In Sri Lanka the fishing industry's contribution to the country's Gross domestic product is nearly 2.5%, and is of considerable socio-economic importance for the poor community. When the tsunami struck the country, it not only destroyed 10 out of 12 fishing harbours, 80% of the 30,000 fishing vessels, nearly all of the 37 anchorage spaces, and approximately 700 landing sites; but much beyond the physical destruction, the enormity of the destruction caused by the surging waves completely shattered the confidence and moral of the poor fishermen to rebuild back.
Practical Action, having wide experience in this sector, approached the problem with due participation and consultation of the community that not only helped the organisation in understanding the needs of the fishermen, but also ensured the identification of the right type of vessels and gears required by them. Once the needs were identified, the next step undertaken was the selection of genuine beneficiaries, to actual training in the repair and building of the apt vessel with due involvement of the affected communities. Although this approach was time consuming, it paid rich dividends by imparting the skills and know how to repair and build the communities confidence to face such adverse effects in future.
- Participatory approach to fish-vessel building was recognised as a best practice in post-tsunami rebuilding process in a regional workshop on post-tsunami rehabilitation of fishing communities conducted by the International Collective in Support of Fisheries. The participatory approach and fishing community consultation for equipment replacement was included in the National Fisheries strategy document 2006 prepared by the FAO and the Department of Fisheries, Sri Lanka-.
- The Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources included the solar powered fish dryer as a key technology in its seven year strategic plan for the development of the fisheries sector.
- Two other organizations (FORUT and Sewa Lanka) expressed interest in replicating Practical Action's solar powered fish dryer in the in the South and the East.
- The approach helped 88 fishermen in getting training to repair and build fiberglass fishing vessels in the four tsunami affected districts of Hambantota, Matara,Ampara, Jaffna and Kaluthara.
- Two NGOs involved in fishing vessels repair and building adopted Practical Action's participatory approach.
- The Ruhuna University incorporated Practical Action's participatory approach in their Fisheries biology degree programme.
- Participatory approach to fishing craft building was included in the fisheries graduate study curriculum of the National Fisheries and Nautical Engineering institute the focal point and having the mandate in providing training and new technologies for the fisheries sector in Sri Lanka.
- 60 Jaffna fisherwomen gained skills in the production of dry fish.
- Ministry of Fisheries and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) - the coordinating agency of the fishery sector, launched a survey to assess the usability of the distributed canoes and to simultaneously identify the number of genuine fishermen left without adequate canoe replacement. The survey revealed that 26% of the distributed canoes were not usable, and of those almost 40% of the traditional canoes were not seaworthy.
The current areas of work include piloting appropriate approaches for the post disaster revival in the small-scale fisheries which will result in the following outcomes
- Fisher communities maintaining fishing production at economic level
- Lagoons protected by re-established mangrove belts
- Establishment of Lagoon Management Committees to protect the rights of those whose livelihoods depend on the lagoons.