Dr Modadugu Vijay Gupta is the former head of the Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia (GIFT) program at the World Fish Center and winner of the World Food Prize, 2005. His most notable work was with new high yielding breeds of Tilapia, produced through an intensive selection program based on an initial founder population of eight interbreeding strains.
By a training farmers and scientists in Southeast Asia in breeding and cultivation techniques, both fish yields and rural incomes increased. Using techniques based on the work of Dr Gupta, poor farmers and rural families across much of South and Southeast Asia have turned abandoned ponds, roadside ditches, seasonally flooded fields, and other bodies of water as small as 300-400 square meters into “mini-factories” which produce fish for food and income. For example, more than 150,000 seasonal ponds in Bangladesh which were lying fallow before Dr Gupta’s intervention are now blooming with fish.
The percentage of Bangladeshi women involved in aquaculture has grown from almost none to about 60%, safeguarding the long-term economic and social stability of rural communities who rely on fish farming. In India, average annual fish production increased from 0.5 tonnes per hectare in the early 1970s to between 2 and 10 tonnes per hectare, whilst in Bangladesh fish yields increased from 0.3 tonnes per hectare to over 2.5 tonnes per hectare in less than a year – including 1 tonne per hectare harvests in the dry season. Across Asia fish farmers can now provide nutrition for their families with enough fish left to bring in added income.