Fisherfolk in Odisha try their hand at dairy and poultry farming
Fishing in new waters
DUSHASHAN Behra of Gabakunda village in Odisha’s Puri district, who describes himself as a fisherman, is currently unemployed. He is planning to buy chicks to start a poultry business. “It will be quite a change from fish to chicken,” says Behra in nervous anticipation as he squats, smoking bidi, in the courtyard of his thatched hut.
In neighbouring Mirjapur village, Sibananda Behra, also a fisherman, is worried about the delay caused by cyclone Phailin in starting his dairy farm. “A portion of the cow shed broke down as a tree fell on it during the cyclone in October last year,” he says, pointing to the broken shed. “This has delayed our plans, but we will buy the cows soon.” Sibananda is gearing up to spend two days in Bhubaneswar, the state capital, observing and selecting the cows he should buy for his farm.
The Behras have not given up fishing. They are part of an experimental project funded by the World Bank. The Odisha gove rnment is implementing the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project (ICZMP) in its coastal re gions. Among the several initiatives un der lined in the state’s Rs.227-crore project (see ‘What is ICZMP?’), providing alternative livelihood options to the fishing community is a priority for the government.
|What is ICZMP?|
|World Bank-funded Integrated Coas tal Zone Management Project (ICZMP) started in India in 2010, with the idea of protecting the coast, its ecology and natural environment. With a budget of US $285.67 million (about Rs. 1,700 crore), the project plans to assist Indian government in developing an ICZM approach. The government has undertaken three pilot projects, one each in Gujarat, Odisha and West Bengal. The focus of the project in Odisha is understanding coastal processes, controlling erosion, constructing cyclone shelters, conserving biodiversity, es pecially the Olive Ridley turtles and mangroves, and pro moting tourism. Securing the livelihoods of the fisherfolk is a big component of the project. The first phase of the project will end in 2015.|
A substitute for fishing in the state is crucial because fishing is banned in the sea for seven months a year. The Orissa Marine Fisheries Regulation Act, 1982, bans fishing along the coast from April 15 to May 31 every year as it is the fish-breeding season. Fishing is also prohibited in specified turtle congregation areas between November 1 and May 31 every year. Fisherfolk suffer during this period since most of them are landless or have small landholdings.
To take care of this, the state government launched ICZMP in 2010 which introduced alternative means of livelihood, both fish-based and non-fish based. The options include integrated pisciculture, hygienic dry fish preparation—drying fish with a blower fitted to a solar panel—dairy, poultry and cold chain marketing of fish, which involves ferrying the fish to the market in ice boxes. At present, these activities are taking place in 30 villages around Chil i ka lake. “Under the alternative livelihoods programme, the villages are di vided into selfhelp groups (SHGs) and a consultative process is followed where the groups choose their livelihood op ti on,” says Priyanka Ray, fisheries development officer with the fisheries department in Puri.
SHGs typically comprise 10-15 members from different families. Every SHG has a president and a secretary. SHGs are given money—ranging from Rs.4 lakh to Rs.8.5 lakh—in instalments to construct buildings or enclosures and source assets for their livelihood options.
An SHG generally gets Rs.4 lakh, of which Rs.2.5 lakh is used for infrastructure development—enclosure, for insta nce—and operational activities, such as buying ice, cost Rs.1.5 lakh, says N C Biswal, fisheries specialist at ICZMP’s State Project Management Unit. “Specific schemes, though, have variable project costs. For example, a dairy project costs Rs.4.8 lakh, poultry Rs.5.28 lakh and hygienic dry fish preparation Rs.8.15 lakh because it requires investing in a solar panel,” he explains. He further says that each SHG gets trained on the livelihood option, besides receiving a training in book-keeping. So far 248 SHGs have been formed in 30 villages, he adds.
Hopefuls and not-so-hopefuls
The experience of the people has been varied. Some are hopeful, while others remain sceptical and are unhappy with the options provided.
“They told us to choose from either dairy or poultry. If they had told us about fishing-related activities, we would have definitely gone for that,” says Kailash Chandra Jena, a fisherman from Gabakunda village. Another fisherman alleges that the height of the enclosure for the poultry farm was not specified. “Now the authorities are tel ling us we have to break the wall and re size it before we are allowed to buy chicks. Will they pay us to do that?” he asks.
Karna Behra of Arakhakuda village thinks boats will be more useful. “Boats that we can take into the sea cost Rs.2-3 lakh, while nets cost an additional Rs.1.5 lakh. If 15 fisherfolk get a boat, it will sustain 15 families,” he adds.
Some even allege misdoings, like many brothers of a family forming a group and claiming money which is not put to use. Project authorities deny the allegations. “We have a process wherein SHGs are formed after surveys and money is disbursed in instalments,” says Ramesh Dalei, community mobiliser for Arakhakuda village. “We verify construction related vouchers and send photos of the work done to the State Project Management Unit. Only after this the second instalment is transferred to the group’s bank account. We also conduct surprise checks,” he adds. His role is to engage with communities and guide them through the process of realising the alternative livelihood option.
With the help of community mobilisers, some SHGs have organised and distributed the work among them.
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