Trends in poverty and livelihoods in coastal fishing communities of Orissa State, India

FAO Fisheries Technical Paper. No. 490

Trends in poverty and
livelihoods in coastal fishing
communities of Orissa State,

Venkatesh Salagrama
Integrated Coastal Management
Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh, India


Rome, 2006

Table of Contents

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ISBN 92-5-105566-1

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© FAO 2006

Venkatesh, S.
Trends in poverty and livelihoods in coastal fishing communities of Orissa State, India.
FAO Fisheries Technical Paper. No. 490. Rome, FAO. 2006. 111p.


This study analyses the livelihoods of marine fishing communities in the Indian coastal state of Orissa using the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach (SLA). It investigates the relationships between livelihoods and coastal poverty and seeks to develop simple qualitative indicators to monitor the changes in these relationships over time.

The key trends affecting the livelihoods of the poor in the coastal fishing communities in Orissa range across the whole spectrum of assets i.e. the natural, physical, social, human and financial and contribute to changes in terms of availability as well as access to the assets for the poorer stakeholders. Thus, the overall decline in availability of fish from the coastal waters is also accompanied by a declining access of the poor to the fish resources as a result of changes in fishing technology and in market supply chains. The shift in fishing methods from subsistence-based artisanal activities to sophisticated modern technologies has rendered redundant the traditional skills, knowledge and manual labour abilities of the poor, while also increasing risks and leading to a dependence upon external sources of credit. As fish are sold directly to the traders at the point of landing, fishermen no longer depend on the women to sell them, so the women find themselves marginalized. Apart from the factors having a direct bearing upon fisheriesbased livelihoods, there have also been changes affecting the quality of life generally, which contribute to, or arise out of, changes in the livelihood patterns and span across the social, political, cultural and economic spheres of life. Social capital, which is the glue that held together the traditional fishing communities and provided some sort of social security to the vulnerable groups (the aged, widows), has become much weakened. There is evidence that food insecurity is growing in the fishing villages and, coupled with the weakening of the welfare state policies, leading to increasing deprivation.

Apart from the various trends, this paper examines the impact of seasonality and shocks upon the fisheries-based livelihoods and the importance and the influence of various policies, institutions and processes in addressing the fishers need to cope with their vulnerability context in a meaningful manner. It summarizes the various factors having an impact upon the livelihoods of the fishers and develops them into simple indicators relevant in assessing the changing patterns of poverty in fishing communities of Orissa. The indicators could range from a households seasonal dependence on credit for consumption purposes to more straightforward ones like having a single woman as the head of the household. Simple indicators like residence in a thatched hut or lack of access to secure toilets can also determine the extent of poverty. The indicators necessarily transcend sectoral and disciplinary boundaries and aim to provide a holistic and integrated picture of poverty. On the other hand, poverty is an outcome of a wide range of factors, so deciding the extent of poverty based upon any single indicator can be misleading. At the simplest level, the poorest can be categorized as people whose livelihoods reflect the widest number of negative indicators. There are many intermediate levels between the poorest and the wealthy, which can be captured by the relative proportion of different indicators in each case. At the same time, each indicator is multidimensional and subsumes differences in depth and severity, and not all indicators carry equal weight, so mere counting of the numbers of indicators is not sufficient by itself to obtain a clear picture. There is a need for more work to ensure that each indicator is combined with other key variables to develop composite indices of poverty and deprivation.


FAO Fisheries Technical Paper. No. 490 pdf

Preparation of this document
Acronyms and abbreviations
Executive summary

1. Introduction and methodology
Livelihoods and poverty
Objectives of the study
Application of the sustainable livelihoods approach
Structure of the study
2. Overview of the marine fisheries of Orissa
Orissa an introduction
Coastal Orissa
Fish production in Orissa
3 Livelihood groups in the marine fisheries sector in Orissa
Traditional fish processors
Other participants in the fisheries sector
Poor stakeholder groups in the fisheries sector in Orissa
4. Livelihood analysis of coastal fishing communities
Features related to livelihoods and livelihood strategies
Livelihood assets of the coastal fishers in Orissa
Vulnerability context of fishing livelihoods
5. Features of poverty, food insecurity and vulnerability in
coastal fishing communities of Orissa
Indicators of poverty, food insecurity and vulnerability
Key issues of poverty and vulnerability arising from livelihood analysis
Wealth ranking of key stakeholders in the fisheries sector