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Almost 75% of North Bihar is prone to floods, affecting 28 districts. This results in significant destruction of property, loss of lives, and damage to farmlands and infrastructure. The rural communities in these areas face the compounded challenges of climate change impacts and existing poverty, intensifying the adverse effects of floods on their livelihoods. However, the fishing community demonstrates a remarkable ability to quickly recover after floods by resuming their livelihood activities as soon as the floodwaters recede.

In response, the Centre for Aquatic Livelihood Jaljeevika, a non-profit organization, initiated Project Pokhar in Dhamdaha block of Purnia, Bihar, with the approach to build resilience to climate change within fisheries and aquaculture communities.

The project focuses on promoting gender inclusivity and innovative approaches for sustainable resource utilization and diversified livelihoods. It also emphasizes the development of resilient value chains in fisheries by enhancing infrastructure and equipment to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Farmers in North Bihar have traditionally engaged in river and pond fishing to diversify their incomes, selling their catch locally. Some also lease land for farming to supplement their income. The availability of fish is seasonal, so they also trade in fish by purchasing fish from the wholesale market during the dry season or when supplies are low. In many cases, despite obtaining loans and purchasing equipment like fishing nets, the lack of rainfall during the monsoon season prevents the farmers from fishing effectively. Additionally, farming suffers due to reduced rainfall and a decline in selling rates caused by low-quality production.

Jaljeevika has developed a cluster mapping toolkit using the no code KOBO toolbox. This toolkit enables the mapping of potential waterbodies and other resources at the panchayat level, facilitating informed decision-making and intervention planning. The cluster mapping toolkit promotes community-based decision-making, collaboration, and sustainable practices for the benefit of local livelihoods and the environment.

Cage culture has been introduced to mitigate flood-related challenges in fish farming. This approach safeguards fish, enabling the cultivation of fish spawn and fry even during floods. Once the floodwaters recede, the fish can be transferred to ponds, offering cost-effectiveness for farmers by avoiding the surge in seed prices that typically follows floods.This practice leads to increased harvests and enhanced productivity, as conditions for each type of fish can be optimized for their specific dietary and environmental needs.

Jaljeevika has also setup an Aqua school that serves as a platform for fish farmers to enhance their skills and knowledge in aquaculture. It provides training programs, demonstrations, and practical learning opportunities to empower farmers with innovative techniques and best practices. The Aqua School also promotes natural resource management planning and raising awareness about sustainable aquaculture practices for the long-term preservation of resources and ecosystems. Additionally, an Aqua Mart has been setup to ensure that farmers have access to the necessary resources to address their aquaculture needs.

According to Sandeep Kumar, the Tech Lead of the project, farmers involved in aquatic livelihoods rely on seasonal loans to meet their specific needs such as fishing nets, seeds, medicine, or feed. However, they face challenges in accessing financial support from banks due to the lack of collateral. In collaboration with the "Rang De" peer-to-peer credit program, an aquaculture credit support initiative has been established, known as the Aqua Fund. This initiative allows farmers engaged in aquatic-based livelihoods to access a maximum loan amount of Rs 25,000,
with an annual interest rate of eight percent.

The program prioritized gender inclusivity by actively supporting and empowering women farmers like Mallah Devi. On a normal day, she buys 30-45 kg fish for selling in local market. “We buy a high value fish like Gadai and Sauri for Rs 140 per kg and will sell it for Rs 200 per kg in the market,” says Mallah Devi. Mallah Devi took a loan of Rs 15,000 from the Aqua Fund. She is using the funds to expand her business, and was able to earn a profit of Rs 40,000 from the loan. Mallah Devi is also an active member of a producer group, further enhancing her involvement in the program's activities.

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