Participatory community engagement and education for conservation of mangroves in Palk bay areas of Ramanathapuram district in Tamil Nadu

Mangrove Nursery trainings for women in SGHs

Mangrove Nursery trainings for women in SGHs, Tamil Nadu © SPEED, 2014


The objectives of the project are to develop a model for restoration of mangroves towards enhancing the livelihoods of fisher folk, and to improve resilience of the project village to natural disasters.


The majority of fishermen in Palk Bay practice traditional fishing methods. Significant pressures from the expanding trawler fleet in the region and the subsequent depleting fish stocks have caused the fishermen much misery. Women from fisher families in particular, have been forced to find supplementary sources of income to support their families, which in turn has led to a disruption of traditional social/cultural structures.

Karankadu is a coastal village in Thiruvadanaitaluk in Ramanathapuram district. An approximate 1,548 fisherfolk reside here, practicing traditional fishing methods; 780 fisher women practice traditional crab and fish catching (which involves fishing by touch). The latter is dependent on the healthy growth of nearby mangroves that sustain nurseries of economically important species for the community. In recent times there has been depletion in the cover of mangroves in the region, increasing the vulnerability of the region and threatening the livelihoods of hundreds.  

Target beneficiaries

SHG members (women) of Karankadu village


  1. A Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) plan for Karankadu village
  2. Supplementary livelihoods for 30 women of SHGs in Karankadu village
  3. Training modules for integrating gender considerations in DDR related interventions
  4. 10 acres of restored mangrove plantation, adjacent to Karankadu village

Accomplishments and challenges

  • Through the JLGs, the fisherwomen in Karankadu village have learnt new livelihood skills to create economic development and sustainability, and financial independence for the first time in their lives. The women claim that the interventions have promoted social cohesion amongst themselves, further establishing a network of support for their families.
  • The communities are confident that they can restore degraded mangrove patches around their village without external help. They have the nursery to provide them with saplings, and they have been capacity built in planting and monitoring techniques. The women who are maintaining the site expressed excitement in gaining income from selling seeds grown in the nursery. They have to manually water each seedling, a job which is time-consuming and pain-staking (so as not to waste the limited freshwater), however they insist they will persevere in this to reap the rewards in the future.
  • It is noteworthy that the Government did not integrate a previously developed UNDP DRR plan for Karankadu into their interventions, predominantly because the Committees that were constituted were not communicated their roles effectively, nor capacity built to carry them out. In order to avoid this, SPEED, developed the DRR plan directly with the Emergency Cell (Collectorate) (Block Development Officer), and in doing so institutionalized it.
  • There was a reported decrease in domestic violence in the project period, although it is difficult to attribute this to the project interventions. However, there was also a noted increase in the involvement of women in the Panchayat Raj Institute (PRI) meetings, VMC meetings, and church-based social gatherings. The women state that they are more empowered to participate in meetings, and voice their opinions; observations indicate an increase in women’s participation at village meetings.
  • There is potential for the project livelihood interventions to eventually allow for a gradual squeezing out of the middle man in the village, allowing better access to finances for the community; the income generated from the supplementary livelihoods will over time enable the communities to pay off their loans

  • As the success of this project reaches other villages, it could be a bellwether for similar models in the rest of Ramnathapuram District. SPEED and IUCN are exploring opportunities to replicate activities in surrounding villages; the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development has already expressed support to continue similar interventions.

Contributions to cross-cutting themes

The importance of women in coastal resource management has been widely recognized. This project provides women and men with the necessary skills and capacity to effectively manage the fisheries and mangrove resources around their village for more sustainable income generation. 

Lessons Learned

  • While they have been much in demand wherever they have been introduced (they provide a cheaper alternative to the village loan shark) microcredit firms are sceptical of administering loans to borrowers in remote areas. As such it was challenging finding micro-financing institutions to back the project; the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development was originally approached but they had reservations as to whether the community would be able to pay back the loans. However, through persistent interactions, and the formulation of the Joint Liability Groups, wherein the responsibility was decentralized, SPEED was able to convince Canara Bank to come on board with the project.
  • Some of the women initially wanted to use the livelihood loans from Canara Bank to pay off their personal loans, depending on the desperation of their respective situations. Strong community linkages, and trust, between the implementing partner organization and local communities is required to ensure that the latter see the project through to its end, and that funding is used for its original purpose. SPEED conducted several meetings to explain the long term benefits of investing the money in livelihood interventions in order to convince the women.
  • As always it was difficult securing permissions for the mangrove plantation, however working with the local Panchayats who provided support in the engagement with the Forest Dep., SPEED was able to secure land within the village for the pilot plantations.

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Project Facts



Karankadu village, Thiruvadanai Block, Ramanathapuram District, Tamil Nadu



10th Dec 2013 to 10th Jun 2015

MFF Grant Amount

INR 1,033,540

Co-financing Partner

Society for People Education and Economic Development (SPEED): INR 103,354

Implementing Partner

Mr. S. Devaraj

Director, Society for People Education and Economic Development (SPEED)


Related Images

  • Women tend the mangrove nursery in their village
  • Communities work together to develop vulnerability maps for their villages

Related Publications

Participatory Community engagement and education for conservation of mangroves in Palk Bay areas of Ramanathapuram District in Tamil Nadu

Author: SPEED and IUCN

Publisher: IUCN

Posted on: 12th May 2016

Category: SGF (Small Grant Facility)

Size: 207 KB

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