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V2V Photo of the Week: February 21, 2024

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Kumirmari is a remote island village nestled within the Indian Sundarbans. The photograph was captured during a crisp morning transect walk in February 2024, coinciding with the Winter School held in Kumirmari, India. This Winter School was a collaborative effort involving the University of Waterloo, the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, and the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh. It provided a platform for scholars and researchers to delve into the complex issues surrounding the social-ecological resilience of the Sundarbans region, shedding light on the challenges and opportunities faced by its inhabitants. The image portrays a woman gracefully washing clothes in one of the multipurpose ponds that dot the landscape of Kumirmari. Surrounding her, vibrant crops thrive under the gentle sunlight, their lush foliage a testament to the fertile soil nourished by the pond's waters. In the background, a portion of the woman's brick and cement house stands as a symbol of stability amidst the ever-changing landscape of the Sundarbans. Vulnerability is a constant companion in the Sundarbans as the region grapples with the dual threats of cyclones and ecological degradation. Yet, amidst the chaos and uncertainty, the people of Kumirmari have forged a path towards viability. Through their resilience and resourcefulness, they have transformed the challenges of their environment into opportunities for growth and sustainability. Each pond in Kumirmari serves as a lifeline for the community, providing water for daily needs, such as supporting agriculture, vegetable cultivation and fisheries. However, these ponds are not just sources of sustenance but also symbols of resilience. In a region prone to cyclones and flooding, the ponds offer a buffer against the vagaries of nature, ensuring that life can continue even in the aftermath of disaster. As the woman in the photograph goes about her daily routine, she embodies the spirit of adaptation that defines the people of Kumirmari. Through their collective efforts, they have transformed vulnerability into viability, forging a path towards a more sustainable future in the face of adversity.


Photo credit and Contributor: Navya Vikraman Nair, 2024

V2V Photo of the Week: February 14, 2024

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This photo was taken en route to a household interview in Karmakar Para of the island village of Kumirmari, in the Gosaba block of Sundarbans, West Bengal, India. Cyclone Aila was a turning point in local history. The ferocity of the catastrophe put this almost-forgotten village on the map of West Bengal. A spate of reconstruction and development efforts were made in the years 2010-2011 by government and non-government agencies alike. The marble plaque is testimony to one such transformation in the aftermath of cyclone Aila. Bagmari Mother and Child Development Mission, Action and Echo are some of the many non-profit organisations that helped build, rebuild and elevate handpumps as part of the West Bengal Cyclone Aila Reconstruction Programme. The next few years saw positive developments in the form of building storm shelters, reinforcing embankments and community outreach programmes. But local accounts point to patchy implementation and loss of steam over the years. The impression of cyclone Aila may have faded from the mainland, but is still very fresh in the collective memory of the village. Local women informed that this particular handpump, the ruins of which are pictured in the photo, used to be a very conveniently situated source of fresh water for them until it got destroyed in a storm surge of Cyclone Amphan in 2020. Many other handpumps have gone dry or turned unsafe for use due to the presence of heavy metals like arsenic. The red signs painted on unsafe handpumps have not deterred locals from using the unsafe water, faced with the sad choice between no water at all versus the risk of chronic ailments in the longer run. Climate change is causing increasingly frequent and violent cyclones to originate in the Bay of Bengal, with the remote island villages taking most of the hit in the delta. Some households have installed submersible pumps, but the women of the households warned that falling groundwater levels are putting them at risk of water scarcity in the near future. A village with 3000+ household ponds is wrought by problems of salinification, eutrophication and chemical leaching. In the coming days, community-led sustainable water strategies will be vital to leading Kumirmari from vulnerability to viability.


Photo credit and Contributor: Pratyasha Nath, 2024

V2V Photo of the Week: February 7, 2024


President Vivek Goel and Senior Director, Strategy and Implementation Fayaz Noormohamed of the University of Waterloo, honored the V2V Global Partnership team with a visit on February 1st, 2024. Organized by the V2V team, the event attracted students, faculty, and staff, with several members also participating online. Dr. Prateep Nayak, Dr. Derek Armitage and Dean Bruce Frayne warmly welcomed President Goel and the guests, providing an overview of the V2V Global Partnership. Dr. Nayak then provided a guided tour, taking President Goel and the attendees through the different stations of the exhibition across three boardrooms, detailing numerous research initiatives and activities of the V2V Global Partnership.


Highlights included the Working Paper Series and V2V Thematic Webinar Series, fostering discussions on vulnerability to viability themes within small-scale fisheries globally. The event also showcased activities like the Chilika Field School, V2V monthly webinars, and the V2V Commons. A standout feature was the "Photo of the Week" station, promoting awareness of research areas among V2V members. The photos displayed diverse aspects of small-scale fisheries worldwide, capturing various forms of vulnerabilities and sources for viability. President Goel expressed surprise at the contrasting nature of small-scale fishers in Japan versus countries like India and Ghana. Dr Nayak explained that vulnerability manifests differently across nations.


In his closing remarks, President Goel commended the V2V Global Partnership projects's interdisciplinary approach and its ability to connect students, scientists, and community members. The exhibition concluded with the V2V team felicitating President Goel with a presentation of V2V project artifacts created during the 2023 Project Meeting in Puri, India. President Vivek Goel's advice on how research and partnership activities in Africa, Asia and globally can make long-enduring impacts beyond the funding period will continue to inspire us as we embark on the second phase of the project.

Photo credit: Samuel Abalansa, 2024 

Contributor: Farosat Alamshoeva and Maha Abdelbaset, 2024


V2V Photo of the Week: January 31, 2024

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Amidst the tranquil and remote landscape of Kumirmari village in the Sundarbans, India, a unique form of political advocacy unfolds through art. This photograph captures a captivating painting seeking votes for the upcoming Panchayat election, prominently featuring a women candidature. In Bangla, the painting reads, "অশন্ন পঞ্চায়েত নির্বাচনে প্রার্থী স্বপ্না মন্ডলকে এই চিহ্নে ভোট দিন," which translates to "Vote for candidate Shopna Mondol with this symbol in the upcoming Panchayat election." What makes this political expression genuinely exceptional is the context. Kumirmari, a secluded village, breaks away from conventional electioneering methods, opting for an artistic approach. The artwork, placed with permission in front of a villager's house, symbolizes the endorsement of Shopna Mondol's candidacy. The choice of a female leader in this remote setting is not just a political statement but a testament to the community's belief in gender equality and the strength of women in leadership roles. In a candid conversation with the homeowners, they said, "Yes, we wanted it to be there because we know she will be a good leader for us." In an era where the image of women in leadership roles is still evolving, Kumirmari takes a bold step by supporting a woman for the pivotal role of panchayat leadership. This photograph captures not just a political campaign but a powerful narrative of social progress and the changing dynamics in the heart of the Sundarbans.

Photo credit and Contributor: Shahriyer Hossain Shetu, 2024

V2V Photo of the Week: January 24, 2024


This group photo was taken in the Island village of Kumirmari - Gosaba block in the Sundarbans mangrove delta of India, where the inaugural 'Sundarbans Winter Field School' is being organised during 19 - 26 January 2024. The brand-new Winter Field School is a joint initiative of the V2V Global Partnership, Faculty of Environment, University of Waterloo, Canada, SOR4D ENGAGE Project, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur and University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh. The weeklong field school has brought together 20 graduate students and early-career researchers / professionals from academia, government, NGO, and communities to use it as a creative platform to deliberate collaboratively and learn about concepts, approaches and methods helpful to achieve equitable transition and transformations from vulnerability to viability within the transboundary and transdisciplinary context of the Sundarbans mangrove social-ecological system. Starting in 2024, the Sundarbans Winter Field School takes place annually, rotating between India and Bangladesh as its venue in alternate years.


Geographically positioned in the remotest corner of the Indian/Bengal territorial boundaries and near the Bay of Bengal, located adjacent to the core reserve forest area and surrounded by rivers and creeks, making her segregated from the mainland, the island village of Kumirmari in the Indian Sundarbans is affected by ‘multiple disruptive risks’ in terms of socio-ecological vulnerabilities. Yet, life goes on! The inhabitants thrive through the application and improvisation of situated and contingent adaptive practices that need to be documented and supported – as they constitute narratives of social resilience and community viability from the ground. In this context, Kumirmari is evolving as a ‘living lab’ showcasing the potential of academia-practitioner-community collaborations and as an eco-educational hub, spawning with possibilities awaiting trans-local endeavors and transdisciplinary actions. Aptly enough, this year's topic for the field school is focused on the social-ecological resilience for vulnerability to viability in the Sundarbans’  ‘riskscape’.


Thematically, the Winter Field School is based on the broad theme of 'Transboundary, Transdisciplinarity, Transformation through Transitions' where participants are engaged in experimenting and learning how transformations in the risk-space of the Sundarbans social-ecological system necessitates transdisciplinarity as a methodological approach and it must proceed through transitions as an enabling but discursive process to be realised. Multiple field trips along with creative discussions through reflection sessions at the Field School have lead to the novel construct of the '4T approach' (the integrated and interactive connections between Transboundary, Transdisciplinarity, Transformation and Transitions) for creating viable, resilient and sustainable transboundary social-ecological systems such as the Sundarbans the span across India and Bangladesh.

Photo credit: Ruyel Miah, 2024

Contributors: Prateep Kumar Nayak, Jenia Mukherjee, Samiya Selim and Anuradha Choudry 

V2V Photo of the Week: January 17, 2024

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I captured this picture on my journey to interview fishers on the central side of Chilika; this image unveils the solitary yet determined routine of a fisher returning after his early morning practice. Gahimunda Ghat, set against the backdrop of the Chilika Lagoon, is a scene of resilience and commitment to the craft of small-scale fishing. In the calmness of dawn, a few fishers, following the tradition of individual early morning ventures, set out alone with their time-honored nets. The image encapsulates the intimate connection between fishers and their environment, highlighting the solitude and quiet reflection that precedes their daily toil. This solitary practice speaks to the region's rich cultural heritage of small-scale fisheries and reflects fishers' responsibility in contributing to the collective livelihood. However, as seen in the stillness of the waters and the absence of boats, the impact of the looming cyclone warning is palpable. The past three days have seen these fishers refraining from venturing out into the waters due to the threat of Cyclone Michaung. This vulnerability, imposed by external forces like weather conditions, underscores the fragility of their livelihoods. Small-scale fisheries, deeply entwined with nature, are particularly susceptible to the unpredictability of climatic events, exposing the fishers to periods of inactivity and economic strain. Yet, within this vulnerability lies the essence of viability. The resilience of these fishers is not only in their individual efforts but also in their collective decision to halt activities in the face of potential danger. This calculated approach speaks to the wisdom accrued through generations of navigating the challenges of their trade. In its simplicity, the image is a visual narrative of the delicate balance between the vulnerability and viability of small-scale fisheries in the backdrop of natural uncertainties.


Photo credit and Contributor: Navya Vikraman Nair, 2023 

V2V Photo of the Week: January 10, 2024


This image shows the double cultural meaning given to decorative art by fishers. The first thing that catches our attention when we immerse ourselves in fishing communities is the diversity of motifs that decorate traditional pirogues. Each fishing community has its own artists who specialize in this task, but each fisher have their own designs and colors. Decorative art is not just for the eye's sake; it is a marker of identity for the owner of the pirogue who requests it. Fishing communities in Senegal are at least 90% Muslim, with nuances in diversities. But it's easy for an informed observer familiar with their tradition to tell from the decoration alone to which religious brotherhood the owner belongs. Moreover, the motifs are used as a marker of the lineage to which one belongs. Indeed, some families continue to distinguish themselves from the fishing population and have done so for generations through their decorative art.

Photo credit and contributor: Aliou Sal, 2023

V2V Photo of the Week: January 3, 2024

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This captivating image, taken while on my way to conducting surveys on the southern side of Chilika, offers a glimpse into the intricate dynamics of small-scale fisheries in Gokharkuda. In this picturesque scene, five skilled fishermen meticulously cast a net into the waters at the river mouth. This traditional method reflects the communal essence of their fishing practices, wherein groups of 5 fishers work collaboratively in a single boat. What sets this community apart is their innovative cash-sharing system, a strategy deeply rooted in both vulnerability and viability considerations. Following each fishing expedition, the profits derived from the catch undergo a fair and transparent distribution. A share is allocated to the boat, another to the net, and a substantial five shares are designated to the hardworking crew. This equitable distribution mechanism is a financial arrangement and a lifeline addressing the vulnerabilities inherent in small-scale fisheries. After accounting for essential costs like fuel, the practice ensures that the crew receives a fair and consistent share of the profits, enhancing their economic stability. Simultaneously, this system contributes to the viability of their fishing practices. By allocating a share to the boat and net, the community collectively invests in maintaining and improving their essential fishing assets. Furthermore, the prioritization of trading or sales rights to the boat owner's wives adds a layer of social sustainability, acknowledging women's role in the community's economic processes. While underlining the vulnerability associated with external factors like cyclone warnings that disrupt fishing activities, it also showcases the adaptive resilience of the community in navigating such challenges. During cyclones, these fishermen, temporarily grounded for the past three days, reveal the delicate balance between vulnerability and viability in small-scale fisheries. The collaborative effort of these fishermen, coupled with their astute financial system, provides safeguards against economic uncertainties and fosters a resilient and sustainable fishing economy for the coastal community. The image is a testament to their shared strength, both as a community and as individuals weathering the uncertainties of their trade.

Photo credit and Contributor: Navya Vikraman Nair, 2023

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