Yesterday, Edmund Jayaraja Nimal Raj went out to sea and returned with a 15kg fish.
He caught the enormous creature, not with a net, but with a line and a hook. Standing in his boat alone, it took all his skill and strength to reel the fish in without breaking the line. When he got back to shore, he was able to sell it for Rs.5,800 - nearly twice his usual daily income. The extraordinary catch has cemented his reputation as one of the best fisherman in his village.
Edmund almost did not become a fisherman. Born differently-abled, he has trouble speaking and walks with difficulty. Aware of the ways in which he is different from his peers, he is self-conscious about the way he looks.
As long as his father was alive, Edmund was not allowed to work. His family were convinced he would not survive out at sea. Then his father was diagnosed with cancer. Edmund’s mother, Jayarasa Maria Creta remembers the moment when she realised she would have to let her sheltered son go. “He was the only one who could look after us, now. If he did not begin earning, we could not survive,” she says.
Through the United Nations Development Programme’s Resettlement in Newly Released Areas (RNRA) project, families like Edmund’s received support from UNDP and the relevant government agencies to build up their livelihoods.
RNRA is operational in most of the released and resettled areas which were formally demarcated as Palali High Security Zone. Enabled through funding worth over $3 million from the Government of Norway, it is context specific and anchored in multi-stakeholder participation. Periodical project reviews with key stakeholders, and in-process monitoring are an integral part of the project.