When a paste made of naachni and cooking oil is spread around a pond before sunrise, it attracts giant fresh water prawns in 20 minutes —fisherman Deepak Mhatre, Thane district.
— Powdered cuttle fish bone mixed with lemon juice is used as a tongue cleaner for infants and also as a cure for earache — Govind Keluskar from the Gaabit Koli community, Sindhudurg district.
— Tobacco plants around ponds prevent the entry of snakes, which eat small fish, because the tobacco smell repels the reptile — fisherman Narayan Koli, Thane district.
In August, the above practices and other indigenous traditional knowledge and technology of fishing communities across India will be documented for future generations.
Sourced and compiled by the Central Institute of Fisheries Education (CIFE), Versova, the project is a first for the fishing community. “These practices have not just developed through generations, but also evolved, been tested and are still sustaining,” said Professor Dilip Kumar, CIFE director. “But since these are not known, the documentation will now be made available to the outside world and for research.”
The institute has decided to patent the community’s knowledge and practices. “We will also revalidate the various technologies so as to build it further through our inputs and expertise,” said Kumar.
For the last two years, CIFE scientists have been organising ‘write shops’, where fishermen assemble at a designated place to share and write their practices which are then edited by the scientists. An illustrator also prepares drawings of the practices and technologies used. At the end of two days, the document with visuals is ready for printing.
Having completed the sessions in the North-East, East Coast and West Coast, the institute will culminate the interactive process in parts of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand at the end on July.
“The documentation process is also a participatory peer review exercise in involving stakeholders at every stage rather than just information gathered by our scientists,” said Kumar.
Post documentation, the second stage will focus on patenting the knowledge. “There are various practices whose methodology can be exploited for commercialisation,” said Professor Arpita Sharma, senior scientist coordinating the project. “Patenting them will thus benefit the fishing community.”