Women and Environmental Change: A Case Study of Small-Scale Fisheries in Chilika Lagoon
Khan, Fatima Noor
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In recent decades, many lagoons around the world have experienced environmental degradation resulting from impacts of various drivers of change (e.g., natural disasters and aquaculture). This has created adverse consequences for lagoon ecosystems (e.g., habitat and species loss) and human societies (e.g., loss of fishing livelihoods and commons rights). Asia’s largest lagoon, Chilika lagoon, situated along the eastern coastline of Odisha, India, is no exception. This thesis investigates the gendered implications of environmental change in the small-scale fishery system of Chilika lagoon. It focuses on fisherwomen’s perspectives about changes in the fishery commons in relation to processes of adaptation. Three main research objectives frame this study: 1) to examine fisherwomen’s perspectives about drivers of change within the social-ecological system of Chilika lagoon and resulting changes in the fishery commons; 2) to analyze how environmental change (i.e. objective one) is impacting the livelihood of fisherwomen and how fisherwomen are responding; and 3) to examine how fisher communities are adapting to the ongoing process of environmental change, with a focus on the gendered implications of out-migration. As a result, this thesis addresses an important research gap by conducting a gender sensitive analysis of environmental change in Chilika that highlights often neglected perspectives of fisherwomen. Adopting a gender lens on environmental issues in the context of this research is crucial. This is because of the differential risks women experience as individuals, groups, community members, and in relation to men, and the specific knowledge and insights they have on processes of change. This research applied a participatory and qualitative case study based approach. A combination of research methods were employed including document review, semi-structured interviews, focus groups, and participant observation. Additionally, an integrative conceptual framework was utilized to explore women’s narratives in relation to the uncertainty and complexity of environmental change, drawing on theories and concepts associated with social-ecological systems, drivers of change, the commons, and adaptation. Research findings demonstrate that gender is one of the primary social constructs that mediates resource use and community relationships. For example, traditionally, fishermen engage in catching fish in the lagoon, whereas fisherwomen participate in fish processing activities within their homes. An analysis of findings reveals that fisher communities in Chilika lagoon face a commons crisis that presents gender differentiated impacts and challenges for livelihoods to respond and adapt to environmental change. As fisher communities experience fishery resource access issues, rights infringements, and institutional rearrangements, fishermen are forced out of fishing and many fisherwomen show to bear the brunt of change. The results of this research provide useful insights and recommendations for practitioners and policy about sustaining the commons through collaborative approaches and decision-making that actively engages the fisher communities of Chilika lagoon–particularity the experiences and knowledge of fisherwomen.
Cite this work
Fatima Noor Khan (2017). Women and Environmental Change: A Case Study of Small-Scale Fisheries in Chilika Lagoon. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/11265