To complement the work of the Dakshin Foundation on fisheries and marine conservation, as well as existing initiatives on place-based education and health, this pilot project includes a sport-oriented ‘Web of soccer’ module that will serve not only to improve health and fitness but also serve as a platform for engagement on a range of social and environmental issues. It also aims to empower local youth to participate in and lead a range of social and environmental activities, with sports as a unifying platform and a series of integrated modules like health, education, conservation and livelihoods.
Problem to be tackled
India’s coastline is home to over 14 million people, a majority of whom depend on fishing as a primary source of income and day-to-day sustenance. These communities also supply fish, a critical nutritional commodity, to the country’s billion plus population. In the past two decades, there has been an exponential increase in the industrialisation of fisheries, as well as the conversion of coastal commons for infrastructure development. As a result, these geographies are characterised by largescale interrelated crises such as poor biodiversity conservation outcomes, food security and livelihoods concerns, and pervasive climate impacts. These activities are also threatening land rights, cultural connections and traditional knowledge and management systems of these coastal communities.
Instead of promoting organic relationships between people and their ecosystems, typical environmental preservation exercises in India are frequently aimed at restricting the use of biodiversity (including fish) and removing people from their lived experiences and traditional occupations. In the marine sphere, children and youth from traditional fisher communities (often with many generations of fishing heritage) are often the first casualty of such gentrification exercises. The severing of ties with the ocean and fishing is associated with not only physical and nutritional consequences, but also with the loss of their sense of agency and belonging. The loss of intergenerational knowledge transfer feeds into a lack of direction and guidance, and most importantly a loss of identity for fisher communities as a whole. There is currently a need for a holistic programme that feeds into environmental conservation efforts by way of place-based education, health and fitness, and integrates traditional fishing-centred lifestyles with elements of modernity that such communities are interested in. Along with interventions in education and health, sport is such an axis of change that has leverage potential for the younger generation.
At a basic level, sports and in particular football will be used to provide participants with spaces and activities through which they can experience physical and psychological enjoyment and improve the physical health. These training sessions will serve as inputs that could lead to better leadership skills among the youth and facilitate social impact and awareness within the community. Another goal of this programme is to amplify and give heed to the voices and arguments of communities and people who are otherwise ignored in public spaces, and potentially increase the likelihood of their involvement in coastal management and governance processes.
The pilot project targets children and youth from existing programmes and interventions of the Dakshin Foundation in the community-based work in Odisha and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
With the support from The SOL Foundation, Dakshin Foundation will be able to implement a pilot module in their existing programmes aiming to provide youth from coastal villages with an outlet to nurture their physical talents, while also helping them maintain deep connections to their natural environments and provide them opportunities to enhance their decision-making capabilities.
Dakshin Foundation is a not-for-profit, non-governmental organisation, which aims to inform and advocate conservation and environmental sustainability, while promoting community well-being and social justice. Its primary geographies of focus are India’s coastal, marine and island systems, where they carry out applied environmental research as well as cross-sectoral interventions that aim for positive outcomes for both people and the ocean.