CREE Sri Lanka work update

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CREE is pleased to share the latest news from its Sri Lanka project, which has just finished reporting on the implementation of a variety of income generating activities for villagers to reduce pressure on the Bar Reef coral reef ecosystem. This work was funded by the International Coral Reef Action Network (ICRAN). This project takes place in the Kalpitiya Peninsula and is the largest coral reef in the southern Gulf of Mannar. Coral reef ecosystems, and marine ecosystems as a whole, have been an increasing focus for CREE due to their sensitivity to climate change. CREE and local partner the Marine Coastal Resources Foundation (MCRF) have successfully completed work aimed at strengthening a variety of local livelihoods through creative measures. This update details the initial findings of the work.

Above is a picture of the home gardening work CREE Project Manager Upali Mallikarachchi has initiated. Upali sees local livelihoods in a holistic framework, and therefore views project that enhance local incomes and nutrition terrestrially as having an impact on the marine ecosystem. With this intent in mind, Upali began work with multiple fishing families and in particular women, in order to help them cultivate crops at the household level to not only educate them on the marine environment, but to also provide more stability in their household needs, thereby diminishing the need to fish in sensitive reef ecosystems. Through work with women, Upali has also involved fishermen in this activity. The result has been an increased sense of pride, environmental awareness, and lower levels of household stress. Guidance was given on how to prepare lands for cultivation and also suitable crops given the micro-climatic conditions on the coast. Compost fertilizer, seeds, and other basic equipment were also delivered for this project.

Staff also discussed how to safeguard seeds for future generations and also the value of organic manure. In total, 11 beneficiaries were involved in the agricultural component of this livelihoods diversification project. Families were very successful and many reported an increased sense of cohesion and cooperation resulting from these activities. Crops cultivated include coconut, mango, papaya, banana, edible leaves, tomatoes, chili, and even pumpkin. All of these families came from fisherfolk and one included a widower and a disabled wife of a fisherman.

Upali’s work also centered around seaweed farming. Seaweed is another way to diversify income streams for local households without directly relying on diminishing fisheries stocks.  Work began with cage construction of Gracilaria Edulis (Ceylon Moss) and these cages were placed in the lagoon near Anawasala Fisheries complex in Kalpitiya. Salinity and temperature are a continual challenge to seaweed cultivation, and monitoring of these factors had to be done on an ongoing basis. While initial samples were eaten by rabbit fish and high salinity challenged growth, more recent environmental conditions favorable to growth are now being experienced which is beneficial to the growth of the seaweed.  These experiences have in fact underscored the challenges of relying on one income stream to displace a strong traditional fishing income, and has strengthened CREE staff’s belief in multiple livelihood interventions for villagers depending on reef fisheries.

Additionally, three one day workshops on the Coastal Environment and Livelihoods were conducted. During this time, the impact of destructive fishing methods and alternatives to overfishing were discussed. Specific impact on focal species such as ornamental fish, sea cucumber, and conch were also highlighted. CREE’s targeted its efforts on both women and men fisherfolk, divers, and school children. In total, more than 130 participants were exposed to environmental education efforts of staff. Three awareness boards (pictured above) were also constructed detailing cautions with regard to the sensitive marine ecosystem. These signs were printed in Sinhala, Tamil, and English. These signs in turn created a lot of community debate on livelihoods alternatives. CREE sees this work as the first steps in a long-term investment in diversifying ways to make a living around coral reefs beyond fishing. With climatic factors stressing reef systems continually, these livelihood interventions will only become more important.

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