Dakshin has been supported by Rainmatter Foundation, Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies and more recently by LGT-VP to develop and implement our SeaChange approach. As mentioned in our first post, SeaChange is our dedicated response towards achieving intersectoral impacts for coastal India. Supported from the very beginning by Rainmatter, SeaChange aims to achieve dual long-term goals of healthy coastal and marine ecosystems and thriving fishing communities.
The diagram below captures the mechanics of this process and highlights the actors, processes and sectors that we wish to prioritise in this systems-based approach to change.
Last year we refined SeaChange’s operational model to cover three sites - Odisha, the Andaman Islands and Tamil Nadu. We are delighted to share with you some key updates from our on-ground work.
1. Odisha (Ganjam district)
In the Ganjam district of Odisha, the training of youth groups, community volunteers and the building of the agency of the village institutions has been our central focus across 11 important marine fishing villages. In these villages, our 13 community catalysts along with other village institutions such as youth groups, ward members, primary schools and private tuition groups began their engagement across various thematic entry points. Using ‘waste’ as a starting point, Dakshin’s facilitated the above-mentioned groups to make small steps towards local action - participating in clean-up and waste segregation drives, as a critical conversation starter on the broader subject of solid waste and waste more generally. Since then, village institutions have independently initiated periodic cleanup drives, with the local schools in the region also incorporating clean-up drives in their mandatory weekly activities.
On the fisheries front, regular discussions and plans to address fisheries decline and livelihood were held with village institutions towards management actions for sustainable fisheries. One of the estuarine fishing villages decided to ban the use of “zero nets” in the village, used to catch the fry of fish, sold to aquaculture hatcheries. The village committee further plans to inform other estuarine fishers across the district to either ban or regulate the use of such nets. The district fisheries union of Ganjam has recently decided to increase the mesh size of purse seines nets that used to catch juvenile fish due to their small mesh size. To monitor the outcomes of such local restrictions, we are working with community representatives to develop a more formalised and recognised participatory fisheries monitoring mechanism. We organised a district level multi-stakeholder consultation on fisheries management and will move towards implementing follow-up actions in the next quarter.
By strengthening village institutions’ agency and harnessing community volunteers, we have been able to further livelihood and health service-related-entitlements of small scale fishers in Ganjam. Our collective interventions on this front have significantly helped fishers access public health services. For instance, in multiple fishing villages, community catalysts working with Dakshin’s SeaChange teams have been liaising with the Community Health Workers (CHWs) like AWWs, ASHA workers and Community Health Officers (CHOs) to accurately fill Community Based Assessment Checklist (CBAC) forms which channel screenings and referrals for Non-Communicable Diseases. Phased community screenings of NCDs are currently being done every week in the nearest public health facility of these villages. 969 community members have been screened thus far.
2. Andaman and Nicobar Islands (South Andaman district)
In the South Andaman district of Andaman & Nicobar Islands, we work in the 8 wards of Wandoor Gram Panchayat and 2 municipal wards of Port Blair city where the Junglighat fishing community resides. We have focused primarily on four themes i.e governance, fisheries, sanitation and health. Our interventions were centred around strengthening community institutions and building capacities of leaders to carry out work on fisheries sustainability and wellbeing of the community.
During this period we worked closely with 15 leaders, including the elected members of Wandoor Gram Panchayat and representatives of Junglighat Boat Committee. In Wandoor, we engaged with the panchayat for improved Gram Panchayat Development Planning (GPDP) actions. We were a part of the Gram Panchayat Planning & Facilitation team, through which we were able to integrate interventions under all of the above-mentioned themes incorporating required interventions in the GPDP. Our work on Solid Waste Management (SWM)
engages diverse state and non-state stakeholders towards streamlined waste management practices and promotes coordination and monitoring among them. With our help, the SWM system has been expanded to cover an additional 100 households and the segregation practices in the existing 250 households have shown improvement. Additionally, a large number of community members in Wandoor are now sensitised on key issues on SWM increasing public accountability of the Panchayat to provide adequate services.
Our engagement on adolescent health focused on both improving health practices and on empowering adolescent girls to take informed actions on sustainable menstrual products - itself a large contributor to the challenge of poor waste management. We reached over 150 individuals on preventive health aspects, including health workers, adolescent girls and adults and elderly on non-communicable disease screening and prevention.
For improved fisher wellbeing and fisheries sustainability in the region, we are presently collectivising and building the capacity of fishermen. In addition to documenting fishing practices, trade and institutions in both the sites, with the Junglighat fishers, we have mapped the fishing grounds which are seasonally used by different categories of fishermen. In order to initiate fisheries co-management and co-monitoring, we co-created a logbook for fishers to enter fish catch and fishing effort. The book is currently being tested with an initial set of boats in Junglighat before onboarding the rest of the community. Around 90 fishers (including leaders) were also part of an awareness session on state policies and fisheries entitlements, towards a longer term effort to improve fisher access to government schemes and subsidies.
3. Tamil Nadu (Ramanathapuram district)
The district of Ramanathapuram forms the next focal area for SeaChange as a site this year. In the last 6 months, we have focused on three themes - marine plastics, livelihoods and developing leadership and awareness around the commons among women from fishing communities.
The Ramnad site also focused on building collaborations with the district administration and supporting their convergence related initiatives. Dakshin conceptualised a coast-focused convergence unit (termed Neithal Convergence Unit) and has now signed an MoU with the District Collector, Ramanathapuram to set up the Neithal Convergence Unit (NCU). The convergence unit, set up in the District Collector’s office, would act as a knowledge, coordination and planning platform for sustainable development of coastal communities in Ramanathapuram. The unit will act as an interface between fishers, fish collectives, coastal NGOs, the private sector and the district administration. In the coming year, it aims to strengthen the capacities of stakeholders through content development and training tools, developing participatory approaches for coastal and fisheries governance by engaging village-level committees and facilitating accountability in the delivery of various welfare and governance measures.
Additionally, Dakshin Foundation in partnership with Accenture Global has also put together a digital dashboard providing information on socio-economic indicators of marine-fishing villages, GIS-based imagery on marine plastic and shoreline changes for district-level planning at hamlet, panchayat, taluk and district levels. The integrated dashboard provides updated information on marine-fishing villages and can provide district administrators with transparent and easy to access data for better governance of coastal villages.
This range of engagement converges in the field as part of our SeaChange framework for action. Additional layers to this work are added by our efforts under our Oceans Solutions banner and through our Oceans Applied Tech Lab. Ocean Solutions is our effort to enter and contribute to the emerging domain of blue carbon, blue growth and climate change towards creating an in-house interdisciplinary solutions-based service/facility. Dakshin’s aim here is to engage with emerging areas such as Blue Carbon to better channel such global efforts to positively impact small-scale fishers and these ecosystems and mitigate threats to their further disenfranchisement and displacement from these landscapes. The Oceans Applied Tech Lab is focussed on leveraging technologies such as GIS, AI modelling and a range of ICTs to analyse and scale our efforts.