Kerala: God’s own country
Fishing is one of the main industries in the coastal regions of the South Indian state of Kerala. The fishermen know the sea like the back of their hand and they know that the monsoon season begins every year on the first of June without fail. With this comes higher waves, stronger winds and ocean currents, and huge thunderstorms making life on the water more difficult and more dangerous.
Due to climatic changes, the monsoon is becoming less predictable. With the right equipment, weather forecasts can be made but these are not always accessible to the local fishermen who have traditionally worked with their knowledge of the seas passed down through the generations. Last year nearly sixty fishermen died and many more were missing after an unexpected Cyclone Ockhi ripped down the coastline to Poonthura, a fishing village towards the southern most tip of the subcontinent. Those on land were unable to warn those fishermen who were already out at sea.
Jesuit Missions is working with a local Jesuit research institute to improve early weather warning systems with the aim of reducing the risk of fishing accidents. The idea is to develop a wireless base station that can give up to date reliable weather information to those out at sea that is connected to the more formal weather forecast systems. It was also suggested that they could set up a local community FM radio station informing fishermen of forecasts as well as playing songs and having discussion shows.
Risk communication is essential for the future of safe and sustainable fishing in this beautiful, green and golden state often called “God’s own country”.
St Francis Xavier was the first Jesuit to arrive on the west coast of India over five hundred years ago and his legacy along this coastline is still very prominent with large churches dominating the skyline and Kerala hosting the largest population of Christians in India.
Shannon, our international programmes officer, recently visited some of the fishing communities in Kerala and reports here on the importance of safe and sustainable fishing.