People’s Action for Development is working in the Gulf of Mannar region, which spreads from Rameshwaram to Thoothukudi covering 10500 sq kms. There are 31250 (125,000 people) families living in 133 villages in the coast of Gulf of Mannar among them 93% are comes under below poverty line. (Family which has income less then Rs. 25000 per annum) 111 of PAD’s 133 working villages are in the Ramanathapuram district and 22 in the Thoothukudi district. According to the 2001 census figures for the rural population in the project district, the educational level is well below the national and state level. In Ramanathapuram 70% of the population lives in rural areas and the literacy rate of women is only 43% (compared to 65% state level average for women). In Thoothukudi district 55% of the total population is rural and women’s literacy rate in the villages is 47% (men: 53%; state average for men: 82%).

All intervention villages are characterized by their social homogeneity: The fishing hamlets tend to be inhabited by people of two traditional fishing castes, which encourages higher social cohesion than in most Indian villages. The largest group belongs to the Christian “Paravar”, also known as “Fernandos”. The other fishing caste is the Hindu “Muthirayar”. Both castes are recognised as Other Backward Castes.

About 42.000 (more than 30%) of the coastal village population of males are estimated to be active fisher folk, contributing 46% to the overall marine fish production of the whole state. The local fishermen do collective fishing in traditional wooden crafts (known locally as Vallams and Vathais) which have limited range and are restricted to the shallow waters around the coral reefs and within the lagoon. About 30% of the active fishermen are labourers on mechanized trawlers, fishing outside the lagoon in the Bay of Bengal. The poorest of the fishermen do individual fishing close to the shore with Boyars: sleek floating objects, self-made of Styrofoam. This artisan fishing is highly seasonal and only adequate for selected fish species, like squid. Boyars, which were introduced to the area in 1995, also perform an important “link” function: Transfer of material across boats, training of young fishermen, cast line fishing during the off season, etc.