Nalini Nayak

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 1990
SEWA Thiruvananthapuram


This profile was prepared when Nalini Nayak was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1990.
The New Idea
In one fishing area after another, from the North Sea to the Indian Ocean ever more aggressive fishing is producing less, not more fish. Like most of the planet's other ecosystems, the oceans have reached the point of diminishing returns. They need to be managed in a sustainable way every bit as much as farmlands and forests.Nalini will focus on the most difficult aspect of the needed transformation, the interface between the land and the sea. Whether the rivers carry more silt, the mangrove wetlands are destroyed, the bird population changes, chemicals are dumped, or the rain absorbs pollutants from the air as it falls, these and many other land-based changes affect the fisheries very significantly. This is especially so in tropical regions such as the Keralese coast where the chief fishing areas are near the land. (In less hospitable climates the fishing is less varied and further off shore.)
Nalini will define the interventions on land that are most critical to the coastal fishery and most likely to be politically attainable. Then she will try to organize the necessary discussions, alliances, and pressures to bring them about.
To the degree she can succeed in Kerala, she will be setting important, visible precedents. If she can find ways, for example, of engaging the fishermen, the mangrove owners and users, the government and others affected together in thinking and negotiating how to preserve and most beneficially use the mangroves, this new constellation of interests and her methodology in bringing them together will be highly relevant from the Philippines to West Africa and Brazil.
Since Kerala is recognized both in India and worldwide as one of the world's most successful small scale fishing areas, innovations demonstrated here will quickly be visible. That Nalini was one of the founders and is just now retiring as the global convener of the international Supporters of Fishermen, a group that speaks for small fishermen in international debates, such as the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization, will also help ensure that word of the experiment spreads.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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