February 28, 2013

In Memoriam - M.C. Nandeesha (1957 - 2012)

Dr. M.C. Nandeesha, Special Officer, Vice-Chancellor designate, Tamil Nadu Fisheries University, and Chairman of the Asian Fisheries Society Indian Branch and AFS Council Member, passed away on 27 December 2012 after suffering a heart attack and a month-long struggle for life in the critical care unit of Apollo Hospital, Chennai. He was an extraordinary man with a vision and a mission. When I think of him, I recall the words of Pierre de Coubertin: “The most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.” He lived a life fighting for what he believed is right and just.

Nandeesha was born on 1 July 1957 in Mudanakude, a village near Mysore, Karnataka, into a rural farming family. After spending his early education in the village, he joined the College of Fisheries, Mangalore in 1976 to pursue professional fisheries education. He graduated in 1980 with a B.F.S., earned his M.S. in Fisheries in 1982, and then joined the Agriculture College, Dharwad, as a research assistant in fisheries. He moved over to the College of Fisheries, Mangalore as Assistant Professor in 1985. During 1987-1992 he carried out off-campus research on fish nutrition and earned a Ph.D. from Visva-Bharati University, Santhiniketan, West Bengal.

From 1992 to 1997, he served as Fisheries Adviser for PADEK in Cambodia. In 1997, he returned to Mangalore and was appointed Associate Professor. He joined LIFE under CARE in Bangladesh in 1998 and served as Research and Dissemination Adviser until 2000 when he was elevated to Project Coordinator in GOLDA under CARE in Bangladesh. In 2001 he joined the College of Fisheries, Central Agricultural University, Tripura as Professor of Aquaculture. In 2010, he was selected as Dean of the Fisheries College and Research Institute at Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu and subsequently in March 2012 as Special Officer of the newly formed Tamil Nadu Fisheries University, Nagapattinam. During his tenure as Dean, he initiated international partnership research programs with three universities in the USA, two in Europe and three in Asia, in addition to facilitating many exchange visits.

He also organized an expert consultation on fisheries education in India in 2011 by bringing together representatives of all fisheries colleges in India on a single platform to interact with 20 international experts. This consultation identified the challenges facing fisheries education in the country and developed a detailed plan that was submitted to the Government of India for incorporation into the Twelfth Plan. Another output was the concept of providing support for the development of experiential learning programs in the fisheries sector which was accepted by the ICAR by including two fisheries modules. In November 2012 he was selected as the first Vice-Chancellor of this newly formed university, a position he could not take up because he was hospitalized and did not recover.

During a career spanning more than 29 years, his contributions as a development researcher and innovative aquaculture development worker through numerous honorary positions earned him much appreciation and reputation. He served two terms as Secretary of the Indian Branch of the Asian Fisheries Society, worked in various capacities for the FAO, CARITAS, JICA, World Bank, NACA, CARE, IDRC, PADEK, NOVIB, and CIDSE in many south east Asian countries. At the time of his untimely death, he was serving as Chairman of the Indian Branch of Asian Fisheries Society, Council Member of AFS, Team Member of Global Initiative for Life and Leadership through Aquaculture (GILLS), Chair of Aquaculture without Frontiers, and Member of the Oversight Committee of Best Aquaculture Practices of the Global Aquaculture Alliance. The most sustaining contribution Nandeesha made was establishing the Indian Branch of the Asian Fisheries Society along with Prof. H.P.C. Shetty in 1986. The First Indian Fisheries Forum was held in Mangalore in 1987 and since then I have been actively involved with him in establishing the AFSIB on strong footing.

His pioneering work in field testing Ovaprim in India under various agro-climatic conditions opened up new vistas in freshwater fish breeding in India. His significant scientific contributions include simplified breeding technology for cyprinids, development of feeds and feeding techniques appropriate to rural aquaculture, development of small-scale aquaculture and fish seed production techniques appropriate to Cambodia and its potential in poverty alleviation, farmer participatory research as a tool to improve fish productivity in rural Bangladesh, demonstration of the benefits of rice-fish farming in eliminating the use of pesticides, development of prophylaxis and treatment procedures for the control of EUS (Epizootic Ulcerative Syndrome) through farmer participatory research, development of aquaculture strategies to reduce the risk of small farmers involved in freshwater prawn farming through diversification in Bangladesh, participatory monitoring and evaluation techniques suitable for aquaculture, development of approaches for addressing gender issues and mainstreaming of gender in fisheries and aquaculture, and significant contributions for the development of human resource and institutions in India and developing south Asian countries.

dream big and motivate people. He was full of energy and ideas and a great driving force and go-getter. Nothing was impossible for him. He had many critics who could not appreciate his style of thinking and working, but that did not deter him from moving forward. Nobody could ignore his commitment and sincerity. Every inch he thought, dreamt, lived fisheries.

Until the last breath he had only fisheries on his mind. The numerous seminars, symposia, workshops, and publications of the AFSIB stand testimony to his hard work and commitment. The recently concluded global symposium in Mangalore, during the Silver Jubilee celebrations of AFSIB, was his brainchild. At 11 pm on the night before he fell ill, he called me to discuss arrangements. Even from the ICU in Apollo Hospital, Chennai, he was monitoring, motivating and tying up loose ends for the successful conduct of the symposium.

His vision of getting Indian fisheries and aquaculture the rightful position in the national fabric remains unfulfilled and it is for all of us to continue to strive for this ultimate objective. He was a human dynamo, burning himself for the cause of grassroots-level fisheries development. There could be many researchers and development workers, but there will not be another Nandeesha. He was unique

Dr. Nandeesha is survived by his wife Dr. Rajeswari Dayal who was his back office, shouldering all his professional office work, documentation and management, and a son Aditya, who is just ten years old.

The fisheries and aquaculture sector lost an extraordinary person. He taught us that the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. He showed us that what is important is not how long we live, but how we live. His life has been an inspiration to all those who believed that tomorrow will be brighter and warmer. He made us dream big, think beyond. His life and thoughts will continue to inspire all of us. I recall what George Patton Jr. said: “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.”

Prof. Dr. Mohan Joseph Modayil
Kochi, Kerala, India

Nandeesha is like a younger brother to me. He worked in India at the beginning of his illustrious career in aquaculture and excelled in aquaculture extension work. Much of his international contributions came later. When I was working for FAO/NACA in Bangkok, Nandeesha was very actively involved in aquaculture development work in Southeast Asia, especially Cambodia. We later came together in Bangladesh, where we saw the depths of agony of poor rural folk with theirsmall ponds struggling to raise fish to meet their widening need for food and nutrition. Nandeesha was one of those actively involved in helping to improve their lot through improved farming methods. Nandeesha played an active role in spreading the cause of rural, small-scale aquafarming, which dominates in much of Asia. The lessons of sustainable development in aquaculture came to prominence much later. Nandeesha did commendable work in this area and endeared one and all in the profession – the small farmers gained considerably in such occasions led by Nandeesha. Returning to India, Nandeesha joined the Tamil Nadu Veterinary Animal Sciences University at Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu as its Dean, Fisheries College & Research Institute, an institution which had also played a role in my life, for I was in the same position in its founding stage.

Later in our lives we met often outside India at WAS and lately Aquaculture without Frontiers (AwF) meetings. His role as a Director on the WAS Board and also AwF gave him also good opportunities to spread his message of rural aquaculture development to help the poor and lowly. I find it difficult to envisage an aquaculture meeting of experts and friends without the familiar cheerful and warm participation of Nandeesha. He always looked beaming with a broad smile and cheer in his face in the midst of old and new friends, talking very meaningfully about the global aquaculture scenario and his seemingly humble role in it. We would all surely miss Nandeesha ever and everywhere.

M. N. Kutty
“Prasadam”, Puthur
Palakkad, Kerala, India

Strange are the ways of life. It becomes so strange and arbitrary that I cannot find any reason why Dr. Nandeesha is not with us today. It was just a few days before he was admitted to hospital that he talked to me over phone, in his typical ‘persistent’ way, about the success of the recent conference he organized in Mangalore.

It is difficult to find a person like Nandeesha who was such a committed advocate for aquaculture. While he was still experimenting with how aquaculture could benefit eradication of hunger, poverty and gender inequalities, his dynamism drew no boundaries, expanding all over the Indian subcontinent and beyond. As an able leader, Nandeesha believed in fruitful collaborations that could make a difference in achieving targeted goals. His vision as an academic head was to boost the potential of every student in his institution nurtured in a supportive academic environment. It was a rare honor for him to lead one of the first Fisheries Colleges in India as Dean, and the progress the College made under his leadership was phenomenal. He will ever be remembered for the pace with which he boosted the prestige of the College to a University within less than two years of his term, albeit the new Fisheries University was not fortunate enough to bloom under his patronage.

In the 1980s my friendship with Nandeesha grew more intimate. When I started working on giant freshwater prawn at Kochi, he expressed his desire to associate with us for possible collaboration between the Kochi and Mangalore groups. Regular communication channels were not as prevalent as they are today, and our interactions were mostly at meetings or seminars in different parts of India. Personally Nandeesha was a great supporter and motivator. This was mostly visible when we organized the first WAS meeting in India, the Asian- Pacific Aquaculture (APA 2011) at Kochi.

It was not surprising that his talents were recognized worldwide in the form of several national and international awards. One of the most significant was the Sahameitrei Award from the Royal Government of Cambodia in 2008 for his commitment to fisheries development in that country. He also received the Prof. H.P.C. Shetty Award (2008), Best Teacher Award (2004-2007), Dr. K.C. Naik Award, AFS Gold Medal Award, several best paper awards, young scientist awards, among many others. Some of these awards also recognized his contributions to social development using aquaculture as a tool, and for development of human resources in fisheries sector. He was also a life member of the Indian Red Cross Society.

His passion for the aquaculture profession and concern for those in the lower strata of the sector was mostly evident in his contributions as he worked mostly on development of smallscale aquaculture, farmer participatory approach as a tool for research and development, gender issues, and food security through aquaculture. His regular column in Aquaculture Asia magazine on farmer innovations in aquaculture was widely acclaimed. Development of human resources in aquaculture was his top priority all along. He systematically studied the manpower requirement for the fisheries sector in India and proposed many ideas to improve the academic and research capacity of Fisheries Colleges in the Country. He also founded the Professional Fisheries Graduates Forum (PFGF) of India as a flagship society to develop into a professionally committed academic group. The numerous seminars and conferences he organized were dedicated to his passion for the development of aquaculture technology, communities, and human resources in the fisheries sector.

Nandeesha was a dynamic leader. He was extremely efficient in setting targets and getting his men exactly pulling themselves to their goals. In his eagerness to get things done, some might by annoyed by his persistent persuasion, but most of his associates equally enjoyed working with him.

Being a self-made man, Nandeesha strongly believed in himself and strived hard to diligently follow his principles throughout his life. All along he was a staunch fighter and committed guardian of his values. Nothing stopped him from expressing what he believed in. His dynamism, foresight and commitment to perfection will endure in our minds for many years. He left many of his dreams unfulfilled and many of his admirers desperate. To many of the scientists of his age in India he was a great source of scientific and personal inspiration. Even though he is with us today no more, the legacy he left behind will remain immortal forever.

C. Mohanakumaran Nair
Pro Vice-Chancellor
Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies
Kochi, India

“The key to immortality is living a life worth remembering,” a quote oft attributed to Jesus, St. Augustine, and Bruce Lee, is how I choose to honor the passing of my friend Nandeesha. We first met in the 1980s in Malang, Indonesia, in the highlands of East Java at a symposium sponsored by the Netherlands on small-scale aquaculture for the poor. We bonded quickly as friends and colleagues and then, for the next 20 years, across our very different cultures and backgrounds. Nandeesha reached out and held my hand at many events where we were together, and sometimes we would spend our entire time together at meetings holding hands and talking about the world, our lives, jobs, and sharing our pain about the injustices befalling the people of our world who had too little to eat. Imagine, me, a rich Westerner, but a person of a working class fishing family from Portuguese New England, holding hands all week with a man from India. On his passing I think now of all Nandeesha gave to me and thousands of others: the wonderful opportunity for cross-cultural learning. I was just so blessed to meet this man.

Over the years it became the social-cultural aspects of our relationship that were so very special to me, and it became what I wanted when I saw him; to me he became what aquaculture is all about. It wasn’t the zooplankton we found so important in those rice fields in West Java and West Bengal. People aren’t plankton. It was about the people of the places we loved. I grew to LOVE this man for everything he stood for, for all the good he taught me about his world, the amazing progress he made in Cambodia and elsewhere, and all the good he told me about India. I was blessed to visit there and experience the magic and mess of a place like Calcutta through his eyes. Nandeesha was a second Gandhi to me. When together we talked about what it was like to grow up poor in the East and the West and how people escape their upbringings. He didn’t know that there were poor people in the immigrant towns of America and I had no idea of what India and the billions of poor really had to endure.

I honor the life of this man in so many ways. Nandeesha’s work in Asia was pioneering, exceptional, and formative. Cambodia gave Nandeesha the Sahameitrei Award in recognition of his outstanding contributions to developing sustainable small-scale aquaculture programs in 2008. As he became globally known, he became an ambassador for doing good things for the poor. Research never really impressed him nor did all of the mega-traveling he did for so many organizations. He only did that to earn money to give away to poor people doing aquaculture when he came back home to Asia. The travel did bring joy but too much stress to him and I was always concerned about him over this last decade whenever we met.

My memory of my friend Nandeesha will be of an exceptional man who shared the view that aquaculture could help save the world. I grew to love Nandeesha as more than a friend. He became a mentor who always brought me back to reality. He grew into a wise man of deep insight who tried to do more than was humanly possible in one day, one month, and one year for the poor, rural families he loved. He wanted us to know it was important to save the poor from another day worse than his. It’s tough for me knowing that Nandeesha has passed, that we can’t hold hands anymore. He would want me/us not to dwell on his passing. He’d want us to hold hands more and, I can hear him saying, “Get to work for the world’s poor.”

Barry Costa-Pierce
University of New England
Biddeford, Maine, USA

It is with a very heavy heart that I write this brief tribute for Dr. M.C. Nandeesha, following his tragic and untimely demise. Nandeesha and I were colleagues and friends since we first met in the early 1990s in Cambodia, where he was working for an NGO to promote rural aquaculture. As we both work in Asian aquaculture, we had been in continual contact over the years, most recently in Tuticorin where he had been the Dean of Fisheries and had organized a meeting of all the deans of fisheries colleges in India to start the process of standardizing fisheries and aquaculture curricula throughout the country.

Nandeesha had a highly productive career and especially so in promoting aquaculture for the disadvantaged poor households and women in Southeast and South Asia. He was a scholar, researcher, and educator as well as a development specialist with many years of grass-roots experience in the field in several countries. Nandeesha was a first-class ambassador for aquaculture in general and for WAS in particular, in which he had been very active, recently seeking the presidency. He had boundless energy and enthusiasm and was incredibly helpful to colleagues who sought specific knowledge or assistance, invariably responding to emails. We have lost one of our most cherished colleagues.

Peter Edwards, Emeritus Professor
Asian Institute of Technology
Bangkok, Thailand

The sad demise of my great friend Nandeesha (as he was always known to Westerners) is a great loss, both personally and for the not-for-profit organization Aquaculture without Frontiers (AwF) [www.aquaculturewithoutfrontiers.org]. Nandeesha was a founding member of AwF in 2003 and was extremely active in its early field days, with his personal and particular involvement in our Bishramganj project in India and in our joint project with Caritas in Bangladesh. Typically generous, not only with his ‘free’ time but also financially, Nandeesha several times used funds earned through his consultancy work for other organizations to fund small AwF projects. Eventually he became the third chairman of AwF but I fear that he did so because he was never able to say the word ‘no.’

Nandeesha was active in so many other aquaculture fields (as I am sure will be evident in the other tributes to his life and work) and I think I may have contributed to his work overload by asking him to become chairman of AwF. In this I feel a personal guilt and responsibility. His work and achievements will live on; indeed, it seems particularly poignant that as I was writing this tribute, I received one of his last publications (for FAO) to edit.

It is especially sad to lose one so young and a man who had the ability to contribute so much more to the teaching of aquaculture technologies, to the role of women in aquaculture, to our international aquaculture scientific community, to the World Aquaculture Society, and — last but perhaps most important to him — to the alleviation of poverty through small-scale sustainable aquaculture (the mission of AwF).

Michael B. New, OBE
Founder & Patron, Aquaculture without Frontiers
Past-President, World Aquaculture Society

It’s so sad that the person who inspired and encouraged me is no longer alive. We lost him, India lost him, Asia and the whole world of aquaculture lost a man who is impossible to replace. I knew about his work in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and other countries since the early 1990s. I became closer to him since the 8th Asian Fisheries Forum in Kochi in November 2007. After listening to my presentation on “Women in Aquaculture Project in Nepal,” he encouraged me to submit a proposal to Aquaculture without Frontiers (AwF) because he was the Director responsible for the AwF program in Asia. Implementation began in 2008 and the project continues. Since the launch of that project, email communication with him became very frequent.

I met him several times face-to-face during conferences, seminars, workshops, and sometimes in my own office and at his place. I will never forget any moment with him, especially the workshop that he organized at his Fisheries College in 2011. I was invited, along with other colleagues to travel to the southern tip of India to Thoothukudi (in Tamil Nadu) to give a presentation and take part in discussions. All the deans and senior colleagues of fisheries colleges throughout India were invited for the workshop, organized as a part of a process that aimed at reforming or revitalizing fisheries education in India to meet 21st century aspirations. Due mainly to his efforts, the birth of a full-fledged Fisheries University has taken place in India. As a part of the process, we also started exchanging students and staff. It was just beginning when the tragedy happened. I wish his inspirational work will continue, and his dreams come true and his soul rest in peace!

Ram C. Bhujel,
Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Thailand

Dr. M.C. Nandeesha’s commitment to social justice in all matters was very strongly expressed in his championing of women and gender equity in aquaculture and fisheries. I believe that this will be an area where his influence and vision will have an enduring impact. In gender efforts in the fishery sector, Nandeesha initiated and interested a growing circle of others to develop and disseminate this work. I know first-hand that he work of the Asian Fisheries Society.

Nandeesha’s foray into women in the fishery sector seems to have started when he was still in India, probably in the late 1980s. In 1990, when he was Secretary of the Asian Fisheries Society Indian Branch, he developed the theme and organized the 1990 AFSIB “Women in Fisheries in India” workshop (genderaquafish.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/1992-procs-indiawomen- in-fisheries-1990-workshop.pdf).

When Nandeesha moved to Cambodia to work for Padek in 1992, the country had more women than men in many rural areas and hence many households were headed by women and usually suffered lower than average income. In 1994, Nandeesha convened the “Women in Cambodian Fisheries” workshop and, in 1996, the “Women in Fisheries in Indo- China Countries” seminar. In 1995 he persuaded Padek to hold the Asian Fisheries Society’s first Women in Fisheries photo competition at its 5th Asian Fisheries Forum (Beijing). Padek went on to host a further two photographic competitions in 1998 and 2001. On a personal note, I first started interacting with Nandeesha when he invited me to give a short address at the 1996 seminar in Cambodia. This began one of my most treasured professional friendships that lasted until his untimely death last December.

From this gentle introduction to the theme of women in fisheries in the AFS, Nandeesha suggested to the Asian Fisheries Society and WorldFish Center that we organize an Asian Women and Fisheries Symposium. We did this at the 6th Asian Fisheries Forum in Chiang Mai. Then we went global on women in fisheries (2001, Kaohsiung), and switched to global issues on gender in aquaculture and fisheries (GAF) (Penang 2004, Kochi 2007, Shanghai 2011). In each of these, Nandeesha played a major role and also presented. At the time he died, he was also involved in organizing the 2013 GAF event in Yeosu and we and our colleague Choo Poh Sze were preparing a joint paper for presentation.

Nandeesha also helped mainstream gender in his own work institution’s work. While Department Head at the College of Fisheries in Tripura State, he persuaded the university to build a dormitory for women students so that women could actually take the aquaculture courses. When his team won a best paper award in 2007 in Kochi, he used the funds to provide an award for women students of merit.

On the personal side, Nandeesha was a wonderful, creative, visionary and practical friend. He had a way of getting each of us to get outside our comfort zones and take the next step. I know I am not alone in having had my life and my professional interests profoundly changed by meeting and working with Nandeesha. In my case, it was being introduced to and led along the path of thinking and doing something about gender inequality in the fishery sector.

Gender in aquaculture and fisheries is certainly a key theme which will miss Nandeesha’s guidance, but where his legacy will live on.

Meryl C. Williams
Honorary Life Member
Asian Fisheries Society

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