Monday, November 30, 2015

30/11/2015: Welcome to Vakkom

Mrs Geeji Madathil Tharanath, President, Organic Life (OL), a young and energetic NGO organisation based in Thiruvnanthapuram, Kerala commented on signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Aquaculture withoutFrontiers (AwF), “We are wishing to develop long term cooperative relations with international technical experts on aquaculture and especially to develop cultural and social interchange through mutual assistance in the areas of agri/aqua foods education, training and research so we are delighted about today’s activity.” 

Vakkom is a small coastal village located at Thiruvananthapuram District, the capital of Kerala State in south western India. Three sides of the village are surrounded by the backwaters of Anchuthengu which is connected to Arabian Sea through the estuary. The lake receives an excellent daily exchange from tidal waters from the sea and has enormous potential for aquaculture if planned well. Vakkom has a population of around 18,000 people, with approximately 55 percent females.

Geeji said “Whilst the village has a great tradition of art and culture it had relied heavily on Coconut as its major income and activity. The village has been popular for the production of high quality coir since the 18th century and consequently was the major source of livelihood of the people. Hundreds of small ponds were constructed adjacent to the backwater for the purpose of soaking (retting) the coconut husk. The majority of the workers related to the coir industry were women.

"In recent years, the coir industry has been overtaken by plastic alternatives – the market door became open when there was the unavailability of the raw material, a hike in the production costs and subsequent reduced market demand. This has created a crisis for Vakkom and has made many people jobless and their families are in distress because of reduced income levels. Being far away from the urban area, Vakkom finds it difficult to attract other new industries so today this once proud villages economy is in poverty and can only be revamped only through serious interventions.”

Roy Palmer, AwF’s Executive Director, said “We are excited about linking with OL and specifically in the area of empowerment of unemployed local women of Vakkom Panchayath through aquaculture intervention. The present project aims at achieving a sustainable livelihood for the economically challenged women community in Vakkom through aquaculture thus improving the future for all families in the community. It was excellent to have so many people from the village plus Dr Saju M.S, Deputy Director of Fisheries; Dr Baiju Ramachandran, Director, Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Shri Venuji, President, Vakkom Panchayath and OL’s Renjith Rengaraju present and discussing the opportunities with the community at the signing. We are also very grateful for introduction to OL by Dr Kaippilly Dinesh, who was also on hand to assist with translation.”

AwF Volunteer Dr Janine Pierce (University of South Australia), present to add value to the project through visual demonstration techniques, commented that introduction of sustainable aquaculture as an alternative income source to replace the dying coir industry and/or to supplement fishing could provide jobs, income and improved lives to the local community. Janine, based on many years of knowledge and experience, found these positive results occurred after aquaculture was introduced in Vietnam, China and Australia. 

Visit the AwF site HERE.

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