management system in India as well as in Chhattisgarh. In the State of Chhattisgarh freshwater aquaculture has been managed under cooperative governance. The fresh water bodies have traditionally been managed and controlled for fish culture under the common property regime. However, after 1952 most of the water bodies (ponds and tanks) were transferred to Panchayats or the irrigation. Nevertheless these water bodies are still multipurpose and multifunctional in nature with inherent inter-dependencies.
Chhattisgarh has a well structured organizational network to manage freshwater aquaculture in the village ponds, irrigation tanks and reservoirs. The State has a two-tier cooperative structure to manage and develop freshwater aquaculture. At the apex level Chhattisgarh State Fish Cooperative Federation (CSFCF) is responsible to manage reservoirs, fish farms and hatcheries for fisheries development. At the second level, a three tier Panchayat organizational setup (Village Panchayat, Janpad Panchayat and District Panchayat) works for assigning fishing rights or lease of village ponds and irrigation tanks.
This study was carried out to understand the performance of fisheries cooperative societies (FCSs), individual fishers (IF), and self help groups (SHGs) in culture fish farming in village ponds and tanks. To analyze the strength and weakness of cooperative governance structures primarily adopted in the State of Chhattisgarh for sustainable use of tanks/ponds for fish culture, an institutional framework was applied. Institutional framework was also used to understand the performance of SHGs. The institutional framework used herein has assessed physical and technical attributes of tanks/ponds, characteristics of fisher folk community in relation to other stakeholders using common water bodies, external and internal institutional arrangements, impacts and outcome.
The decision making mechanisms across the five FCSs differ significantly, despite the fact that they are all registered FCSs, in case of harvesting of fish, intermediate fishing catches for thinning the fish population of local and improved fish varieties, fixing of prices, mode of sale, receiving financial and technical assistance and influencing the leasing authority to provide expected water level in the tanks and ponds for fish culture. Effective interrelationship among ponds and tanks attributes, fisher folk community sub-castes characteristics, decision making arrangement and pattern of inter- action can yield economic and equitable outcome.
Performance of five selected FCSs in relation to members implicit goal of enhancing livelihood and generating employment through fish culture is evaluated in terms of fish yield per hectare of water spread area, net income, and man-days of employment per member per year. Higher performance can also be achieved even in case of rain fed ponds without imposing restriction to use growth promoting inputs as seen in case of Mandir, Marar, and Mandal. The performance of SHGs is still lower than many IFs who had leased Panchayat owned or privately-owned ponds, in terms of yield, income and employment generation capability due to inter-caste conflicts among members and pursuing self-motive agenda of non-fisheries development.
It has been observed in the study area that FCSs have a tendency to lease in all the common ponds or irrigation tanks within eight km periphery in a particular village to strategically eliminate FGs and IFs in these common water resources. In case of village ponds leased by individual fishermen it has been also observed that the lessee is either an office bearer of a local FCS or member of any sub caste of fisherman community. Except in SHGs the lessee has to be from fisherman community to lease Panchayat owned ponds.