Sometimes things happen that add worth to your life and provide a vision and a mission to fulfill. One such experience was when I got attached to an NGO working for welfare of tribes in rural India. It was a pure volunteer job with no salary or any kind of economic remuneration. When I was contacted by the NGO I was only asked to design a fishing boat for the villagers displaced by the formation of a reservoir but on reaching the site I decided that it is not where I should stop. We stayed there, interacted and came up with a report that had ideas and suggestions on developing sustainable livelihoods for people of displaced villages through fisheries over the years.
We travelled for five hours from the city of Vishakhapatnam on east coast of India and reached a village named Madavalsa on the bank of Peddagadda reservoir. The reservoir had displaced 121 families from 7 villages around the reservoir. Village has a small primary school with a 8 or 9 students and only one teacher to take care of all the affairs. No mobile phones work here and I was an alien species.
Fig.1 : Satellite Image of Peddagadda Reservoir. Inset: Satellite view of Madavalsa Village, location shown with a red circle in the main image. (Image Source: Google Earth)
The day we arrived I was tired because of very hot and humid weather so we decided to take a nap after having a casual walk in the village. Next day, at 6 o’clock we set off to the reservoir and looked at the fishing operation.
Fig 2. The only shop in the village. A Super market – you can get everything that is required for living in such village; confectionary items, cigarette, pickles, vegetables, cold drinks and even liquor is arranged if ordered in advance.
Fig 3. Amazing beauty of the place
Fig 4. A. Fisherman with prawns trapped in his bamboo trap. B. Closer view of the M. malcolmsonii caught. Have a look at the indigenous fishing raft – it’s a risky business.
Fig 5. That’s me with a huge Catla in the figure on left and with a smiling catfish on right.
Fig 6. The day’s catch being sold off to a local trader.
Fig 7. Our daily breakfast – Upma (sort of pudding with spices and salt).
Fig 9. In business – interaction with villagers at the verandah of a school where we slept, relying on ointments to repel mosquitoes and our good luck to survive snakes at night.
Everyday was a new experience. No mobile phones to disturb, no hurry to catch time, careless sleep under the starry sky and a fowl to wake us everyday at 5 o’clock. We faced some factors that exploit the villagers and keep them suppressed – the middleman, the CEO of the defunct fisheries co-operative society and the ignorance. While ignorance and indifferent attitude of villagers was depressing, I met a positive force called Jogamma. Jogamma is an elderly lady from the same village who was our host. She is an amazing cook – her prawn and fish curry was just out of this world. She has amazing management skills that she demonstrates as the manager of a co-operative society of non-timber forest produce which the women from villages in vicinity collect and sell. She knows how to lead a group and manage affairs with honesty and integrity – the bank records and funds accrued were the testimony to her managerial prowess. While I was depressed to see the plight of the village, her assurances to me that she would try her best to employ my suggestions washed off all my worries.
Fig 10.Jogamma (lady on left) with a happy me after she assured me of setting things in order
I am back from Madavalsa but my heart is there and I thank the tribals of the villages I visited to make me realise that my degree has a value in their welfare. Since then I have made it my mission to devote myself for research on food security. I would like to thank my senior, Neeraj for considering me good enough to lead a task like this and introducing me to the world of rural management.