Begnas fishermen team up to market their catch

By Smita Adhikari

smitaPokhara, July 26: Mahendra Jalari, 40, of Majhikuna Begnastaal in Pokhara-31, goes to fishing in Begnas Lake every morning. He wakes up at 4 in the morning and walks to the shore of the lake to take out the fish net he spread a day before. 

His morning begins with collecting and counting the fish trapped in his net. His father and grandfather did the same, as fishing has been their family profession since the time unknown. It has been their only source of livelihood.
In Pokhara, there are 42 families of fishermen, locally called Jalaris like Mahendra, and they depend on fishing for a living. Since Jalaris are the only ones allowed to fish commercially in Begnas Lake, people of this community feel proud of the opportunity.
“Had the fishing not been the profession of Jalaris alone, many of us would have travelled to the Middle East countries as migrant workers,” Mahendra said.
All the Jalaris living near Begnas Lake have similar routine. By 5 in the morning, they reach the lake and fish for three hours. After fishing, they rush to the Fish Business Centre with their catch.
Finding it difficult to deal with retailers, they directly supply the fish to the wholesalers instead and collect the money once a month.
The Business Centre was set up four years ago on the premises of the Fishery Research Centre near the Begnas Lake. The fishery Business Centre which was established in the initiative of the Jalaris themselves has encouraged them to give continuity to their fishing occupation.
Any fisherman affiliated to this community and Fishery Association is not allowed to deal with consumer personally. The association is only for the Jalari community, and anyone from outside the community has to pay Rs. 50,000 to affiliate with it.
The Business Centre collects 60 kg of fish per day and supplies it to the local hotels, local consumers and tourists.
No man from the Jalari community in any major lake in Pokhara is found distracted from their traditional profession.
“The struggle we went through in the past to supply fish has made us stronger to sustain our living,” they said.
Until two decades ago, the Jalari community had to depend on the contractors to sell their fish. Although they caught a big amount of fish then, they had no idea on selling and supplying them.
They used to fish as much as 300 kg a day then but lacked marketing ideas.
“Now the situation has changed, making our business more lucrative not only for a single person but for the entire fishing community,” Rajendra Jalari, chair of Begnas Fishery Association, said
Although they are worried over declining amount of catch due to drop in the fish population for lack of organic feed, they are still hopeful that they will become more professional in fishing and fish marketing.

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