Vangara is a small village in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh. The Tata Trusts’ engagement with the village began when the team, which was working on a project in a neighbouring village, interacted with womenfolk in the village to gauge their interest in exploring fisheries as an alternative source of livelihood — and they got a positive response.
Five members from the community were selected for an exposure visit to introduce them to fish rearing, to Dimbhe near Pune. The keen interest expressed by the women was heartening, considering that it isn’t every day that rural women, who usually don’t travel beyond 100km from their village, agree to go on an exposure visit with a team that they had just started engaging with.
Further meetings were held to discuss ways in which the learnings from the visit could be leveraged, and where the community could fit into the larger fisheries initiative. During one such meeting, the women identified two ponds in their village and requested help from the Trusts’ team to rear fish in them.
However, the next step involved significant challenges. The ponds had not been cleaned for a decade or so. They had become sewage and garbage dumps for the village and the water was green with algae, rendering them unsuitable for fish rearing. Not only was intensive cleaning of the ponds necessary, but the village folk had to be made aware of the importance of not littering and security arrangements had to be put in place to ensure that the ponds remained clean.
The women were motivated and undaunted by the challenges. “Please tell us what to do, and we will do it,” was their unequivocal plea. Their resolve to clean the ponds and rear fish inspired the community and the Gram Panchayat gave permission to rear fish in one of the ponds. It was decided that the Tata Trusts team would provide technical and monitoring assistance to stock the ponds with fish seed, while the community would clean the pond and make it habitable for fish.
Within a couple of days, the community got down to work — villagers rolled up their sleeves and dirtied their hands, and the task was completed in no time.
From a sewage dump, the pond was transformed into a habitable water body through the efforts of the community and water treatment techniques such as like liming and application of cleansing chemicals, suggested by the Trusts’ team.
Within three weeks of identifying the pond, it was stocked with 3-month-old fish seed. Tata Trusts continue to engage with the community in implementing fish-rearing practices to maximise harvest.
The fish-rearing initiative turned out to be an inspiring example that demonstrated the power of the community and what it can achieve when there is focus and resolve. The womenfolk became the rockstars of Vangara village by motivating themselves and others to work as one to utilise local resources to enhance income and improve lives.
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