On the 9th November 2012, I was part of a market mapping workshop with Kokkilai lagoon fishers. The discussion was geared towards post-harvest handling technologies for the fish. Everybody’s concern was the inadequate supply of ice due to poor transportation facilities. The whole situation reminded me of some community-invented technologies that I came across three years ago in Sri Lanka and India.
A lack of ice supply was a major issue faced by the lagoon fisheries sub-sector in the post-conflict scenario in Sri Lanka. This was largely due to the inadequate production of ice coupled with poor transportation facilities. As a coping strategy, fishers had invented a simple technology. I first noticed this in Periya Kalapu Lagoon of Eastern province, Sri Lanka. As the following photograph shows, it is a box made of galvanized mesh. Once fish were caught, they were kept in the mesh box and placed in lagoon water. The box was tied to a pole planted on the landing site. The fish were kept in these boxes until traders or villagers came to buy them. When I talked to a few of them, I found that they preferred to purchase live fish. Otherwise, by the time the ice arrived, the fish would have been rotten.
The next case I found among the head loaders in Chilika lagoon of Orissa state, India.The word ‘head loaders’ means, the people, in particular women, who carry fish on their head to nearby markets or consumers. The role of women in fish marketing is very significant in Chilika lagoon. Getting ice to some fish landing centers around the lagoon is out of the question, because the access roads to the landing centers are so narrow and run between the houses, so only a motor bike can barely go through.
When fish are caught, they are kept in different containers filled with lagoon water. Head loaders carry them to nearby markets and sell live fish. As I gather, this is still the practice in some areas around the Chilika lagoon. The following photograph shows one of the head loaders selling fish packed in a lagoon-water filled container.
The resourcefulness of proactive fisher communities could have been the drive that led to this creativity. In community development, have we done enough thinking on the potential creativity of the communities, I wonder?