Supporting livelihood restoration in coastal areas

Introduction Hundreds of coastal villages in Ganjam, Puri, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapada, Bhadrak and Balasore districts in Odisha have been displaced numerous times and have faced cyclone, subsequent floods and sea water intrusion on a regular basis. Rehabilitation of the survivors in the coastal villages is difficult as they most disaster-prone. Therefore, each component of support for rehabilitation for coastal villages such as housing, livelihood etc. should be well thought out and cannot be equated with other disaster-affected areas.

The village Chhenua in Sisua Gram Panchayat of Astaranga block in Puri is one such coastal village. The village has been gradually shifting from its original location due to high tide in the sea and subsequent erosion. Earlier, this village was on the sea coast, less than half km away from the sea. It has been shifted thrice from its original location in the last 20 years. The houses are mostly in the traditional pattern made of up of thatched and mud which are easily damaged during disasters. Most of them earn their livelihood from fishing in the sea, and working as labourers in agriculture fields and betel vine yard. The betel vine and boats are usually owned by the well-off people in the village. During any kind of natural disasters like cyclone and flood, the vulnerable communities are most affected due to damage of their house and loss of livelihood. ActionAid with support from local NGO, Young India, conducted an assessment on the status of livelihood of the people in Astaranga block after cyclone Phailin. The aim was to restore livelihood of the affected communities from the most vulnerable sections through alternate livelihood options. ActionAid and Young India formed a Disaster Management Committee (DMC) in Chhenua consisting of representatives from various sections of the community including women, elderly persons, differently-abled persons and disadvantaged communities. The Committee helped in identifying the most vulnerable persons and their needs, and finalizing their eligibility to get support through a ratification process. The list of selected families was displayed in a common place in the village to maintain transparency. A grievance box was also set up in the community to assist people to share their grievances. The grievances were collected and discussed openly in the community meeting. The grievances were mostly related to the selection criteria and cases were included accordingly.
Lesson Learnt

 The community-based Disaster Management Committee contributed efficiently in identifying the most vulnerable population in need of support

 Representation of all categories of population in the Committee helped in avoiding exclusion of the most marginalized

 Identifying existing knowledge and skill of people in building their livelihood was crucial.

 Maintaining transparency and accountability through display of beneficiary list, selection criteria and grievance redressal mechanism was useful in mobilising community and their ownership in the programme.

 The traditional agriculture system was found to be more resilient to climate change

 Women after being given adequate knowledge and information came forward to participate in the livelihood restoration process.

 Government programmes like MGNREGS has great potential in rebuilding coastal livelihood post disaster if government allows such flexibility in the use of the scheme.

Impact from village

Lily Pradhan, 34, was one among the 70 women identified by the Committee to get livelihood support. Lily used to work as a wage labourer in the agricultural fields and sometimes in the betel vine yard. Her husband used to migrate out of Odisha for work dueto limited employment options in the area. The MGNREGS was also not functional in the village. When Phailin hit the area in 2013, it created havoc among the people and damaged their crops, kitchen garden, and fruit bearing tress like coconut which was a source of income. Lily too lost her livelihood source as the betel vines were damaged and she was desolate without any options to restore her livelihood. It was difficult for her family of four-husband, a son and a daughter–to survive. She was provided with a financial support 20,000 INR to install a betel vine yard. This livelihood support was given only in the coastal villages. Lily, who earlier worked as a wage laborer in the betel vine yard, used to get 100 INR per day. Also, the work was not available throughout the year. However, she had acquired the skill and knowledge to grow and manage a betel vine yard. But due to lack of investment capital she was unable to start a betel vine yard of her own. The financial support was significant for her to create an alternative livelihood option that now ensures income throughout the year. Lily’s husband has stopped migrating out of state now and the couple works together in the betel vine. They now earn 10,000 INR per month which increases to 15,000 INR during the winter season when the demand for betel leaves is more. Lily says “This was critical support for me. I am able to utilize my best skill and knowledge and generate livelihood out of this. I am happy that my husband is not migrating out of the state for livelihood.” The family is now able to meet the family expenditure. “It gives me lot of satisfaction that I own this betel vine through which I manage my family. I feel dignified and happy.”

Report By Mr BN Durga.

(Mr Durga is a known social anthropologist based at Bhubaneswar. Now he is working as Programme Officer at Action Aid, Regional Office, Bhubaneswar)

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