Livelihood and Sustainability
Fish & Fisheries of Vembanad
Vembanad Fish Count (VFC) is an annual participatory fish assessment survey involving different stakeholders, usually held in the month of May. The exercise intends to understand the fishery resources and ecological trends in Vembanad. The event helps in the knowledge dissemination that takes place between stakeholders. It was first initiated in May 2008 and have been continuing ever since. The event has reported 121 species till date. The program has helped in creating awareness on the status of fishery in Vembanad.
Governing of natural resources in a multi-stakeholder social-ecological system like Vembanad Lake is a complex task. The grassroot community-based institutions like the Lake Protection Forums (LPFs) formed around Vembanad is using Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) to govern and manage the fishery resources. The structure of fish sanctuaries provides a natural habitat for the fishes to breed and be protected from the fishing nets. These temporary structures made with natural materials don’t bring any alterations to the ecological system.
The community declare the fish sanctuaries as a “non-fishing zone” and restrain from fishing in these areas. The conservation intervention based on the TEK is helping in sustaining the lake ecology, its biodiversity and contributing to the sustenance of livelihood. So far 26 fish sanctuaries have been set up in different parts of Vembanad lake
Fish Sanctuary (Matsyathavalam)
The major stakeholders of Vembanad wetlands are small and marginal farmers who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Over the years, the system has been under pressure in the light of overexploitation of resources to make more profit out of the land. The inherent problems like soil acidity, monocropping, pest and disease incidence, and saline water intrusion have worsened the situation and lead to indiscriminate use of fertilizers and pesticides. To tackle the issue and ensure sustainable use of the resources and production of safe food, we equip the farmers in eco-friendly farming methods. We organize awareness programs through training, workshops and technology demonstrations for selected farmers and extend it to other areas through them. For this, farm field schools have been set up in partnership with Kerala Center for Pest Management (KCPM) under the department of agriculture, the government of Kerala in the rice bowl of Kerala.
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 tonnes of clamshells are annually harvested from Vembanad Lake. The irregular operation of Thanneermukkom saltwater barrage has altered the ecological stability of the lake and has resulted in a decrease of fishery and black clam resources. ATREE-CERC has 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.
ATREE CERC partnered with Department of Fisheries - Govt. of Kerala, CMFRI, WWF, Black Clam Societies and the Samyuktha Vembanad Kayal Samrakshana Samithy for this project. Through the project baby clams from the northern part of Vembanad lake is collected live and relayed in the southern part to ensure clam sustainability. The project also addressed sustainable harvesting and value addition of clams to enhance livelihood opportunities.
National Geography Society Participatory Tourism
Vembanad is considered a top 50 tourist destination in the world. Thousands of international and national tourists visit Vembanad without fully understanding its uniqueness which includes, the people, landscape, biodiversity and culture. Currently, benefit sharing is very minimal and local communities have very little role in backwater tourism. ATREE-CERC addresses this gap by involving Samyukta Vembanad Kayal Samrakshanan Samithi (SVKSS) other vice known as Federation of Vembanad Lake Protection Forums through a community-based inclusive tourism activity for benefit sharing. ATREE-CERC and SVKSS have collaborated with National Geographic Society expedition tour group which organizes visits to Vembanad. The SVKSS organizes a half-day tour which includes a PowerPoint and video presentation by ATREE-CERC representative on Vembanad and its activities. The participants are also taken to the lake to catch sight of the various conservation initiatives. The savings from this is used to build fish sanctuaries and carry out various campaigns for the conservation of Vembanad.
International Students Engagement
ATREE-CERC organizes one/two-week student engagement program for international students to study and understand the complexities of the ecosystem in both natural and social science perspective. The program is an intensive exercise for students graduating in inter-disciplinary science to understand and learn the complexities of a social-ecological system. The students get a chance to engage with political leaders, local governing bodies, resource-dependent communities- fishers and farmers, tourism industry, policymakers, etc to get a different perspective in understanding complexities revolving around Vembanad ecosystem.
Houseboat Staff Training
Alleppey is considered as the hub of houseboat tourism in the state. Since 2001, the houseboat industry has seen exponential and unregulated growth which is reflected in the poor water quality and poor waste management practices. This scenario has led towards designing a training module for the houseboat staff. CERC formulated a pedagogy in training the houseboat staff on ‘Being Responsible’. The course covers topics such as hospitality, safety and first aid with special focus on Vembanad socio-ecological ecosystem. The classes are taken by a range of experts. The training is organized in association with the Kerala Houseboat Owners Federation (KHOF).