In India, a group of ship building workshops associated with the South Indian Federation of Fishworker Societies (SIFFS) has generated an interesting experience. That federation operates in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, with 1070 Kms. of coastline, on which live around 100 thousand fishworkers. Of those, 6,500 are members of SIFFS, in 3 districts, 2 of which are in Kerala (Quilon, Trivandrum), while the other, Kanya Kumari, is in Tamil Nadu. 99% of the fishworkers are Christian, with the remaining 1%, Muslim, which implies great cultural homogeneity, specially in Kerala. The State-organized cooperatives are for owners only and do not function adequately. SIFFS grass-roots communities are registered as ‘Village development societies’, providing commercialization, savings and credit facilities.

Fish commercialization is carried out through auctions in each grass-roots community of between approximately 50 – 60 persons. One employee holds the auction, under the supervision of a committee. Fishworkers receive an advance on the sale and a receipt. During the day, they go to the office to receive the balance.

To generate savings, between 5% and 10% of each member’s daily catch is retained in a savings pass book. The money belongs to the fishworkers but is deposited in a bank and does not earn interest.

Fishworkers may obtain loans. In each community, there is a 3% commission, a 2% compulsory savings rate and a 10% loan ‘repayment rate.

They may apply for loans when fish are scarce, as occurs between January and April. Social security is limited, given that there is no illness insurance and pensions are paid by the Government. In case of accidents at sea, the Government pays 10,000 Rupees. Each community pays interest to the district federation. SIFFS does not receive donations and is financed by boat construction activities and sales of motors.

The SIFFS Boat Research and Production Center has undertaken research into new kinds of vessels constructed of marine plywood, protected by resin applications and fiber glass. 1,500 boats have been built since 1982. Some private concerns have copied the SIFFS model but have not been able to compete with SIFFS prices. The communities have received the support of Intermediate Technology, of Oxford, Great Britain, under the direct supervision of Brian Riordan. One of the pioneers in applied research has been the Belgian engineer, Pierre Gillet. The original technology of the catamaran, built of coconut tree trunks has been studied and significant progress has been made toward the development of appropriate technology for sailing, with greater security, mobility and fishing capacity.

The models produced are:

QUILON: 26 foot water line and Price: 31,800 Rupees.

 ANJENGO: 26 foot water line beam. Price: 33,500 Rupees. 5 foot beam and 67 inch

POZHIYOOR: 28 foot water line and 71 inch beam. All these boats have a tare weight between 500 and 600 Kilos. Fishworkers obtain bank loans to finance boat purchases.

This experience should be communicated to other fishworkers organizations throughout the world, in order to learn mechanisms for economic and productive association, based on internal savings and the appropriation of technologies according to their needs, possibilities and traditions.