(Organization for Marine Conservation, Awareness and Research)
Palk Bay Centre
Connecting People for Conservation
OMCAR provides various sustainable livelihood opportunities for fishermen from marginalised backgrounds by donating animals/plants, providing training, organising medical camps etc for their benefit and upliftment.
The fishing pots were donated to the artisanal, traditional fishers who don’t have boats or bigger fishing nets. They fish traditionally in mangrove canals which does not harm the mangrove ecosystem. A fishing pot is an only important tool they use to carry their torch, food, net and other essentials while they stand in the muddy mangrove water for 6 to 8 hours/day. They also use the same pot to bring back their fish catch from the mangroves to the market. As it is an important fishing tool used in “sustainable fishing” as per UN Agenda for the environment, OMCAR extended support to them by providing them with fishing pots.
Coconut thatch making is the traditional skill embedded in the fringing communities in Palk Bay. So, OMCAR purchased the raw materials from nearby coconut farms and donated them for free to the fisher-woman for the first few months so that they can make coconut thatches and sell them to create a capital amount. Then, OMCAR further helped them to buy the raw materials from nearby coconut farms by arranging a vehicle, to provide them with a home-based alternative livelihood and a regular income.
OMCAR donates seeds to village families every premonsoon season. OMCAR also donates vermicompost made in its field centre (PBC) and donates it to those families. They use their backyards to grow local, seasonal vegetables for the next few months, harvest and use them for their family needs. This ensures the basic plant-based nutrients for each family. At the end of the season, the seeds are donated back to OMCAR from the families and kept safe at PBC for next year.
Women who work towards planting mangroves and at the same time completely depend on mangrove-based livelihood from the fringing communities are selected based on the condition of their huts by a team of local persons. Then, OMCAR builds the coconut thatched houses and new doors for each such family. The coconut thatches produced by the women's group are used for such thatched houses or hut renovation.
Goats were donated to each fisher family. Goats are an important living asset for their family. It reproduces faster and gives more income to the family in the near future. Also, there is no training needed for taking care of the goats. So, each fisher women/men supporting OMCAR has been receiving goats; leading to around 410 goats being donated across 7 coastal villages. All the goats donated were female goats. So, once they breed, their first goat kid is returned by the family to OMCAR after six months. This young goat is received by OMCAR, and after a health check-up by a veterinary doctor, it is donated to other families. So, the goat is an important connecting economic bridge between OMCAR and the local community. Each fisher who released back a turtle into the waters receives goats. Each fisher who rescues and releases dugongs or any other marine animals also receives goats.
Artisanal fishers who don’t have boats or any bigger fishing gear were the beneficiaries of this fishing net donation. These beneficiaries used to walk along the coast of Palk Bay for 3 – 5 kilometres to catch shallow water fish in seagrass beds, which does not harm the seagrass ecosystem. Such traditional, artisanal, sustainable fishing methods have been encouraged after the selection of the beneficiaries through a local volunteer team.
Mud crabs are a highly valued seafood item from the coastal waters of Palk Bay. Each mud crab (hard-shelled mud crab) cost about Rs. 1800/kg. So fishers get a good income. At the same time, the soft-shelled mud crabs are selling for a low price of only Rs. 400/kg. So, OMCAR supported a group of fishers in Palk Bay to build a mud crab fattening unit. So, fishers can keep the soft-shelled mud crabs and feed them regularly for 40 days so that the soft-shelled mud crabs get the hard shell, which can be sold at higher prices.
During the Gaja cyclone, many coconut trees belonging to fisher families fell, so OMCAR donated coconut saplings to these families under the condition that after a few years, the families have to donate the coconuts (30 coconuts at least) back to OMCAR to set up our own coconut nurseries to donate to other families.
Another fringing poor section of our area are the fish sellers who come on a bicycle. They are very poor and are mostly old. They travel up to 60 to 70 km from highly remote villages in the coastal areas, buy the fish from the landing centre, and sell it along the way back home in the streets of small villages. So, they earn very little money and honestly give a few more fish to every customer. They have nothing other than a fish box and a bicycle. They do not receive any benefits like mainstream fishermen, who have government ID cards to receive subsidies or money during off-seasons. They are voiceless. So, OMCAR decided to empower and honour them by inviting them all for a lunch at our centre and then for a meeting to understand their needs. As per their request, new bicycles and fish boxes were donated to each of them along with torch light.
Chicken were donated to each fisher family. Chicken are an important living asset for their family. It reproduces faster and gives more income to the family in the near future. Also, there is no training needed for taking care of the Chicken. So, each fisher women/men supporting OMCAR has been receiving a pair of Chicken. So, once they breed, their first chicks are returned by the family to OMCAR after a few months and after a health check-up by a veterinary doctor, it is donated to other families.