Learning from the Fisherfolk

I just got back to New Delhi (where I stay) after an exhilarating trip to the southern coast of India. I went there to report on the post-tsunami projects in a place called Karaikal, about 150 km from Pondicherry. Both Pondicherry and Karaikal were under French rule for long years.

This is was the first up, close and personal experience with the fisherfolk community. I learnt so much about the way they think and talk about life and work. The tsunami in December 26, 2004 devastated their lives and livelihoods. In the past 5 years, with help from relief and development organisations, they have rebuilt their communities from scratch and are moving ahead with courage and confidence.

The key lesson here is that women in these communities have played an important role in the rehabilitation story. They have formed self-help groups which offer easy credit and insurance for both working capital and emergency expenses. The financial empowerment has contributed to their social empowerment.

The other interesting issue is that of alternative livelihoods, especially in the light of the fact that fish catches are falling all across the world, including here. Though most of the people I met were optimistic about continuing in the same trade for as long as they could, quite a few of them were worried about what lay in store for them, in case the fish stocks went drastically down over a period of time. The worried lot said they were ready to move over to new professions. That, I thought, was a proactive attitude to change. Forget people in cities and towns, even farmers, fishermen and labourers will have to undergo the churn of looking afresh in adapting to a world beset by challenges like environmental degradation, climate change and food insecurity.

And even as I write this, I read about destruction caused by tsunami in Samoa and American Samoa archipelago..



(Vijay is experiencing problems accessing the website ftom Delhi - This open letter has been publiched on his behalf.)

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