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Livelihood and Sustainability

We aim to build up a sustainable community with sufficient livelihood opportunities by using the resources wisely. It focuses on a systematic and adaptive approach that helps to cope with the issues and enhance the capabilities of the system to meet the livelihood issues now and in future. 

The activities of CERC for sustainable livelihood and wellbeing of the lake includes;

  •  Clam Relaying 

  •  Fish Sanctury and

  •  Fish Survey Programs 

Clam Relaying 

Black clam (Villorita cyprinoides) is an important fishery resource for the traditional fishing community in the Vembanad Lake. Around 10000 people are dependent on it and an average of 32,000 tones of clam shells are harvested from the Vembanad Lake (Suja and Mohamed 2010). Overall, India’s 60% of black clam production takes place in Vembanad Lake. Optimum salinity required for black clams reproduction is 10-12ppt and the construction of Thanneermukkom saltwater barrage in the early 1970s has made the southern area a freshwater zone for major part of the year (Suja and Mohamed 2010).The irregular operation of the barrage has altered the ecological stability of the lake and has resulted in the decrease of fishery and black clam resources. The participatory mapping of natural resource in Vembanad conducted by ATREE-CERC has found out that the clam resources in the southern Vembanad have declined significantly over the years.  In this backdrop, ATREE-CERC wrote a proposal for Department of Fisheries, Govt. of Kerala and have taken an initiative to bring various stakeholders together to a common platform to establish a participatory inclusive institutional framework for the revival of the clam resources in the lake and livelihood enhancement of clam collectors

Department of Fisheries, Govt. of Kerala, CMFRI, WWF, 5 Black Clam Societies (Muhamma, Vechoor, Aryad, Muhamma Clam Marketing and Kavalam), Samyuktha Vembanad Kayal Samrakshana Samithy and ATREE CERC are partnering in this.  The northern part of Vembanad (north of Thanneermukkom Bund) has thick deposits of black clams. In order to facilitate optimal growth of clams, it is necessary to reduce density by removing the top layer.

This project aims to revive clam resources by relaying baby clams from northern part of Vembanad to the southern part and ensure sustainability of clam deposits. It is expected to revive the clam deposits in Vembanad by next 3-5 years through this process. This project also aims at sustainable harvesting and value addition of clams to enhance livelihood opportunities. The areas where the clams are deposited will be declared as a no collection zone and will be opened for harvest after a stable population is established.

Fish Sanctuary (Matsyathavalam)

Governing of natural resources in a multi-stakeholder social ecological system of Vembanad Lake is complex task. The formation of Community Based institution- Lake Protection Forums (LPFs) around Vembanad has used Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) to govern and manage fishery resources despite the recent anthropogenic pressures to intensify the agriculture production the southern part of Vembanad lake along with unethical fishing practices The structure of fish sanctuaries provides a natural habitat for the fishes to breed and be safe from fishing nets. The structure doesn’t bring any alterations to the ecological system.

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The community declare the fish sanctuaries as a “non-fishing zone” and by spreading messages among the fisher-folk community to avoid fishing in these zones has positively impacted the fishery resources. In the participatory evaluation on fish sanctuaries conducted by fishery experts and fisher-folk, it showed the increase in the economically valued fish Etroplus suratensis (Pearl Spot), other small fishes, water snakes and clams. The larger presence of top predators like otters and cormorants in the sanctuary zones obviously indicate the richness of fishes. The community opined that this conservation intervention based on the TEK is helping in sustaining the lake ecology, its biodiversity and contributing to the sustenance of livelihood of local fisher folk.

Now high priority is given to community-based conservation efforts as most of the top-down approach seems to over dominate and suppresses the dependent community and leaves them stranded. So far the SVKSS has established nearly 22 sanctuaries in different parts of Vembanad lake which indicates its success of foremost securing livelihood and conservation of fishery resources. In this case of bottom-up approach, it was necessary to tap the TEK from local community and ensure their participation and involvement in decision making.

Vembanad Fish Count (VFC)

Vembanad Fish Count (VFC) is an annual participatory fish assessment exercise involving different stakeholders usually held in the month of May every year. The exercise intends to understand the fishery and ecological trends in Vembanad in addition to the knowledge dissemination that takes place between stakeholders. It was first initiated in May 2008 and had been continuing ever since. The event has till date reported 121 species altogether and at least 60 – 100 species per count. The program has led to various grass route level reforms in the system inclusion LPF formation and impacted policymakers to aggregate knowledge from different levels in the society. Furthermore, it has also brought in new fish reports from the system

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