It is a well known fact that fishermen live an extremely dangerous life and that risking themselves on a daily basis is routine for them, which is why a collaborative project that grew out of a competition at the University of Sussex, has created a special initiative in order to safeguard the lives of these fishermen. Fishermen have no option but to venture deeper into the heart of the sea on small boats, when fish stocks take a hit due to overfishing and climate change. Them and their flimsy vessels are prone to accidents, especially during the monsoon season from June to August, and the absence of navigational aids or radio communication simply heightens the risks.
Radio Monsoon, a one of its kind project, is designed to help, using a low-tech forecast service to ensure safer working conditions among the 30,000-plus fishing families in the area. During its pilot, Radio Monsoon provided daily forecasts in Malayalam, designed for 10 fishing villages along the Thiruvananthapuram coast, reports the Guardian.
Based on the statistics and information from the Indian Meteorological Department, the centre for ocean information services, as well as local knowledge, Radio Monsoon’s forecasts are circulated through social media, loudspeakers placed in harbours, and by word of mouth.
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Fishermen can also access forecasts over a phone line supported by an internet server and their feedback is collected regularly and sent back to the forecasters so that the information can be tailored to their needs.
Maxmillan Martin, a native of Kerala and is now a research associate at the University of Sussex, first had the idea for Radio Monsoon in collaboration with friends after the deadly 2004 tsunami.
The group includes a retired teacher, a journalist, a user interface designer and a social media expert, all from Kerala, who came up with a narrowcast system whereby forecasts recorded on to CDs would be played in the harbour. “It was a very low-tech intervention but the fishermen loved it and the local forecasters did too. It worked but we went on with our lives,” says Martin.
Martin, who has a background in geography, brought the idea to life while doing his PhD at the University of Sussex, and entered it into a competition for innovation funding.
The initiative ran for while until 2016, but it ran out of funds. Meanwhile, the team of malayalee geniuses is working on re-launching and expanding the project, whilst monitoring its impact on fatalities and the search and rescue operations that currently save about 3,000 lives a year.