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2.1 Opening ceremony

The workshop was opened by welcome and keynote addresses by Mr M. A. Upare, General Manager of NABARD, Dr Uwe Tietze, Fishery Industry Officer of FAO and Mr Daniel Gustafson, FAO Representative in India. Mrs Binoo Sen, Secretary of the Department of Animal Husbandry & Dairying (DAH&D), Ministry of Agriculture, delivered the inaugural address.

2.2 Technical sessions

Six technical sessions were devoted to the presentations and discussions of the papers covering the thematic areas of government policies and initiatives, appropriate technologies and financial support for women in fishing communities. Because of the number of papers presented, time management was strictly followed. Each presenter was allowed ten minutes to complete the presentation and another ten minutes for the discussion.

The first technical session set the tone of the workshop. Dr Tietze briefly discussed FAO policies and strategies for fisheries and aquaculture development, focusing on the role of credit and investment support. Mr Upare outlined NABARD's support for fisheries development with particular emphasis on new initiatives for credit delivery to women in fishing communities. His paper appears as Annex IV. Finally, a participant from the Philippines presented a case study of an integrated project with a microcredit component involving women in fishing communities in her country. The case study highlighted some issues and lessons learned related to gender and microcredit that might be of interest and relevance for the Indian context.

The following subsections summarize the highlights of the presentations and discussions in the subsequent technical sessions. They are grouped according to thematic area and not necessarily in the order in which they were presented at the workshop.

2.2.1 Government policies and initiatives in support of women in fishing communities

At present, the central government does not have a scheme specifically and exclusively targeted at women in fishing communities. Initiatives for women in these communities are integrated and subsumed in the government's programmes for women in general. As state governments are primarily responsible for the overall development of the fisheries sector, they are motivated and encouraged to formulate proposals and avail themselves of the various development and welfare schemes implemented by other departments and technical institutions of the central government.

Some of the schemes cited include the Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK), or the National Credit Fund for Women, part of a larger safety-net programme in the late 1980s and early 1990s. RMK was the first to recognize and fund self-help groups (SHGs) for women. The Ministry of Women and Child Development is implementing the Support to Training-cum-Employment Programme that aims to upgrade the traditional skills and knowledge of women through training, credit and market linkages in the traditional sectors, including fisheries. There is also the Swaranjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY) programme, which extends assistance in the areas of training, credit, technology and marketing through SHGs.

As for the welfare scheme, active fisherwomen registered with the state government are eligible to take advantage of group accident insurance, saving-cum-relief schemes and development of model fisher villages with housing, community halls and drinking-water facilities as components.

A recent government initiative that is expected to benefit women is the transfer of FISHCOPFED, a national-level federation of fisheries cooperatives, from the administrative control of the DAH&D. The transfer will bring more focus on the strengthening of fisheries cooperatives, including the promotion of those of fisherwomen.

Central government assistance has also been extended to all the coastal states (except Goa) in order to set up marketing units and develop marketing infrastructure.

Existing development programmes in the fisheries sector are being modified to include women's cooperatives, SHGs and other voluntary organizations as alternative implementing agencies for such schemes.

At the state level, Commissioners of Fisheries of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal presented relevant programmes in their areas. The government of Andhra Pradesh is implementing the Velugu project involving livelihood support for 508 fishing villages and communities. There is an attempt to create shore-based infrastructures, landing centres, link roads to landing centres, transport services and hygienic drying platforms during 2003, as well as interventions to provide social security support for fisherwomen and children. The state of Tamil Nadu has taken the initiative in exploiting the welfare schemes specifically for fisherwomen's cooperative societies. The government of West Bengal is implementing fisheries projects that could be potential livelihood projects for women. These include an integrated fishery culture in the tide-fed canals of the Sunderbans, the establishment of a crab hatchery in the Sunderban region and the establishment of a rearing centre for potential brackishwater ornamental fishes. Fisherwomen's SHGs are being encouraged to take up crab culture in identified areas and the extension services of the Directorate have been consolidated for this purpose.

2.2.2 Research, technology development and transfer appropriate for women in fishing and fish farming communities

The special characteristics of fisheries and aquaculture make it necessary to link microfinance to appropriate technology development and transfer to women clients. Both capture fisheries and fish farming require considerable proper vocational training and technical advice crucial for the success of women's microenterprises. It is in this perspective that the following summarized presentations from research and academic institutions should be viewed. They cover technology development and transfer in mariculture, small-scale aquaculture, post-harvest fishing and marketing practices and value-added fishery products that are relevant to women in fishing communities. The role of other institutions that are supportive of women in the area of capacity building, networking and other support services are also briefly discussed.

Village-level marine resource-based technologies

Under the guidance of scientists from the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) in Cochin, the possibility of growing marine bivalves was field-tested by village groups from the north Malabar coast of Kerala. The field testing and adoption of coastal mariculture of mussels and oysters that started out on a pilot-scale case basis in one village has now grown into a commercial scale of operation that has spread to 15 villages. Participatory approaches in mobilizing the involved communities were used and the local bodies were mobilized in the formation of women's SHGs. Demonstrations and technical training were provided by CMFRI while funding support was partly subsidized by the Kerala state government. Detailed discussion of the Kerala experiment is included as a case study in Part 3.

The MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), a non-profitable trust, is implementing a project to promote sustainable livelihoods for poor fishing communities in the Gulf of Mannar region. The project, supported by the Ministry of Rural Development and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), has identified the following marine resource-based alternatives and additional sources of income-generating activities, at present being undertaken in Tamil Nadu: i) establishment of a community-based agar plant in Mandapam; ii) establishment of a community-owned pearl culture unit, also in Mandapam; iii) establishment of a community-managed fish pickle unit in Tuticorin; and iv) demonstration of a community-managed artificial reef as a fishery resource enhancement tool. The approach used is through the mobilization and organization of communities into village-level institutions. In each project village, a registered society is formed where one adult male and female of any willing family become members. Only local people are employed and net profits gained from the production activities go to the society. MSSRF acts as a facilitator in imparting technical, managerial and marketing skills to the participating communities. Technology transfer through demonstration and training activities is provided by CMFRI.

In the discussions, two concerns became evident. First, future replication of the projects in other villages would be affected by a relatively high initial investment cost that may not be covered in existing microfinance programmes. Second, the popularization and commercialization of mariculture are hampered by the absence of policies and mechanisms governing the use of mariculture sites. The critical importance of drafting a coherent and rational legal and policy framework for the leasing of waterbodies for mariculture activities to prevent user conflicts and rights issues was underscored.

Small-scale aquaculture

In India, women have proved their competence in adopting aquaculture technologies. They have been involved in small-scale aquaculture at different stages of operation in different parts of the country, particularly as active "caretakers" of fish in homestead ponds, nurseries, cages and even in rice fields. The potential and opportunities for women can be further enhanced in the field of pond fish culture, raising fry and fingerlings in seasonal ponds, backyard hatchery management, integrated aquaculture, management of fish pens and cages, crab culture and aquarium fish breeding and culture. These are activities that can be located near women's homesteads, enabling them to perform other household maintenance activities.

The Central Institute of Fisheries Education (CIFE) has been regularly imparting hands-on attachment training to women on the management of backyard hatcheries for giant freshwater prawns.

Post-harvest technologies, value-added fish and fishery product preparations

The participation of women in the Indian fisheries sector is substantial in pre- and post-harvest operations, involving about half a million women out of a total 1.2 million workforce. According to CIFE, women constitute about 25 percent of the labour force in pre-harvest activities, 60 percent in export marketing and 40 percent in internal marketing. The involvement of women in post-harvest activities can be further categorized as those who are employed as a workforce in the fish processing industry catering for the export market and those who are engaged in a microbusiness as fish vendors, fish traders and in traditional small-scale fish processing activities. The first category requires technologies and practices to improve women's working and living conditions. The second category needs to be empowered with information, technology, finance and marketing assistance to improve the quantity and quality of women's microenterprises.

The Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT) promotes technologies for those women in the second category, including improved fish drying methods and innovations such as solar and LPG dryers. The production of Mahima shrimp feed can also be an appropriate project for women in coastal and reservoir areas. CIFT has developed a simple, low-cost and environmentally friendly technique for fish ensilage from fish waste that can be used as livestock feed. Furthermore, fishnet-making as a traditional skill can still be promoted as an income-generating activity for women, particularly in the fabrication of square mesh cod end and a bigger size mesh for reservoir fishing.

Institutes such as the College of Fisheries in Ratnagiri and CIFE have standardized technologies for value-added fish and fishery products; for example, the preparation of clam pickles, fish cutlets, fish sauce, fish fillets in curry, fish chakali, fish shev and fish/aceites pakoda. These technologies are being transferred to women who are interested in setting up microenterprises through their groups.

The Integrated Fisheries Project (IFP) in Cochin has developed and popularized low-cost technologies for value-added seafood processing for adoption among coastal fisherwomen. These technologies focus on semi-processed convenient product forms in packets that are either fresh, chilled or frozen. IFP has acted as a nodal agency for imparting training in low-cost techniques in seafood processing in association with different agencies in Kerala. On a national scale, IFP will be conducting a training programme for fisherwomen from the nine maritime states and two union territories. The programme will equip fisherwomen with skills not only in fish processing, quality assurance and hygiene but also in microentrepreneurship, group development and marketing. An important component of the training will be the identification of feasible fishery-based microenterprises or vocations suited to local conditions and the required technology transfer developed by the IFP. These include the running of fish booths, vending of dressed fish or fish fillets, dry fish preparation and marketing, processing of ready to cook fish products, pickling, shellfish processing, catering or ready to serve fishery products, production of fish feed, fish silage, chitin manufacture and the processing of shark fin rays.

Other support service institutions

As a centre for women's studies, the National Research Centre for Women in Agriculture (NRCWA) can serve as a link between fisherwomen and development and technological institutions. In cooperation with these agencies, NRCWA can organize skills training, sensitization and awareness building programmes, develop drudgery reduction measures, prepare and maintain a database on women in fisheries, search for marketing linkages and establish and maintain a national network for women in fisheries. The network can moreover serve as a venue and platform for sharing experiences, technological interventions and as an information clearinghouse on women in fisheries.

The media can play a useful role in creating awareness about the important role that coastal women play in fisheries development, through the publication of informative features in daily newspapers and periodicals. This will inform and educate the public as to both fisherwomen's plight and their contribution and press for more concerted efforts to uplift their status.

The Bay of Bengal Programme (BOBP), an intergovernmental organization, is recognized as a pioneer in the region in initiating and encouraging fisherwomen's empowerment. Training and capacity building have been major BOBP activities. As BOBP recognizes the significant role that women play in efforts to develop long-term sustainable fisheries, it will continue to assist women in the region in this larger objective, particularly by harnessing their role and contribution in resource management and conservation.

2.2.3 Financial support and mechanisms for women in fishing communities

Presentations on financial support for women in fishing communities were not only limited to microfinance provision but also included investment credit and venture/equity fund by other financial institutions.

Mainstream microfinance institutions (MFIs)

Mainstream MFIs are apex and formal financial institutions involved in extending microfinance. In the workshop, these were represented by NABARD, the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), the State Bank of India (SBI) and the Varada Grameena Bank (VGB).

NABARD runs the largest microfinance programme in the world. Cumulatively, around 703 145 SHGs are linked to different banks, involving about 11 million poor households (including fisheries), that have gained access through microfinance. There is, however, no specific breakdown of the number of fishing households assisted. Some case studies of success stories of fisherwomen who benefited from NABARD's microfinance initiatives are included in Part 3 of this report.

SIDBI's microfinance programme was launched in 1994. It provided soft loan assistance to NGOs for onlending to poor women for various income-generating activities. In 1999, it established the SIDBI Foundation for Microcredit (a separate division within SIDBI) with the objective of creating a national network of strong, viable and sustainable MFIs that would provide microfinance services to the poor, especially women. SIDBI's experience in support of women in coastal fishing communities was through a partnership with the South Indian Federation of Fishermen Societies (SIFFS), an apex organization of fish marketing societies of small-scale fishermen in the southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. One of the loan products of the SIFFS credit programme was a loan to fisherwomen intended for working capital for fish vending, petty trade and other income-generating activities. From 1996 to 2000, total assistance of SIDBI to the SIFFS credit programme was close to Rs36 million. SIFFS' experience in providing microcredit to fisherwomen is presented as a case study in Part 3 of this report.

The SBI model of financing SHGs involves the government District Rural Development Authority (DRDA) or any voluntary organization acting as the self-help group promoting institution (SHGPI). DRDA provides a matching grant or subsidy equivalent to six months savings by the SHG, which is deposited with the SBI. The total loan amount sanctioned by the SBI is from two to four times the total amount saved by the group. The SHGs have complete freedom in members' choice of economic activities, sanctions, disbursements among their members, etc. Loans are repaid in 30 or 60 monthly instalments. The recovery rate is approximately 85 to 90 percent. From 2001 to 2002, a total of 21 645 SHGs (representing a little less than half the total women SHGs) took out almost Rs450 million to finance fishery-related activities such as fresh fish vending, fish drying and salting, fishnet-making, bamboo fish traps and fish feed production.

The VGB is a regional rural bank operating in the Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka. It also implements microcredit provision through SHGs. The VGB has provided financing at concessional rates to 77 fisherwomen SHGs with good recovery rates. These SHGs are mostly involved in fish marketing activities. Total outstanding advances to fisherwomen beneficiaries have reached around Rs14.3 million.

Alternative MFIs

Alternative MFIs represented in the workshop include the Friends of Women's World Banking, India (FWWB), CARE India through its Credit and Savings for Household Enterprises (CASHE) programme and SIFFS.

An affiliate of Women's World Banking, FWWB initiated its microfinance activities in 1989 and now works through a network of around 250 NGOs. FWWB implements three main programmes covering credit, technical assistance and integrated social security. These programmes aim to empower poor and assetless rural and urban women by improving their participation in sustainable livelihood activities through access to financial services.

Under its credit programme, short- and medium-term loans for both farm and non-farm activities are charged 13.5 percent rate of interest per annum, payable in one to three years, depending on the nature of the client, i.e. new, repeat and large and institutional partners. FWWB also offers loans for debt redemption, education, infrastructure and training. The loan size varies with the type of client: Rs2 000-3 000 for new clients, Rs5 000-10 000 for repeat loan clients and Rs10 000-15 000 for large and institutional development partners. In 2003, the average disbursed loan size was Rs4 957 with a 96 percent repayment rate.

There are no figures specifically on the number of fisherwomen assisted by FWWB. A case study was presented in the workshop about a particular experience of lending to a fisherwomen's cooperative, the Stree Niketh Vanitha Federation (SNVF). SNVF at that time was part of the Trivandrum District Fishermen's Federation (TDFF). In 1995, FWWB extended Rs220 000 to TDFF for an ice plant and boat repair centre. The loan was charged 12 percent interest, repayable in five years. However, the organization ran into some leadership problems, prompting the split of SNVF from TDFF. The loans also remained unpaid. SNVF, then on its own, secured funding assistance from SIFFS, the apex federation with which TDFF is affiliated. The experience of SNVF is elaborated further in the case study involving SIFFS in Part 3.

CARE is an international relief and development organization that undertakes projects in the sectors of health, nutrition and population, girls' education, natural resources and emergency preparedness. Its microfinance initiative in India started in the early 1990s and has now evolved to its present project called CASHE. The main project goal of CASHE is to increase the income and economic security of poor women and their households through access and availability of a wide range of microfinance services to the poor.

The microcredit activities of SIFFS began in the late 1990s at the urging of SIDBI. SIFFS saw microcredit as an opportunity to have greater control over credit services for its members. At present, SIFFS is the largest MFI in the country in the fisheries sector, serving both men and women, with an outstanding loan of Rs.27 million. SIFFS integrated women into its microcredit programme in response to demands made by women's groups with which it had historic links. This integration has led to the introduction and evolution of loan products that cater for the special needs of fisherwomen. SIFFS' experience with women's groups, particularly with SNVF, is further detailed in the next part. Issues and tensions in assisting a women's group within an essentially male federation will be highlighted.

Investment credit and venture capital funds

Agricultural and Rural Development Banks (ARDBs), as term lending institutions for agriculture and rural development, provide investment credit to farmers and fishers in the country. As such, ARDBs are not allowed to lend directly to SHGs or microborrowers without an enabling provision in their act and bylaws. At present, 28 banks are catering for the requirements of investment credit for farmers and fishers in the country. The main source of funds is through borrowing from NABARD and from central and state governments.

An alternative financing mechanism in support of women in coastal fishing communities is through the Small Farmers'Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC). SFAC is a public-private joint venture society and has been declared a financial institution. Its main mission is to link small farmers to technology and markets and provide backward and forward linkages. Although SFAC is not a strictly microfinance operation, SHGs can become associate members (without voting rights) on payment of a Rs1 000 per annum membership fee. This makes them eligible to avail themselves of its financial assistance. Of particular relevance are SFAC activities that can support fishing communities. SFAC can provide equity support for setting up cold storages owned on a cooperative basis; dry ice production units; fish and other marine product processing units; and fish preservation units employing irradiation the process and feed manufacturing units for fish farms. It can also help in locating export markets for the processed marine products from cooperatives and groups of fisherwomen and identification of appropriate technology, plant and machinery through technical consultants. Additionally, and specifically for women, small-sized parcels of fish fingerlings of appropriate variety that can be reared by women in their own small ponds can be provided to poor women of limited means. Capability building activities such as entrepreneurship development training can also be given to women for setting up their small processing units on a cooperative basis.

2.3 Closing ceremony

Dr Tietze reviewed the results of the workshop, identified possible FAO assistance in response to recommendations put forward by the participants and addressed closing remarks. Mr S. S. Acharya, Executive Director of NABARD, delivered a valedictory address where he stressed the importance of considering other sociocultural issues that are sometimes overlooked but nevertheless impact on successful microfinance provision. He also encouraged the field testing of appropriate technologies and cautioned the promotion of those that would merely bring ill effects to the communities assisted.

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