Fellow Since 2006
This profile was prepared when Mohammad Ali Ali Shah was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2006.
The New Idea
Shah identified the need for a large-scale movement to improve the status of fishing communities and empower their citizens. He founded the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), a network of fishing communities that advocates for the rights of the fisherfolk and builds the financial and social infrastructure to allow them to access employment and income benefits as Pakistan’s fishing industry expands.Shah began by creating a research cell to better understand the different needs of the fishing communities living along coastal and inland waters. He also worked with media to highlight the fisherfolk contribution to the growing fishing industry and to target the destructive government policies that were polluting and destroying their resources and livelihood. Shah simultaneously began helping the fishermen to educate their children, providing them credit to improve their fishing equipment, boats and nets and training them to better manage water resources. He also advocated for their causes in the national and international press, including for the release of fishermen arrested by authorities in India and Pakistan due to straying across the border from both sides. To address the needs of fisherfolk in a more systematic and integrated way, Shah founded the PFF to represent the collective voice of the fishing communities, and incorporate his research, advocacy and legal support to fuel a movement that could achieve broader success. Shah has since expanded the domain of the PFF from fishing communities along the coasts to those residing in the inland waters of Sindh province to fishing communities in other provinces of Pakistan.