Livelihood Development in Sagar Block
Sagar Block under South 24 Parganas district consists of Sagar Island and Ghoramara Island. Sagar block is facing the problem of soil erosion, breach of embankments and loss of landmass and rising sea levels. Sagar Block represents almost the entire livelihoods spectrum of the Sundarbans and in these backdrop livelihood interventions for the coastal community in Sagar Block under ICZMP has been taken up. The main objective of the livelihood development component is to promote community-based climate resilient livelihood options for improvement in the quality of life and livelihood of the poor, a vulnerable and marginalized section of the coastal populace along with conservation of coastal and marine ecosystems.
Livelihood development programme for the disadvantaged section of the inhabitants of Sagar Block is being implemented by SPMU and West Bengal State Rural Livelihood Mission (WBSRLM).
SPMU on its own has executed 128 community contracts through SHGs as part of Entry Point Activity for the creation of micro coastal infrastructure. Major works completed through Entry Point Activities include construction of 19 km of brick paved road, the sinking of 78 tube wells, construction of 4 culverts, one toilet block and excavation of 7 pounds. It may be appropriate to mention that usually developmental works of this nature are being directly implemented by the line departments. However, in case of ICZMP, the pilot intervention has been done through mobilization of the SHGs in a consultative process. The assets were created with the deployment of PRA tools and extensive consultation with varied stakeholders at the community level.
The implementations of the Entry Point Activities have not only augmented the drinking water facilities but also have improved connectivity with the main roads of the islands. It also happens to be a knowledge building exercise of the coastal community in terms of accounting, estimate preparation, procurement of materials, community contracting and auditing of the assets created both in financial and physical terms. Entry Point Activities have smoothened the process of community-level collectivization and have enhanced the sense of ownership of community assets. Intervention has proved that despite being in a disadvantaged position for harnessing of resources in remote estuarine zones if nurtured communities do reciprocate in asset creation by contributing in terms of land, labor and other associated logistics.
WBSRLM - a PEA of this Project is directly financing the livelihood enhancement activities as well as the mobilization of the CBO’s. The entire scheme of activities implemented through WBSRLM is:-
- Financing the women SHGs through seed capital as part of Community Investment Fund (CIF) for taking up livelihood generation activities up to a limit of Rs 1 lakh.
- Providing financial support through Revolving Fund of Rs. 15,000.00 per SHG directly after its first grading. Revolving fund will help SHGs to leverage bank loan/ cash credit.
- Capacity Building of the community related to community-based institution building and skill enhancement.
In this regard, ICZMP’s fund being routed through WBSRLM is transferred to the federated body of CBO’s referred to as ‘Sangha’ for onward lending to its member SHGs. The Sanghas have disbursed Community Investment Fund to 2009 SHGs covering 8049 women SHG members for taking up their respective livelihood enhancement activities e.g betel vine cultivation, poultry, fishery-related activities and etc. Sanghas have disbursed Rs 5.37 crore as Community Investment Fund to its member SHGs and the said corpus revolved to 16.56 cr as on date. A sample study on 638 SHGs covering 2912 households’ shows income generated to the tune of Rs 15.95 cr, after utilizing 4.55 cr of CIF.
Revolving Fund amounting to Rs 1.97 cr has been transferred to the bank account of 1334 SHGs as a corpus to meet the SHG members’ credit needs and also as catalytic capital for leveraging repeat bank finance.
Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture (CMSA) techniques are being applied for better management of livelihood, especially in the farm sector. CMSA promotes usage of natural resources to manage agriculture and ARD production. The special impetus was provided under CMSA for organic farming and production of bio-fertilizers of varied types.
The livelihood interventions through WBSRLM were also calibrated and converged with other govt. schemes/ depts i.e. MGNREGA, Agriculture Dept ( providing the subsidized green net for betel vine cultivation), Animal Resource Dept ( engagement of Prani Mitra for vaccination and deworming of cattle, along with the capacity building of various stakeholders) coupled with bank linkages over 2800 SHGs for accessing cash credits from banks.
The outcome of the interventions may be summarized as easier access to credit, empowerment of the poor households especially of the womenfolk through enhancement of collective action, risk diversification along with poverty reduction in coastal areas through greater engagement in productive activities and orientation towards sustainable utilization of natural resources.
Community Based Plantation, JFM and Biodiversity Conservation Activities:
Coastal zones of Purba Medinipore are prone to inundation due to periodic storm and tidal surges, seasonal high-velocity winds, storms and cyclones, and erosion. In this backdrop to build community resilience and to mitigate the disasters caused by natural forces, ICZM Project in partnership with Forest Directorate has taken up several community-based interventions whose progress since inception are noted below:-
- Plantation Activities: Farm Forestry: 705 ha, Mangrove: 100 ha. Strip Plantation: 40 ha Gap Plantation: 390ha CSB Plantation: 100 ha Palisade: 5500 mtr, Central Nursery:1
- Joint Forest Management Activities: Paddy Thrasher -133, Van rickshaw-118, Sewing Machine- 167,Pump Machine-97, Submersible Pump based integrated drinking water and bathing facility-10, Tubewell for drinking water purpose -14, Desiltation of pond-1, Construction of rural concrete road - 300 mtr, Fish Insulator box with allied accessories-70, Spray machine- 56 Solar fish Dryer-11, Fertilizer for betel vine farming: 93 Beneficiaries, Distribution of Pigling-18, Fishling-105, Duckling (10 no per beneficiary)-575 and Chicken (10 no per beneficiary)-1290 Beneficiaries.
- Coastal Biodiversity Conservation Activities: Construction of Animal Rescue Center and Patrolling camps.
- Capacity Building Activities for trade specific skill enhancement of the coastal community.
The aforesaid activities piloted by the Forest Directorate through community contracting approach with 20 Forest Protection Committees(FPC)/Eco-Development Committees (EDC) values to the tune of Rs. 6.34 cr in the following coastal blocks of Purba Mednipore i.e. Ramnagar- I, Contai I, Deshapran, Khejuri – II, Nandigram- I and Mahisadal.
Plantation of mangrove and palisade works has contained coastal erosion and shoreline stabilization by way of sediment deposition in the nearshore area and intertidal zone. Plantations are also acting as natural bio- shields against strong winds that sometimes lead to loss of life and property. Plantation Activity has also provided wage employment to the community in addition to replenishment of natural resources and consequent enrichment and enhancement of marine flora and fauna.
Drinking water facilities have been augmented to a considerable range in the intervened areas where saline ingression is an issue that affects the community at large.
Alternative livelihood has been given a boost through the procurement of varied farm and non-farm implements. Homestead backyard poultry, duckery, piggery were provided to the members of the FPC/EDCs in a bid to improve farm based resource production and stabilize the subsistence level of livelihood at the micro level.
Fishery based activities were promoted through community-owned/leased debilitation of ponds, distribution of fishlings and fish dryer machines. Community managed fish dryer machines are providing members of the FPCs/EDCs to offload more hygienically treated dried fishes to the market and reducing the waste factor.
Procurement and subsequent distribution of agri-implements had improved the level of the farm–mechanization and labor intensiveness and the surplus time accrued are now being divested in other productive means at the household level.
Wild life rescue and rehabilitation along with monitoring of the plantations have been improved through the creation of Animal Rescue Center and Patrolling camps.
The participative approaches of the interventions have touched the basic aspiration level of the coastal community and that is best manifested through the increasing eagerness of the coastal communities for becoming an integral part of ICZMP.
Floriculture - an additional source of income for women salt workers in Vedaranyam
Vedaranyam is one of the major salt producing areas in India. Households in the villages around salt pan primarily work as salt workers, followed by fishing and agriculture. Most of the women from these villages earn their livelihood mainly by working as wage laborers in salt pans. During the lean season of salt production (October to January-north east monsoon season), the salt workers generally take advance from their respective salt pan owners or from money lenders for their financial requirements. However, most of the women headed households are denied any advance from the salt pan owners and invariably borrow money from the money lenders at a high rate of interest. In this scenario, floriculture was taken-up with the support of the ICZM project as one of the additional sources of income generation activities for the poor women salt workers of Adhivasi colony, Kovilan Kollai, and Poovanthoppu villages to meet their expenditure during the lean season of salt production.
Series of meetings held with Village Development Council members and focus group discussions with women salt workers paved way to start floriculture as an economic enterprise. These meetings and discussions also helped to identify women who would actively participate in floriculture. Women headed households and other women from a very poor economic background were given preference. Women unable to earn through salt pan work or any other economic activity were also included. Village Development Councils of the respective villages selected 23 women from Adhivasi Colony, 21 from Kovilan Kollai and 30 from Poovanthopu for the floriculture activity. Women were grouped into ‘flower growers group’ with separate office bearers and records. The office bearers consist of the president, secretary, and treasurer who essentially manage group activities, organizing marketing of flowers, depositing the amount in the bank and distributing the earnings to women on monthly basis. The flower growers groups took 1.30 acre of land in Adivasi colony, 2 acres in Kovilan Kovilan Kollai and 3 acres in Poovanthoppu on a long-term lease.
Selection of species for floriculture
The soil and water tests conducted in the land leased for floriculture revealed that the area is saline and water for irrigation is also scarce. In consultation with the horticulturists, drought and saline tolerant (moderate) Nerium and jasmine were selected for cultivation. In addition, these flowers could be plucked in the evenings as buds and could be sent to market after processing. Nerium produces flowers throughout the year while Jasmine produces maximum during summer.
Exposure visits were organized for the women groups to Dindugal and Rameswaram where several households are involved in jasmine cultivation. These visits provided knowledge on the cultivating of flower crops and motivated the women to take up cultivation. Initially, most of the women had little/no knowledge of agriculture/horticulture. Interaction with farmers growing these flowers and visit farms not only gave confidence but also encouraged the women to initiate cultivation. Experienced farmers from Dindugal visited the farms of the women salt workers in the initial period at regular intervals to guide and train them in cultivation practices and harvesting. When there was wastage of flowers in the initial days due to lack of knowledge about harvesting methods, farmers from Dindigul educated the right harvesting methods after which there was a significant reduction in wastage.
Land preparation and planting
Land preparation was done with the machines and labor from the members involved in floriculture. Costs of preparation of land, fencing, bunding, planting and other inputs were borne by the project while women who participated in the intervention bore the labor cost. Organic manure like vermicompost, green manure, and Pancha Kavya was used in the cultivation. Coconut coir piths were used to minimize the water loss and to retain soil moisture and also protecting the roots from sunlight. The flower growers groups procured Nerium stem cuttings in Kodai Road near Dindigul and jasmine saplings from the farmers in Rameshwaram. The prepared land was divided into rows with 12 feet of distance between them. Nerium was planted in half of the land and in the rest, jasmine was planted. In the initial period vegetables such as brinjal, cluster beans, lady’s finger were cultivated in the space available between two rows. However, now it is discontinued as the plants grew big and started to yield flowers. In Adivasi Colony and in Kovilankollai irrigation facility from wells with electric motors was established. Women group members have been managing to water the plants. Women and their household members manage their individual planting area by weeding them on time, watering the crop, applying fertilizer and carrying out other crop management practices.
Flower production and marketing
Harvesting of flowers in Kovilan Kollai was started in May 2014 and Adivasi Colony from June 2014. Nerium flowers are harvested on a daily basis throughout the year. Initially, the flowers were sold to local retailers and now it is sold to wholesale flower merchants because of higher supply.
The Cost-Benefit Analysis of Nerium and jasmine flower cultivation was calculated using A1 method (i.e., including all paid-out costs). Profits earned from the cultivation of Nerium and jasmine in Aadivasi colony and Kovilankollai were impressive at Rs.1,26,048 per annum per acre and Rs.1,02,131 per annum per acre for the year 2014-15. A break-even analysis indicated that Aadivasi Colony and Kovilankollai attained their breakeven points [BEP i.e., (Revenue – Variable Cost)/Profit] in one year 5 months and two years respectively. This analysis clearly indicates that the initiative is one of the successful initiatives and has enormous potential for replication.
Vedaranyam Salt Workers Development Council: a federation of women salt workers
Salt extraction is one of the primary economic activities of Vedaranyam region of Nagapattinam district. In Vedaranyam region salt is produced from about 10400 acres of which 7000 acres are operated by two big companies by taking land on lease from the Salt commission of India while the remaining 3400 acres is accessed by about 700 small-scale producers (holding 5 to 10 acres) by again leasing it from the salt commission. Nearly 5000 male and female permanent workers from around 25 villages are involved in the salt production process. Salt production is a seasonal work and salt workers’ daily wages ranges between Rs.100 and Rs.150 per day. October to January is the lean season for salt workers and most of them take the loan from the salt pan owners and money lenders. The money lenders provide loan only at the exorbitant rate of interest. Apart from the loan taken during the lean season, salt workers also take larger loans to meet expenditure relating to education, health, marriages, and festivals. The salt workers normally only the interest and the principal remains and sometimes even the interest gets accumulated and added to the principal amount. To clear one debt they resort to borrowing from someone else. All these make the salt workers permanently indebted.
With this background and as suggested by salt workers and their union leaders, it was decided to establish a federation to help the women salt workers living in and around Salt Sathyagraha Memorial. Thus, Vedaranyam Women Salt Workers Development Council was formed. The main purpose for the formation of the federation is to transform the federation into a community bank in future. The main objectives of this federation are i) to reduce the burden of salt pan workers and release them from the clutches of money lenders and other lending agencies and ii) to improve the income of women salt workers during the lean season.
The process of selecting villages was initiated in June 2013 and competed in August 2013. Twenty-three settlements in Vedaranyam Municipality were selected. One hundred and one salt women worker groups (Joint Liability Group) were formed with a membership of 707 women. These groups were federated and named as Vedaranyam Women Salt Workers Development Council. This federation has 13 Executive Committee members drawn from 13 villages. Office bearers namely President, Vice President, Secretary and a Treasurer were selected from these 13 members. The Council also has a representative from MSSRF.
The Process of availing loans
The each JLP group meets once in a month. During the meeting application for the loan will be received and recorded. These applications are submitted to the Executive Committee, which takes a decision on granting loans in its monthly meeting. The following are the criteria used to decided to provide loan: i) need for the loan, ii) attending meeting regularly and iii) regular payment of their savings of Rs.100 per month. MSSRF representative monitors and helps the federation in maintaining accounts, registers, and other documents properly. MSSRF also monitors whether repayment is done regularly by the groups. The Council’s monthly meeting is held in the third week of every month where issues related to group activities and members are discussed.
Utilization of revolving fund
The members of the federation utilize the revolving fund for the activities given in the Fig. 1. Majority of the credit goes to micro enterprises/ income generation activities such as salt production, goat rearing, dairy, floriculture, grocery shop, tailoring, provision shop etc., The other expenses such as children education, health, family expenses were also met from the credit. Maximum loan size to each member was limited to Rs. 10,000/- and the rate of interest is 12% per annum which is lesser than the interests levied by other microfinance institutions and nationalized banks. The Council decides the size of the loan amount and the individual to take the credit. Women headed families were given preference in getting credit. Till March 2018, 238 members from 34 groups utilized the fund. An amount of Rs. 278,315 has been earned as interest. The federation members are now interested to register as society/community bank to sustain for the long term.
Successful cases of micro enterprises
Goat rearing, poultry, and dairy are some of the successful micro enterprises carried out by the women salt workers. The experiences of few women are given to show the benefits and impact of this intervention.
Ms. Maheswari (30 years), in Melaka, says goat rearing taken by her along with many other women has brought about positive changes in their lives. This is her first experience with goat rearing but her first experience proves to be successful and helpful in meeting the household expenses. She is able to manage without borrowing from outsiders and also from the salt pan owners. She is proud that she is able to improve her household income. She, like other women, was working in the salt pan but now she has stopped going for saltpan work as she is able to earn sufficient income through goat rearing. She initially bought two goats but today, she has 10 goats at home. She could repay the first loan of Rs 5,000/- in twelve months and she took a second loan of Rs. 10,000/- She was proud to say that she has converted the loan into the asset. Her experience with goat rearing encouraged Maheswari to start another income generating activity in a small way. Maheshwari says she gained the confidence to start selling saree in and around her village, which also helps her to tide over many financial needs of the household. Apart from economic improvement, she is now confident to handle many things outside the domestic sphere. She acknowledges the moral support and technical guidance provided by MSSRF.
Ms. Tamil Mani, Melaka aged 48 years bought two goats for Rs 5,500/ from the loan taken from the Council. After repaying her first loan she asked for a second loan of Rs 10,000 to buy a cow (local breed) and a calf. She bought them by paying Rs 13,500/-. She used her savings to meet the balance amount of Rs 3,500/. She is now confident that she can manage livestock well.
Ms. Shantha, Melaka opted for poultry rearing and she is happy with her income from poultry and also working in the salt pan.
Many women salt workers are able to take care of their goats, poultry, and cattle and able to carry out their household chores without much pressure and they informed that overall, their dependency on the money lenders has been reduced significantly.
Fisher Friend Mobile Application(FFMA) – A decision making a support system for small-scale fishers
“For the fishing community of Vedaranyam coast, Nagapattinam district in Tamil Nadu, India, a mobile app is resolving issues relating to seafaring safety, low incomes, and timeliness in reaching fish shoals. The Fisher Friend Mobile Application has been introduced to the community using a participatory feedback approach to ensure usefulness and accuracy of the technology for its intended beneficiaries.”
The fishing community is one of the most vulnerable groups, facing a number of challenges threatening their lives and livelihoods like unpredictable weather and ocean states, danger zones in the sea, lack of GPS information on the fish shoal, quality fish processing, value addition and storage, market trends and government schemes. In this context, M S Swaminathan Research Foundation conceived and developed Fisher Friend Mobile Application in 2007 and later upgraded it in the Android mobile platform. Now, it has been made available in the Google Play Store for wider reach and benefit. The Fisher Friend Mobile Application provides the following inputs to the fisherfolk.
- Potential Fishing Zone and TUNA species-specific forecast.
- GPS facility for navigating directly to the PFZ and traditional fishing route/zones.
- Ocean state forecast information such as wave height, wind speed and direction, sea current and sea surface temperature.
- Disaster alerts such as Cyclone, Tsunami and High Waves through the instant display of alerts .
- Mark danger zones in the sea such as a sunken boat, rock substrate, dead coral reefs.
- Market prices for various fish varieties.
- International Border Line (IBL) alert with Sri Lanka.
- SOS (Save our Soul) option for rescue when in the critical situation in sea.
- Navigating Harbour locations when they are in an emergency situation.
- Government schemes and Daily News.
- My Tracker (Tracking fishing route).
- Calling facility along with crucial contact details.
INCOIS provides its scientific information on ocean state forecast, potential fishing zone information, early warning etc. MSSRF Village Resource Centres simplify the scientific data along with government schemes related to fisheries, market rate and emergency contacts and upload the same in the website linking it to the database in the server. There has been a remarkable benefit to the fishermen who used this application, which was elicited from the periodical follow up and needs assessment carried out by the VRC and VKCs. To ensure a continuous flow of information through the application to the larger users, the PFZ and OSF information have been auto-ported from Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS).
FFMA in the Vedaranyam region, Nagapattinam district
Nagapattinam was the most affected district of India in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, where over 7,000 lives were lost and approximately 40,000 houses destroyed (NCRC, 2005). Therefore, the genesis of FFMA stems from a post-tsunami rehabilitation context. A multi-level capacity building strategy is being rolled out by FEMA's implementation team to increase the visibility of the app, including village level meetings, one-to-one interactions, promoting fishers as FFMA ambassadors, announcements through public address systems and social media campaigns. More than 8,223 fishers have been trained in Nagapattinam on FFMA and its features; as a result, presently 5,593 fishers in Nagapattinam are using FFMA app for getting day-to-day fishing-related early warnings and other relevant information.
Benefits realized by the fishers
The top information services accessed by the fisherfolk are OSF, GPS, PFZ, Weather, Harbor, PFZ map, and government schemes. More than 80 percent of fisherfolk use PFZ information for informed decisions and fishing. The small craft fisher folk move beyond their traditional fishing ground due to PFZ advisory. Fisherfolk who received PFZ information through the FFMA application benefited both directly and indirectly. Direct benefits included increases in the catch as well as net income. Due to increased fish harvest, there has been a rise in the wages of the fishing crew as well. Some fishers have been using their profits to pay back bank loans taken out to purchase boat assets. The fishermen also pointed out that with the advisories, they are able to decide on how much diesel/ice to take on fishing trips.
The expenditure on fishing inputs, particularly diesel, has been considerably reduced as a result of using FFMA. A major gain is that by using the PFZ, GPS and ‘My Tracker’ facilities of the app, fishers are decreasing their diesel consumption and reaching their fishing destinations on time. The boat drivers expressed that reaching the location of fish shoals has become less complicated, and the reduction in diesel expenditure is, in itself, a major economic gain.
Voices from the fishing community about the usefulness of FFMA
Savindhiran is no longer lost at sea: I am Savindhiran, 23 years old from Arcottuthurai village in Vedaranyam. I am a traditional fisherman; initially, I used to be accompanied by my father and now I venture alone into the sea. Since trawler boats engage in fishing in our area, they cut off our nets resulting in the discontinuity in fishing for us. Hitherto, we would lose direction at mid-sea, due to forceful winds. With the introduction of OSF through FFMA application in our fishing experience, we navigate in safety and confidence knowing the forecast. The PFZ information also helps us increase our fishing opportunities, efficiency, and gain huge fish-catchers with least expenditure of diesel and time owing to its accuracy and route navigation. On two separate occasions, based on a PFZ advisory we caught a huge catch of 200 kg of seerfishes and 500 kg of tuna sold at Rs 70000/-. This economic improvement helped us afford the purchase of new nets to improve our livelihood. Our ancestors would predict the weather based on intuition, the appearance of watercolor, and seasonal variations; now we are privileged to receive such accurate information as OSF through our mobile devices today.
Mahesh leverages technology for profit: I am Mahesh from Vellapallam fishing village in Vedaranyamtalukof Nagapattinam district. I have been receiving valuable information such as potential fishing zones, weather and ocean state forecasts from MSSRF. For example, the information on high wind speed guides us not to venture into the sea and we decide to stay home from fishing and work on the netting. On some occasions, we would verify the reliability of ocean state forecast predicting abnormal wind speed and wave height, by stepping onto the seashore for evidence. We have witnessed the accuracy of the prediction and have in a time-shifted our anchored boats and expensive nets to a safer location, thus protecting it from loss and damages. In this way, this decision-making support system of FFMA has helped us protect our assets worth lakhs of rupees.
Simultaneously, the information helped us increase our fishing opportunities, efficiency, and gain huge fish-catchers, on 3 occasions. On 13th March 2016 at 6 pm, I received a PFZ advisory which indicated GPS co-ordinates in Vedaranyamcoastal waters. I ventured into sea based on this advisory and gained a massive fish catch of seerfishes, carangids, and tuna at 15 paagam. The catch fetched us Rs 20,000 over and above the usual sale price. Therefore, understandably, before we venture into the sea, we always refer FFMA to obtain PFZ, OSF, and weather forecast information to help take sound and viable decisions. The GPS training provided by MSSRF has been very helpful; based on the knowledge and skills gained through this training; I utilize my GPS and navigate efficiently and safely.
Mr. Murugan, Nagorepattinacherry: I am from NagorePattinacherry fishing village in Nagapattinam district. On 18 November 2016 at around 3 o’clock in the morning, myself and 3 others went fishing 35 km off the coast. Suddenly the engine cut out and we were stuck in the middle of the sea. We became anxious as there was nobody around and there were no landmarks close by to indicate to other fishers where we were. However, one of my fellow fishers told me about the FFMA GPS facility to pinpoint the boat’s location. Using the app, I was able to inform my friends of our location and they were able to come and rescue us.