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UN agriculture fund unveils more help for tsunami-hit Indian fishing communities

UN agriculture fund unveils more help for tsunami-hit Indian fishing communities

The United Nations agency dedicated to eliminating rural poverty and hunger has announced that it is stepping up its financial backing to coastal fishing communities in southern India still struggling to rebuild after the Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004.

In a press statement issued from its Rome headquarters, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) said yesterday that it has loaned an extra $15 million to the Indian Government as part of a broader $68.5 million programme to improve conditions in Tamil Nadu state.

Under the programme, local fishing communities will have access to insurance services and social security, while destructive fishing gear and practices will be phased out and new technologies for packing, processing and selling fish will be introduced.

New fish auction halls, sheds, drying platforms and waste disposal facilities will also be built to assist about 50 village fish marketing associations sell their stocks and receive better prices.

IFAD added that training is being provided, mainly to young people, in skills such as house and boat-building to ensure there are job opportunities in fields other than fishing.

The deadly tsunami destroyed the livelihoods of an estimated 174,000 people in Tamil Nadu, which sits at the southern tip of India. While some communities have been able to recover, others – including scheduled castes and tribes, poor farmers, and women processors and sellers of fish – were hit particularly hard.

IFAD’s country manager for India, Mattia Prayer-Galletti, noted that fishing is one of the most dangerous occupations in the region, with at least 1,000 people killed in Tamil Nadu each year.

“Insurance for the fishers themselves and their equipment makes them less vulnerable to disaster and increases their capacity to cope,” he said.

The agreement for the additional loan was signed yesterday in Rome by IFAD President Lennart Båge and India’s Ambassador to Italy, Rajiv Dogra. Aside from the IFAD contribution, commercial banks and insurance companies are providing almost $25 million, while local communities are providing $10.4 million and the Indian Government is giving $3.4 million.