AwF Woman of the Month – February 2015

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AwF Woman of the Month – February 2015

Dr T.V. Anna Mercy

Dr T.V. Anna Mercy

Dr T.V. Anna Mercy, Professor, KUFOS, Panangad, Kerala, India

Problems with communications over the festive season meant that we had to delay our processes for our monthly award and had to miss January….

February sees unanimous approval for Dr Anna Mercy, a professor at College of Fisheries, Panangad since 1984 and there can be no doubting that Dr Mercy has made a longstanding and significant contribution in aquaculture with over 30 years engagement in research and teaching.

Anna has spent invaluable time studying the indigenous ornamental fishes of the Western Ghats of India, originally starting her research with the blind catfish, Horaglanis krishnai (Menon) but over the years Anna is accepted as the ‘God Mother’ of Miss Kerala (Puntius denisonii), considered the most beautiful ornamental fish of the Western Ghats of India. Dr Mercy, with her team, showed how Miss Kerala could be successfully bred under captive conditions.

Dr T.V. Anna Mercy with trainees

Dr T.V. Anna Mercy with trainees

Having successfully pioneered the development of technology for raising 15 different species of ornamental fish in the Ghats region Anna then decided to initiate rural women in the breeding of these fish.

Her teaching obligations at the university did not prevent Anna from developing a highly original pioneering project to improve the living conditions of the village of Kumbalam in the State of Kerala, whose residents were daily wage earners. During lean seasons where work was not available, the families here would often struggle to even have one square meal in a day as is the case in most circumstances.

Anna succeeded in convincing the Indian Government Department of Technology to fund five-day training to 20 women, teaching them all the different aspects of this process, from the building of aquariums to the production of food for the fish. The training continued and many hundreds of people have been able to engage in this opportunity.

Anna encouraged participants to start breeding the fish in their own ponds and on their own terraces and about 20% of those who are trained establish aquariums in their own homes and many others have started building molded glass tanks. Aquarium keeping is a famous hobby worldwide but its popularity has still not reached the majority of households of Kerala, however, for a village such as Kumbalam where almost every other house had a natural water body, there could not have been a better area to be converted to an ornamental fish village.

A report on this training states “The majority of participants in this experiment earn an income of around USD 100 per month thanks to the sale of fish, aquariums and plants for aquariums or fish food. Shops have been opened to sell fish and accessories for aquariums, which increases local income. The project has not only had a significant financial impact, but has also had other positive side effects. For instance numerous women suffering from hypertension or asthma have acknowledged the positive effects of this activity on their health. There has also been a drastic decrease in domestic violence and – especially important – most families now send their girls to school. To insure the continued success of the project, participants receive regular follow-up visits. Worldwide, ornamental fish breeding is worth hundreds of millions and possibly billions of US dollars and India could certainly turn this into a significant source of income both for individuals and the country.”

Through a series of popular articles, radio talks, public talks in different seminars, television programs and training programs Anna generated an interest among the rural people especially women to adopt this activity. Her work on the socio economic development of the rural population of Kumbalam Panchayat, Ernakulam District of Kerala saw her chosen as one of the eleven laureates of the world in 2010 for her creativity in rural life by World’s Women’s summit Foundation of Geneva (WWSF).

Currently Anna has retired from the service of College of Fisheries and is working as a guest faculty in Sacred Heart College, Thevera, Cochin in the Department of Aquaculture and continuing her passion in the field of ornamental fishes through conducting training programs in ornamental fish culture for the rural people.

Our Executive Director, Roy Palmer, first met Anna when the APC Conference was held in Kochi in 2011 and last year he was able to listen to her in Adelaide where she made a presentation at the AwF Session ‘Finding Livelihood Through Ornamental Fish Culture – A Success Story from Kerala, India’. At Jeju Anna is Co-Chairing the Ornamental Fish sessions and may also be presenting a paper in the Women in Aquaculture & Fisheries session so look out for her there.

These awards are organised so that we recognise achievements such as those accomplished by Anna not only covering aquaculture through her research and technology and teaching but also in other important issues such as poverty, gender and promoting aquaculture as a solution in the world.

Congratulations Dr T.V. Anna Mercy.

If you would like to nominate a woman to be the next Woman of the Month, please check the Criteria and complete the Nomination Form.