Freshwater, Fish and the Future: Proceedings of the Global Cross-Sectoral Conference

Livelihood and Poverty among Fishers and Nonfishers in Hirakud Reservoir Region, Odisha, India

N. Nibedita Palita, Anathan P. Shanmugam, Debabrata Panda, and Ramasubramanian Vaidhyanathan

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9789251092637.ch15

Abstract .—A field study was conducted to understand the livelihoods and poverty incidence among fishers and nonfishers (farmers and farm laborers) residing around the Hirakud reservoir in Odisha State, India. About 14,500 fishers in 159 villages are dependent on Hirakud fisheries. The fishers belonged to several socially diversified groups, including traditional fishing castes (42%) and agricultural and artisanal castes. Both fisher and nonfisher households had diversified occupational profiles. The literacy rate among fishers was 62%, as compared to nonfishers (83%). While housing, per se, did not differ, basic amenities (sanitation, electricity, and drinking water) were far better among nonfishers and correlated significantly with higher educational status and expenditures for health and well-being. Forty-two percent of fishers belonged to the fishing caste and most of the nonfishers (74%) belonged to other castes (i.e., not part of the fishing, agriculture, or artisanal caste). Inequality and poverty studies revealed that fishers were poorer than nonfishers as per both the standards of India’s Planning Commission and the World Bank. This finding was also supported by the results of a poverty gap index and a Watts index, which highlighted a greater depth of poverty among fishers than nonfishers. The incidence of extreme poverty was 21% among fishers and 3% among nonfishers when using the cut-off per capita expenditure of purchasing power parity (PPP) US$1.25/d, and the incidence rose to 64% and 34%, respectively, when the cut-off line is PPP $2/d. Interestingly, as per Gini index values, income inequality was greater among nonfishers (0.215) and the average rural Indians (0.339) than the fishers (0.158).