With the goal of promoting zero waste farming, 31-year-old Zidda Ahamad from Yairipok Singa in Thoubal district of Manipur in Northeast India has started a low-cost eel farming by using waste products from Mushroom farming.
Starting the low-cost eel farming in October 2019, Zidda became the first and the only eel farmer in Manipur till date. Also, with the creation of vermicompost from the wastes left after harvesting of eels, no single waste is left in this farming process.
Zidda is also a pioneer in mushroom farming among the Meitei Pangal (Muslim) community. He started mushroom farming in 2016 in a land provided by the local club of Singa and has been earning around Rs 9-10 lakh per annum. Moreover, he provided seasonal jobs to around 20 locals and employed four locals to help him in running the farm.
According to health experts, eel is a good source of protein, omega-3, and a wide range of vitamins A, D, and B12, and minerals and has been closely associated with the culture of the Meitei community. Presently eels are not easily available in the market though demands are high. Its market value is estimated at around Rs 600-800 per kilogram.
“I got the idea of eel farming after witnessing the biofloc fish farming. Since then, I started research work on eel farming through YouTube and practically started it using a tarpaulin, waste from mushroom farming, cow dung and waterweed,” Zidda said in an interaction with the Imphal Free Press.
Finding elvers (baby eels) is one of the biggest challenges in starting the eel farm as it is not easily available in the market. Moreover, when he approached the officials of Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) and the state fishery department, they were unable to provide elvers, he said.
Slowly, he started the eel farming company beside his mushroom farm under the banner “Sultana Eels Farming” by buying middle size eels (100 gm approximately) from local fish traders.
Presently, Zidda has seven eel farming tanks. He said the total cost for setting up eel farming in a tank measuring 15x10x1.5 feet is Rs 40,000. In such a tank, around 1,000 eels can be put up and will reproduce around 2,000 eels.
So far, Zidda has harvested only 50 kg of eels as he is focusing on breeding to expand the farm. In a tieup with officials KVK, Imphal East, he is currently working to produce eel eggs by means of artificial insemination.
He said once eel eggs are produced successfully by means of artificial insemination, eggs or elvers can be easily supplied to the interested farmers who are willing to take up eel farming.
Pointing out that as the demand for eels is very high in Manipur and will be very profitable, he suggested the farmers of the state to take up eel farming.
Experimenting on eel farming without farm compost, he has also started farming small fish along with the eels in two separate tanks, so that the wastes of the fish and the leftover of the fish food can be consumed by the eels.
According to Zidda, he had applied for the Prime Minister's Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP) and StartUp scheme for expanding his farm and giving the opportunity of employment to needy persons. However, till today the government has not given any approval to avail the benefits of the schemes.
Once a state-level football player, Zidda dreams of becoming a successful entrepreneur one day. He plans to generate job opportunities to the unemployed people of Manipur, where unemployment is one of the major issues faced by the state.