Modadugu V. Gupta

Modadugu Vijay Gupta, Biologist and Indian fisheries scientist
Modadugu Vijay Gupta, Biologist and Indian fisheries scientist

As a fisheries scientist, Dr. Modadugu Vijay Gupta of India’s involvement in research spanning a period of 5 decades in a number of countries in Asia, Africa and the Pacific, resulted in significant increase in fish production and laid foundation for the Blue Revolution.

As a food resource able to provide relatively low-cost, high quality animal protein, aquaculture has emerged as a possible solution to address the looming food crisis and nutrition insecurity as a result of population increase and climate change.

Dr. Gupta spent his entire life developing environment friendly aquaculture methods/technologies using agriculture wastes and by-products along with innovative implementation practices that benefitted small-scale farmers and addressed issues of poverty, nutritional deficiency, and self-resilience in South and Southeast Asia, and enthusiastically organized and educated the poor spreading his methods of aquaculture.

Moreover, he actively taught aquaculture to women with low social status, leading to major improvements in women’s rights and their empowerment. Ignoring threats to his own life and devoting himself to research in war-torn conflict areas, Dr. Gupta’s efforts to develop low-cost methods of aquaculture has created a possible solution that can overcome the food crises as a result of anticipated population explosion and impact of climate change.

  • Gupta is an Indian fisheries scientist who is also known as the “Architect of the Blue Revolution for hunger eradication.” He dramatically mitigated the Southeast Asia hunger crisis by spreading his methods of fish cultivation.
  • He focused on disseminating his aquaculture methods to rural women with low social status in Southeast Asia and opened the door for them to participate in economic activities, thereby improving their income and nutrition, protecting their rights, and improving their status.
  • He is one of the world’s foremost authorities on fish genetics research, and he has worked to establish a global network to increase the world fish supply.
  • Throughout his life, he has lived in areas of extreme poverty and devoted himself to researching and spreading his methods of aquaculture and adapting them for local needs.
  • In 2005, Dr. Gupta received the World Food Prize, considered the “Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture.”
  • Born 1939. 8. 17. India
  • Calcutta University Ph.D. in Biology

Key positions and professional affiliations

  • 1962-1971: Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Assistant Research Officer
  • 1971-1977: Scientist, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)
  • 1977-1981: Economic and Social Commission for Asia-Pacific (UN-ESCAP), Fish Breeding Expert, Mekong Secretariat (Lao PDR)
  • 1981-1985: Economic and Social Commission for Asia-Pacific (UN-ESCAP), Senior Aquaculture Scientist, Mekong Secretariat, Thailand
  • 1985-1986: Senior Fish Farm Management Scientist and Project Leader, Mekong Secretariat, Lao PDR
  • 1986-1989: UN-FAO Fish Culture Specialist/Officer-In -Charge (Bangladesh)
  • 1989-1996: Senior Aquaculture Specialist/Officer-In-Charge, WorldFish Center (CGIAR) in Bangladesh, Malaysia, Philippines
  • 1989-2008: Implemented/coordinated projects and programs in over 20 countries in Asia, Africa and the Pacific
  • 1996-2002: Director, International Relations, Worldfish Center (CGIAR); Research Coordinator, International Network for Genetics in Aquaculture (INGA), initiating aquaculture genetics research projects in Bangladesh, China, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Malawi, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, etc. that resulted in a number of improved strains of fish.
  • 2003-2004: Assistant Director General, International Relations and Partnerships, Worldfish
  • 2005-present: Dr. Gupta's advisory services were taken advantage by a number of international organisations such as: The World Bank; The Asian Development Bank; United Nations Development Program (UNDP); Commonwealth Secretariat, Food and Agriculture Organisation of UN (FAO); Mekong River Commission; Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA); London;United States Agency for International Development (USAID); Agriculture Research Center of Netherlands; etc., for their programs in different countries of Asia and Africa.

Major honors and awards

  • 1978: Outstanding team research in developing low-input, high output aquaculture methods <Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)>
  • 2005: World Food Prize <World Food Foundation >
  • 2007: Gold Medal <Asian Fisheries Society>
  • 2009: Honorary Life Member Award <World Aquaculture Society>
  • 2010: Eminent Agriculture Scientist Award <Government of Andhra Pradesh, India>
  • 2015: Nutra India Summit Life Achievement Award <Nutra India Summit>

Key achievements

Addressed the expected future food crisis due to climate change, and led the Blue Revolution

Through field research and development of aquaculture methods/technologies suitable for the climate and environment of South and Southeast Asia, Dr. Gupta caused an explosive increase in production known to us now as the Blue Revolution.

Having the insight that aquaculture, being able to provide relatively low-cost animal protein, would be the key to solving humanity’s future food crisis, since the 1960’s Dr. Gupta researched and developed compatible fish species that could both thrive in a hot and humid climate and a low-lying environment with seasonal floods.

Especially from the latter part of the 1980’s, he correctly identified fish species such as ‘tilapia’ and ‘silver barb ’, which could thrive even in the turbid and shallow waters of Bangladesh and reach market size in five months.

As a result, Bangladesh annual fish production in 1986 which was only about 170,000 tons when the research started, soared to about 850,000 tons when Dr. Gupta retired in 2004. Since 2000, going beyond Asia, Dr. Gupta has striven to develop the right methods of aquaculture that may thrive in Africa, the frontline of world hunger.

Miraculously brought independence and self-sufficiency to the extreme-poor through the spread of innovative aquaculture methods

Dr. Gupta is a saint of the South and Southeast Asian poor, who rather than give fish to the poor and hungry, taught them how to farm fish, cultivating a miracle of independence and self-sufficiency.

In order to address the hunger and nutrition deficiency problem of the extreme poor in South and Southeast Asia, Dr. Gupta developed low-cost, highly-efficient methods of aquaculture, and devoted himself to passing down his methods while living with the poor in their environment.

As a result, those living in a vicious cycle of extreme poverty and hunger, not just greatly improved their nutritional status, but further instilled in them the hope for a better life.

In the 1970’s, India as a whole was focused on developing high-end aquaculture requiring expert methods and high costs such as shrimp farming benefiting the better-off farmers.

However, during this period Dr. Gupta’s attention was on researching aquaculture methods that were low-cost and highly efficient and could be easily managed by the extreme poor and marginal farmers, developing such methods as ‘fish polyculture’, the culturing of a diversified mix of fish species in one pond, and ‘integrated aquaculture-agriculture’, called the eco-friendly method combining aquaculture and agriculture.

Furthermore, Dr. Gupta built partnerships with the local communities and worked tirelessly to teach his methods to the poor.

Starting with small groups of 5~10 landless poor farmers in each group, he helped them to become motivated and taught them aquaculture skills.

He worked to create a basis for their economic independence through fish farming in leased ponds with minimum financial support for the start-up costs for fish farming.

Significantly improved the social status and rights of Asian women

Dr. Gupta actively spread aquaculture methods to South and Southeast Asian women with a low social status, resulting in not only increased household incomes and nutrition, but also drastically improved the social status and rights of women.

Aware of the fact that some women in poor households in South and Southeast Asian countries have no income because they do not participate in economic activities, Dr. Gupta prepared opportunities for women to participate in economic activities.

He personally convinced some of the religious leaders who were negative towards women’s participation in society to allow them to participate more, and motivated women to be self-sufficient and educated poor women farmers on the basic skills required for aquaculture.

In addition, he cooperated with local organizations so that women could receive the funding and land necessary for their economic activities.

These initiatives were such a great success that now women form considerable work force in fish farming, and this has brought positive changes that has improved women’s rights and status both within the household and in the Society.

Statment

My lifetime goal of contributing for a peaceful society through alleviation of hunger and poverty

I feel it an honour and privilege to be selected for the first Sunhak Peace Prize.

Peace whether it be at family level or national level cannot be achieved on a hungry stomach. I am glad that the Sunhak Peace Prize Committee recognizes the importance of food security, environmental integrity and overall socioeconomic development as essential pre-requisites for a peaceful society and acknowledges individuals that have contributed to this goal.

This becomes much more important in the present day context of increasing global population leading to more demand for food from declining natural resources, looming impact of global warming threatening the fragile ecosystem if appropriate actions are not taken.

This award gives me added energy to pursue my lifetime goal of contributing for a peaceful society through alleviation of hunger and poverty. I am grateful to all those in different parts of the world who helped me in my work