Women in Odisha’s coastal fishing villages have turned to selling fish and value-added fishery products after eliminating middlemen and abolishing the home brewing of country liquor, the root cause of their problems.
Selling fish at the local fish market, Dulana Das (40) of Rambha
village in Odisha’s Ganjam district took pride in introducing herself as
a businesswoman instead of a fisherwoman. “I buy fish every morning
from fishermen who fish in Chilika Lake and the nearby sea,” Dulana told
VillageSquare.in.“With a designated place for me in the market, and a 20% profit, I earn a good income.”
“Women like Dulana have not only contributed to economic progress of
their families, but to improvement of their social status too,” said A.
Kaleya, a young man engaged in community development work. An ignored
lot, the women rooted out problems one after the other, and emerged as
successful entrepreneurs. “We are now treated like human beings,” said
75-year-old B. Chittamma (75) of Kotturu village.
Decades ago, families and the community ignored their women. “Boozing
being common among male members of almost all fishing villages, women
didn’t get any respect, but always bore the brunt of alcoholism,”
Chittamma told VillageSquare.in.
Despite standard catch, the income was low because middlemen siphoned
off the profit. They never paid the fishermen on time. The fisher
families had to struggle for survival under economic pressure. Whether
it was lack of money or the men’s frustration caused by paucity, women
were the victims.
Chittamma came to Kotturu village as a young bride from neighboring
Andhra Pradesh. “She suggested mobilizing fisherwomen to end their
plights,” Mangaraj Panda of Ganjam-based non-profit United Artists’ Association (UAA) told VillageSquare.in.
Women band together
As a first step, nine groups of fisherwomen, with 20 members in each
group, were formed under Kalyani Nari Shakti Sangha in Kotturu. The
number of groups soon increased to 14, when women formed five groups in
an adjacent village named Arjipalli. The women first fought against
brewing of country liquor and succeeded.
Their success in abolishing country liquor production in the villages
encouraged the fisherwomen to address their financial problems next.
They pooled in money and ventured into fish business in local markets.
The women paid cash immediately for the fish they purchased. They
demanded outside vendors and middlemen to pay likewise while lifting the
catch. “Though the vendors resisted initially, since they had to supply
fish to the markets as per commitment and since our men supported us,
they paid up,” said Chittamma.
Federating women’s groups
“This was the game-changer,” said Mangaraj Panda. “With this positive
development, women in other villages across coastal Odisha formed
groups and they too fought to end exploitation by middlemen.”
There were still some issues. Every group did not have equal access
to the market to sell their stock. Prices of fish differed from place to
place. In order to bring all the fisherwomen under one umbrella and
develop common market linkages, they formed a federation named Samudram.
Started with 68 marine fisherwomen self-help groups (SHGs) having
1,360 members in 1998, Samudram now has 149 SHGs from 52 fishing
villages of four coastal districts, namely, Ganjam, Puri, Jagatsinghpur
and Balasore. The women conduct business individually as well as through
In order to empower the fisherwomen as entrepreneurs, Samudram
organized training sessions for them on hygienic methods of producing
dry fish and other fishery-based products. “It opened up new earning
opportunities for us and fetched better profit than the raw fish,” K.
Eramma of Nolia Nuagaon village told VillageSquare.in.
Samudram has set up fish procurement and processing centers equipped
with refrigeration and drying racks for fresh fish, besides weighing and
packaging machines at different places. Women own and manage the
“Even though income was important, catching and selling fish was not
all, because the catch was falling day by day,” said Chittamma. “Instead
of overexploiting this marine resource, we had to ensure long-term
“We didn’t know this resource is limited and the catch may fall
further, and make us go out of business,” P. Kaumudi (50) of Nolia
Nuagaon told VillageSquare.in.“As
experts explained the reasons for dwindling catch and actions needed,
we changed our fishing practices.” The fishermen started using nets to
spare the seeds and fingerlings. They declare no-fishing days
“Women also took up poultry and goat-rearing as alternate livelihoods during no-fishing months,” Kaleya told VillageSquare.in.This helped them make a living during the fishing ban from November to May, in the coastal seas of Ganjam, Puri and Kendrapara districts for the protection of Olive Ridley sea turtles during their annual nesting phenomenon called arribada.
According to fishermen, government and regulating authorities turn a
blind eye to trawlers that violate norms and pose bigger threat to the
ocean, its ecosystem and fish population. “Living on the coast and
depending on the sea for livelihood, we have to protect the marine
ecosystem and the visiting turtles to keep our sea healthy and
dependable,” fisherwoman Kaumudi told VillageSquare.in.
Samudram now faces the toughest hurdle since the implementation of
Goods and Services Tax (GST). “As GST mandates 12% tax on packaged dry
fish items, prices have increased, and so many of the wholesale buyers
have stopped buying,” said Panda.
This has led to a halt in businesses by the groups and the
federation. “The fisherwomen work individually now,” said Kaleya. The
members contend that they are not educated enough to keep accounts and
file GST. Some advised the women to hire a professional.
“It’s not feasible since we are not a corporate business, but make a
living out of it,” said Chittamma. “Our progress will stop if community
development and livelihood activities do not get tax exemption.”
Notwithstanding the let up in business due to GST, Samudram has not
only helped the women earn, but has also empowered them to identify
their potential and dream a better future for their children.
The women claimed stopping brewing of country liquor and stopping
child marriage as their biggest achievements. They have helped
construction of schools in villages to educate their children. “Girls go
to college now, whereas they were not allowed to complete primary
education earlier,” said Chittamma.
Undergraduate students like S. Puja and A. Kamla of Nolia Nuagaon are
proud to be the first girls from their village to have joined college.
“Our aim is to pursue higher studies and find jobs,” they said.
The groups have become sources of support to members in time of
emergencies. “Samudram and the SHGs helped us overcome the damages
caused by two major cyclones, namely, the Phailin in 2013 and the Hudhud
in 2014,” B. Mahalaxmi (40) of Huma village told VillageSquare.in.
May 30, 2018
January 20, 2017
No matter how near or far you live from the coast, you'll be affected by it: ocean warming may become one of the biggest threats to ecosystems and food security.
Ocean warming, driven by increasing carbon emissions and rising temperatures, may become one of the biggest challenges facing humanity and threatening the Earth’s life systems, affecting even those living far from oceanic coasts. Already impacting people, fish stocks and crop yields, it may lead to more extreme weather events and increased risk from water-borne diseases including cholera. Fuelling global warming, it would put the livelihood of agrarian and fishing communities in the Indian and Pacific Ocean regions at stake, cautions the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in a report.
Affecting crop yields
“There is likely to be an increase in mean global ocean temperature of 1-4 degrees Celsius by 2100,” reads the IUCN report. “The greatest ocean warming overall is occurring in the Southern Hemisphere and is contributing to the subsurface melting of Antarctic ice shelves”.
In addition, subsurface heat in the Pacific and Indian Oceans at a depth of 100 to 500 metres has profound implications for the Earth’s future warming. In a strong El Niño year this subsurface heat is suddenly transferred to the surface layer and released into the atmosphere. If frequent and continued for a number of years, it further contributes to global warming.
With oceans warming over the course of this century, El Niño events are expected to double in frequency and become more intense according to projections, therefore affecting Pacific and Indian Ocean monsoon systems. This will badly impact crop yields and, “may affect most Asian countries including India where agriculture is primarily monsoon rain-fed,” says Doctor Rahas Bihari Panda of the Department of Environment Science at India’s North Odisha University.
Such a situation in the food-producing Asian continent may lead to severe food insecurity and hunger across the globe.
Reducing fish mass
Already influencing ecosystems from polar to tropical regions, ocean warming is driving entire groups of marine species such as plankton, jellyfish, turtles and seabirds up to 10 degrees of latitude north and south of the Equator to move towards the poles. It has also led to the expansion of low oxygen areas because warmer water holds less dissolved oxygen.
Under the combined influence of rising sea temperatures and less dissolved oxygen, maximum fish size across all seas is predicted to decline by 10 per cent, says Karin Limburg, Professor at State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Such a reduction in fish mass may strongly impact fisheries, exacerbating the already stressed situation in those parts of the world that depend on them for protein, Limburg adds.
Declining fish production
The oceanic phenomenon has already reduced the abundance of fish species in East Africa and the Western Indian Ocean by killing parts of the coral reefs they depend on. On top of the fact that tuna catch rates in the Indian Ocean have declined by 50-90 per cent over the past five decades, reduced phytoplankton may become an additional stress factor leading to a decline in the region’s fisheries, say scientists at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology on the basis of a study of the area.
Harvests from marine fisheries in Southeast Asia are expected to fall by a rate between 10 and 30 per cent by 2050, compared to the period between 1970 and 2000, according to the IUCN report. This would affect the livelihood of developing countries’ fishing communities, also making it difficult to meet the global demand deriving especially from areas such as Japan, the USA and Europe.
Making fish inedible
Warmer water also leads to harmful algae blooms that cause neurological diseases such as ciguatera in humans. As fish consume toxic marine algae in the sea they produce toxins in their tissues and become carriers of the poison. So, of the fish caught for human consumption, part of it may not be safe.
In a recent outbreak, over 100 people in India fell sick from a ciguatera infection. With an annual 50,000 cases around the world, nearly 400 million living in the Caribbean basin, Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean regions are potentially at risk, according to The Louis Malardé Institute.
Need for urgent action
Ocean warming therefore poses one of the biggest threats to food security and the nutritional ambitions set in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of global goals defining the international agenda moving towards 2030: in particular Goal 2 aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.
Hence, it has become essential that urgent attention is turned towards ocean warming in order to save ecosystems, marine resources and fisheries. Only strong measures, including cutting greenhouse gas emissions rapidly and substantially, can contribute to checking the trend threatening all life on Earth.
The report was published on January 17, 2017, at the LifeGate.