In the Spotlight: Neetha Shenoy

4 minutes read
Neetha Shenoy (in light green) posing with the Women Self-Help Group of Jagatsingpur district, Odisha involved in hygienic dried fish production using a solar dryer. Photo by Sourabh Kumar Dubey.
  • Neetha Shenoy, an aquaculture specialist at WorldFish in India, shared her work with Women Self-Help Groups and nutrition-sensitive aquaculture. 
  • Her research revealed that aquaculture is key in the upliftment of livelihoods, particularly when women are involved, underscoring the importance of women's participation in aquatic food systems. 
  • She strongly believes that harnessing the potential of aquatic foods through nutrition-sensitive approaches will lead to improved human health and nutrition.  

WorldFish is a global leader in aquatic food systems research and innovation, and science and partnerships are the foundation of our work. Our team delivers robust evidence to policymakers and technological innovations to producers, supply chain actors and consumers to transform food systems. In this series, we profile our accomplished scientists in the spotlight. 

Neetha Shenoy is an aquaculture specialist at WorldFish in India, working on the CGIAR research initiative Aquatic Foods. Her research focuses on food and nutrition security through sustainable aquaculture and fisheries management. Prior to this, she was a member of the WorldFish technical team that worked with the Department of Fisheries in Odisha. She obtained her master's degree in fisheries resource management from Tamil Nadu Fisheries University, India in 2014.

What are you currently working on at WorldFish? 

As part of the CGIAR research initiative Aquatic Foods, I work with different stakeholders, such as the Department of Fisheries, Department of Mission Shakti, farmers and women self-help groups, in the implementation of various flagship programs of the Fisheries and Animal Resource Development Department, Odisha, India. 

To understand the data gaps that exist in aquatic food systems, I recently held consultation meetings with a number of stakeholders, including the government, the corporate sector, value chain actors and research institutions. 

What attracted you to join WorldFish?  

Soon after completing my master’s degree, I was offered a position with WorldFish. WorldFish provided me with a platform to enhance my academic knowledge with field experience. 

It allowed me to put what I learned at the university into practice while also discovering different aspects that were not covered in books. 

What's the most exciting part about your research area?   

There are many aspects of my research work that excite me but none more so than the opportunity to connect with different stakeholders, particularly farmers and communities involved in aquatic food systems. 

I get to listen to their aspirations and achievements as well as understand their difficulties and learn from their experiences. This is indeed rewarding, which much outweighs sitting behind a lab bench. 

What's your most memorable experience working with the Women Self-Help Groups? 

I recall this instance when a member of one of the Women Self-Help Groups (WSHGs) in Odisha told me about how aquaculture had changed her life and how she is now able to contribute to the upliftment of her family’s socioeconomic status. I was overjoyed when she expressed her confidence in her capacity to support her family and offer better food and education for her children. 

There was also this other instance when a group involved in dried fish production stated that being part of the group has given them confidence, motivated them to attend meetings, travel to faraway regions, have decision-making power in their families and have the confidence to attempt new things.  

Seeing positive changes in the people I work with are moments I truly treasure. 

How does your research support women’s empowerment? 

We trained over 10,000 WSHGs on better aquaculture management practices through the Fisheries and Animal Resource Development Department of Odisha’s flagship program ‘Input assistance to women self-help groups for fish farming in Gram Panchayat tanks’. According to the project’s crop outcome survey, fish farming benefited the majority of the WSHGs.  

Women have the capacity to contribute to household incomes but they often lack the agency to participate in decisions related to avenues of income generation. My work improves the lives of women in the WSHGs and offers them a voice in the decision-making process along the aquatic foods value chain by giving them an opportunity to venture into entrepreneurship. 

What innovation do you think has the most significant potential to improve food and nutrition security in India?  

Nutrition-sensitive aquaculture is one of the innovations that have the potential to improve food and nutrition security in India. Nutrition-sensitive approaches to aquaculture aim to harness the potential of aquatic foods to improve human health and nutrition. 

By shifting the focus from feeding to nourishing populations, we place more emphasis on meeting the nutrient requirements of a nation in combating the triple burden of malnutrition and the challenge of feeding 9 billion people. 

What piece of scientific research have you conducted in the past 12 months are you the proudest of and why? 

Over the course of the past year, I have studied the production performance of aquaculture undertaken by WSHGs in community water bodies. The research revealed that aquaculture is key in the upliftment of livelihoods, particularly when women are involved. 

This underscores the importance of women's participation in aquatic food systems and when they are provided the agency to participate in the decision-making process, every member of the household benefits.   

What do you hope your research ultimately achieves? 

I am not asking for much but I hope my research will contribute towards achieving nutritionally secure aquatic food systems for a better world.  

Sean Lee Kuan Shern

Executive Liaison Officer, Director General's Office