Nov 22, 2014

Securing Livelihood Through Inland Fishing


“Earlier we used to earn only Rs.1500/- in the whole year. People didn’t buy anything from us because we are adivasis. Sometimes we had to sell fish even for 50 paise” says the soft spoken Vinayak Vasanth Waghe (26), the leader of his wadi (hamlet). 

Parle wadi in Poladpur block, Raigad district of Maharashtra has only 31 families of Katkari tribal community. Traditionally, this community earns their livelihood by fishing in the shallow parts of rivers using basic techniques like tyre-tubes, sarees and thermocol. Though dams were built in the region for fishing and providing water to farmers, many remained unused as they lacked knowledge and technique of fishing in the deep. Moreover, the authorities had given the lease of these dams to private parties. Facing social exclusion by other communities, the Katkaris could not avail most government schemes.

Oxfam India’s partner Shramjivi Janta Sahayak Mandal helped train Vinayak and other fisherfolks on inland and creek fishing where they learnt techniques like types of nets used, ways to throw the net for better catch and the life cycle of various fish. The fisherfolks were given cycles, boats (three boats at each dam), nets, ice-boxes, fish fingerlings and knowledge on fish harvesting. SJSM also formed cooperatives of fisherfolkto help them fish in the dams collectively.  

Where earlier they could catch only 3-4 kgs of fish in a day, now they can catch as much as 8-9kgs. A fisherfolk supported by SJSM now can earn upto Rs. 30,000 through fishing in a year. 

“Earlier we had nothing to eat. Now we have all papers like caste certificates, job cards and ration cards due to which we get our share of 35kgs of grains. This gives us food for 15 days which helps us save that much money for other purposes. Now we save Rs.100/- per day with the Bank of Satara.” says Vinayak. 

Oxfam and KLM demands government support for inland fishing 

In Maharashtra inland and marine fishing together provide livelihood to more than 4.5 lakh families. Despite contributing 4.7% to the agricultural GDP of the country, this sector has been much neglected. The potential for this sector to support livelihood is huge as one hectare of water spread area can sustain a fisher family for at least nine months of the year. 

To help more fisherfolk like Vinayak Waghe and to work on forests, water bodies and land in an integrated manner in the Konkan region of Maharashtra, Oxfam India initiated a network of 22 similar minded Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Dec 2009. This network, now called the Konkan Lokadhikar Manch (KLM) works with 21 Fishing Cooperatives on 31 Dams and three creeks. There are 1080 members of these cooperatives who directly benefit from the activities undertaken. 

To further work on the rights of these fisherfolks, Oxfam India and KLM organised an advocacy workshop in Mumbai on 2nd and 3rd May 2012. It was attended by Cooperative members, Fishery and Cooperative department officials, officials from Sir Ratan Tata Trust (SRTT) and Ford Foundation, experts working on fisheries from the RRA Network and WASAN (in South India), the local Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), representatives of the Vidarbha Livelihood Forum (VLF) and other CSO members from Maharashtra. 

The workshop was successful in highlighting the key issues facing inland and creek fishing and also in presenting people’s demands to the State Minister of Fisheries. The Minister for Fisheries urged the network members and Oxfam staff to set up a meeting to constitute a Committee to discuss the issues raised. The Commissioners of the Fisheries Department were also called for a meeting to review the same. The Minister asked the Fishery Department officials to partner with the KLM to take on projects in the proposed Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna (RKVY) scheme. Apart from this, the CEO of the state National Rural Livelihoods Mission who also attended the workshop was keen to take the fisheries work started by Oxfam into the NRLM’s ambit in the State. 

With KLM’s collaboration and combined efforts gaining strength, many more fisherfolks like Vinayak Vasanth Waghe can soon be brought under a secure livelihood umbrella. 

Story Credit: Rebecca David and Bipasha Majumder

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