This summer I am working as a Project Officer intern at NIRMAN in Bhubaneswar, India. NIRMAN is a grassroots organization that works to promote equitable, just, resilient and a sustainable human-environment system. My tasks for the summer will include writing project proposals for livelihood generation for local fishing villages.
During my first week in India, I was able to participate in a Field School on Environmental Change and Governance: Coastal Wellbeing and Ecosystem Services Amidst Rapid Change. This field school took place in Chilika Lagoon, Badakul, India. The field school in Chilika was created a result of the depleted resources, challenging policies and high competition for resources whereby many of the traditional fishers are no longer able to earn their livelihoods through fishing. In addition to these problems, Marine Protected Areas are limiting the access for fishers to their traditional fishing areas. As a result of these issues, there has been an increase in out-migration among the fishing communities.
The field school included members from the University of Waterloo, graduate students and faculty from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and NIRMAN program staff. The five-day field school consisted of lectures on topics that helped expand our knowledge and understanding of the many concepts and approaches in coastal environmental change, human well-being, ecosystem services, and governance. We travelled to six different fishing communities to conduct surveys, which evaluated the wellbeing of the community during the time of ecological change, challenging policies, and management and governance challenges of Chilika Lagoon. This was a great learning experience for myself, as I have not had the chance to participate in something like this before. The local fishing communities welcomed us into their homes to be interviewed and provided us with valuable information that helped us to understand the problems they were facing. The field school concluded with us returning to one of the fishing villages where we shared a community feast and had the opportunity to witness multitalented cultural activities from both the local villagers and some of the field school participants. Participating in this field school and being able to hear first hand what the community members of the fishing villages were struggling was a valuable experience and will be a great asset for writing the project proposals for these communities.
Overall, things are going well so far one month into my internship; it’s always interesting learning and adjusting to a new environment and a new culture. I’m excited to see what the rest of the summer will bring!
Rebecca is a student in the 5th Cohort of the Master’s of Development Practice Program. Her research interests include poverty alleviation, sustainable cities, food security, gender equality, water security and sanitation, environmental justice, human rights, and community development.