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Workshop on livelihood restoration (10/05/05)

The inaugural session had John Bales (Senior Advisor, Save the Children) giving the welcoming address, Annie George (CEO, NCRC, Nagapattinam) providing the overview of the workshop and Prabhat Kumar (Program Coordinator, Save the Children) delivering the vote of thanks. Ranvir Prasad (Additional Collector of Relief and Rehabilitation, Nagapattinam) was scheduled to deliver the inaugural address, but could not attend.


Annie George (NCRC) provided an overview of the issues faced by the Nagapattinam residents relating to the livelihood sectors as a result of the tsunami.

Goal of the workshop:

  • Understand and acknowledge the level of impact on livelihoods
  • Come up with a reconstructive strategy
  • Build a sustainable economy
  • Larger goal is not to stop at replacement, but to focus on a sustainable economy

Challenges ahead:

  • Defining direct and indirect loss
  • Designing appropriate strategies for Nagapattinam based on local economy/ needs
  • Replacing or rebuilding
  • Need to re-architect livelihood mechanisms

A large portion of the funds ear-marked for livelihood restoration has been spent, or is being spent, on fishermen and their families. They are seen as the most "visibly" affected group. The marginalized communities have been overlooked although their livelihood has been reliant on the fishing community. They also are involved in other livelihood services such as salt panning, aquaculture, agriculture and alternative livelihoods. Their losses are "invisible" as their losses are mostly employment opportunities rather than assets.

The livelihood of 4 lakhs families was affected by the tsunami and of this 1/3 was related directly to fisheries and 1/4 to micro industries. The remainder of the families came from agriculture, livestock holders and seasonal employees. The impact of fisheries had a ripple effect on micro industries.

Response: Targeting of assistance has been divided into three phases:

Phase I: "Visible" -

  • Marine fishing boat, catamaran and trawler owners from coastal villages
  • Fishing laborers who live in coastal areas
  • People whose house was destroyed or who lost a family member

Phase II: "Less Visible" -

  • Inland river fishermen and catamaran owners (especially Irula community)
  • People who sell fish (especially women-headed households); they are dependent on trading activities
  • Agricultural landowners and laborers whose land was inundated by the seawater
  • Salt pan and shrimp farm owners and laborers
  • Others linked with fishing trade including ice and fish factory owners, laborers, basket makers, boat carpenters, etc.

Phase III: "Invisible" -

  • Traders, shopkeepers, kiosk owners and workers who sell food and other goods to households that have lost their buying power
  • Moneylenders who will not get repaid for a long time

Technical Session:

There were several presentations in this session.

Save the Children (several presenters) discussed the Tsunami and Livelihood in coastal areas of Nagapattinam. Based on their findings, they highlighted that there are marginalized communities who have not received the same attention as fisherfolk because their losses were 'invisible' They believe that the focus of rehabilitation packages should be on increasing household access to cash (e.g., through generating employment opportunities) rather than on the distribution of goods. Households that rely on fishing communities for their livelihood will need alternative income opportunities until such time that the fishermen return to the sea. Cash for work is a good opportunity as there are many areas that require immediate manpower. A hard copy of the detailed report is available in our office.

Mr. Selva Raj from the Sarvodaya Rahat Abhiyan (a Gandhian organization) spoke about alternative livelihood in cottage industries. They give training in many micro industries such as hand weaving, pottery, oil making, cosmetics, neem products, embroidery, etc. They plan to start many demonstration centers to motivate and empower self-help groups. Apart from training self-help groups they also emphasize upgrading of skills, extension of technology, entrepreneurship development and train-the-trainer program.

Mrs. Revathi from the Tamil Nadu Organic Farmers Trust spoke about agricultural livelihood. She spoke about how the agricultural economy can be revived using organic methods. Her presentation was very similar to the discussion we had with her on two prior occasions. Please refer to the April 2005 Nagai Report for more information.

Mrs. Jesurathinam of SNEHA spoke on women and livelihood. She emphasized the importance of the government to recognize women and agricultural workers as workers. They need to be enumerated for immediate relief and compensation, as well as restoring their livelihood. Gender-based options are not recommended. Women need to be involved in all sectors of the economy - skills, finance and marketing.

Project Concern International shared the experience of its field volunteers; they discussed the importance of motivation for the affected families to get back on track.

Presentation By Groups

The Collector of Nagapattinam, Dr. Radhakrisnan was scheduled to chair this segment, but could not attend. At the outset of the workshop, the following five livelihood sectors were identified:

  1. Traditional Marine Fishing
  2. Agriculture
  3. Micro enterprises
  4. Salt Production
  5. Harbor zone

However, when the afternoon session began, this list was revised to four groups based on the interest and expertise of the attendees. The groups were as follows:

  • Salt pans/ harbor zone
  • Micro enterprises
  • Fisheries
  • Agriculture

The means of income, economic independence within and between communities, risks involved, coping strategies and economic impact of the Tsunami on the livelihood were detailed for each zone.

Salt Pans:
The salt pan workers were seen as an 'invisible' group. The tsunami had inundated their land with silt, which needs to be cleared. They have lost their livestock as well. No attention is being given to this sector. There are 13,000 laborers around Vedharanyam. They are unable to return to work and face severe financial hardship. They are unable to repay money lenders, pay rent, etc.

In addition, pre-tsunami issues continue to plague them. Health hazards such as prolonged exposure to the sun, lesions in the arms and legs need attention. Children are also exposed to these conditions. If daycare can be provided for them, they can minimize their exposure to the salt pans. Replacing lost livestock, clean water, hygienic conditions, children's education and daycare were their major concerns.

See our detailed report about this sector at the end of our report.

Micro Enterprises:
There has been no authentic study done in this field. The existing data is not available to all the NGOs in the sector. Project SEED and PRAXIS have agreed to prepare a comprehensive report listing NGOs working in this sector and their area of specialty. It will be made available to all interested NGOs.

With the construction of permanent shelters in the offing, more attention needs to be given to training in brick making, masonry and related activities. Gandhigram University could give vocational training in this area. Training must be given in diesel engine repair, as it will help in the fisheries sector as well. There is a lot of focus on the food-processing sector.

There are several reports detailing loss in the fishing and non-fishing services. NGOs working in this sector need to share and assess actual loss. There needs to be an equalization of groups, i.e., the sea going and inland/backwater fishermen. Information and training to handle disasters is needed, such providing CB radios, education, etc. This empowerment will provide for a safe working environment.

There are several sources of information in this sector. There needs to be an authentic study that provides the amount of affected land, the total number of affected agricultural laborers, livestock enumeration, etc. A communication network is essential; NGOs who work in this sector need to be identified. Desalination of the fields is a priority, and the laborers could be put to immediate work in this area using cash-for-work programs. This has to be addressed before the monsoon set in. There is no standardization in policies regarding land reclamation in agricultural area.

In order to reduce vulnerability, an early warning system and sharing of information is needed. Drains need to be kept clear. Aforestation will lessen the impact of strong waves. An emergency operation team needs to be set up for similar problems in the future.

The workshop concluded with groups promising to share information and providing updates to the NCRC. Each group enlisted the help of a few NGOs with specialization in certain fields to come up with comprehensive data for each sector.

The organizers of this workshop had enlisted the help of groups that had been directly impacted by the tsunami. One such group catered a delicious, hot lunch. We were also served cashew - apple fruit juice and turmeric - mango pickle prepared by some local self - help groups. An array of their products was available for sale.

Salt Production In Salt Pans
The following report is prepared based on discussions with Dr. Ravi (FACE), Annie (NCRC), Antony (NCRC) and Ajai (NCRC).

The salt production group was considered to be an invisible group. Considering salt production zone, the main means of income were from salt production and rearing livestock. The economic independence was in terms of the food that they depended on such as fish and agricultural produce from the markets. The risks are in terms of early monsoon, Tsunami and un-seasonal rains. The coping strategies are in terms of pledging and availing loans from moneylenders. The economic impact of the Tsunami on the salt production livelihood zone was in terms of the salt pans being silted causing losses in terms of the produced salt and inability to produce more until the pans were de-silted.

There are 13,000 labourers in the salt pans of Vedaranyam. Post - tsunami, the silted salt pans have to be desilted and reinstated. Equal wages were requested for both men and women. Replacement of the livestock was also emphasized. They are basically three groups of people - Owners, labourers and those who leased the land.

Existing conditions in this zone before the Tsunami were that there were no proper facilities available for the labourers at the point of work in terms of sanitation, drinking water or child - care centres. Health hazards were in the form of sores or boils on the hands and legs due to daily contact with the salt water and strain on the eyes due to long hours of exposure to the glare of sunlight and the salt (6 am to 6 pm).

Dr Ravi of FACE, said that there were about 2000 acres of saltpans producing around 2 lakh tons of salt and more than 5 lakh tons of industrial salt. Direct and indirect employment was given to around 10,000 people. There were 15 villages in Vedaranyam with a population of around 41,090.

The economic impact was in three forms:

  1. Loss of prepared salt
  2. Loans taken from moneylenders that remain outstanding
  3. Sustaining oneself until the reclamation of brine pits is done and a new lot of produced salt is in place.

The Harbour zone consists of areas of work in the harbour which are in some way indirectly linked to the fishing industry. It consists of people earning their livelihood by carrying nets on tricycles, cycles, rickshaws, goods auto, head load workers, petty traders of fish on the shore, ice crush/ ice pack transport, idly shops etc who had lost their means of transport, their utensils, tools of trade and their livelihood until fishing operations resumed.

Some of them were forced to seek alternate means of livelihood but had to travel up to 8 km to and fro by walk as there was no public transport available from their place of stay to their point of work and they had requested for support in the form of cycles (6 nos).

Site Visits
We visited Revathi at the project site in South Poigainallur; she showed us the affected agricultural areas as well as the sand dunes in that area. There is a lot of work being done to desalinate the lands; the entire project is being financed by a German organization. She expresses a great deal of interest in restoring the agricultural lands in the surrounding villages, and empowering the agricultural laborers to get back to work. She also gave us a tour of her backyard, where she produces eco -friendly, organic compounds for agriculture.
for more details on the Organic farm at South Poigainallur

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