Radio Monsoon: Saving Lives of Fisherfolk in Kerala


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Radio Monsoon is a project by the University of Sussex and gives weather updates by putting together inputs from forecasting agency along with the fisherfolk’s traditional knowledge.
In 2017, cyclone Ockhi hit India and left Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Lakshadweep in a state of devastation. It took 365 lives and left 1000s stranded. It left locals distressed, made them realize the importance of accurate weather information.

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Hence, a group of researchers and media experts from Kerala have come together to form Radio Monsoon. This is a community radio which shares daily weather forecasts with fishermen in a language understood by them – it aims to save as many lives as possible.
The members of the radio include Maxmillan Martin - a postdoctoral researcher at University of Sussex, founding member - Aloysius Gomez, and Sajan - an advisor. Sindhu & Kishore Clement are station managers. The radio station is in the of Karumkulam village & collects data from various agencies such as Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services or INCOIS, IMD, Indian Institute of and the Kerala Disaster Management Authority or KDMA. It also sometimes gets inputs from European Centre.
They say that previous attempts were made to address the issues of fishermen through another community radio in early 2000s, but weren’t fruitful. A new initiative started in 2014 & the Radio Monsoon Trust came to be. The members & volunteers would come to the coast armed with loudspeakers to broadcast weather information. They also took help from the local police station and church to spread information on severe weather conditions. They did lack funds and resources, but in 2018, University of Sussex (which was working on an interdisciplinary programme, Forecasting for Fishermen) offered the needed resources.
Sindhu, who is a fisherman’s daughter, joined the team the same year and since then, has helped 1000s of fishermen with safer weather passages & warnings, while away from land. They share the data between 1-2 pm, that is when the fishermen are ready to venture into the sea. The data is broadcast on radio, and shared on social medias like Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp. Fishermen also make calls to seek the information they need. They receive close to 350 calls per day & more than 500 on days the weather gets rough.
They collect data from all agencies, then decipher & analyse technical terms, break the scientific terms and then deliver it to the fisherfolk. When there was a weather warning about the depression in the Arabian sea, it was announced for a wider geographic region. The local effects of it were not known. Radio Monsoon dissect these technicalities and delivers the data affecting the areas at the micro-level.
J Alphonse, a fisherman from Thiruvanthapuram said that ever since Ockhi, fisherfolk are afraid of rough weather conditions. It is important to them to get timely and accurate weather updates. Radio Monsoon gives the fishing community just that, and that too in Malayalam, their native language.
This was a little about the Radio Monsoon, and the amazing work it is doing for the fisherfolk in Kerala. Their lives are stake out at sea every day; hence such information is more than valuable to them, and absolutely needed. The work they are doing is truly commendable. If you know of any such communities, tell us in the comments below. If you enjoy such content, visit the space for more!