Farmers everywhere have faced the same problem for millennia: They need land and rain to coax a crop from the ground.
M. Vijaya Gupta won the World Food Prize in 2005 because he found a new answer to that age-old problem. He showed poor people in South and Southeast Asia how to yield a crop from abandoned ponds, roadside ditches, and other ignored bodies of water. He showed them how to recycle what was thought to be farm waste — weeds, manure, and rice bran — and use it as feed to raise a crop of fish.
With these lessons from this Indian scientist, more than 1 million poor families have increased the protein and minerals in their diets, contributing to better health and greater longevity.
Called a leader in the “blue revolution,” Gupta taught poor families to convert small bodies of water into “mini-factories,” producing fish for food. He, and organizations he recruited to assist, taught aquaculture techniques to poor people, training them to breed fish and increase yields for greater income. Gupta’s work began with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research in the 1960s and spread over the decades to Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, and other countries.
In Bangladesh alone, fish yields increased from 304 kilograms per hectare involved in aquaculture to more than 5,000 kg per hectare. In his native India, his aquaculture techniques increased yields as much as twentyfold.
Gupta’s work has focused not on yields alone, but also on sustainability. He coordinated the International Network on Genetics in Aquaculture to encourage support for maintaining biodiversity, and has trained some 300 Asian scientists in developing sustainable production techniques.
According to the World Food Prize citation, “Dr. Gupta has been a lifelong catalyst in expanding the global reach and effectiveness of aquaculture.”
Gupta has been a consultant to many organizations such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.N. Development Programme, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, and others. Gupta is a retired assistant director general of the World Fish Center and remains a senior research fellow at that organization, devoted to reducing poverty and hunger through the improvement of fisheries and aquaculture.