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Celebrating the crucial role of women in fisheries on International Women’s Day 2017

Like many women working in the fishing sector, this woman in Africa’s Comoros Islands is responsible for the fish as soon as it is landed on the beach – gathering, cleaning, cutting, bringing it to market, selling it and processing it for other uses. The days are long and grueling for these women, whose work is too often ‘invisible’ when we talk about the sector.
These women on the island of Sal, part of the African island nation of Cabo Verde, await the fishermen’s boats returning to shore so that their work day marketing fish can begin.

PEOPLE AND  OCEANS

Today, around the world, we celebrate International Women’s Day.

Here at FAO Headquarters, we will be marking the day with an event that builds upon  the High-level event held at FAO Headquarters last December : ‘Step it Up Together with Rural Women to End hunger and Poverty’. You can follow the webcasting here.

The fisheries and aquaculture sectors are excellent examples of where women play a key role, but where their crucial contribution to the sector is too often overlooked.

One FAO project is looking to address these issue and to position women firmly within discussions and actions designed to strengthen the sector.

The Global Environment Facility’s Coastal Fisheries Initiative brings numerous partners together – including FAO, the World Bank, the United National Environmental Program, The United Nations Development Program, Conservation International and the World Wildlife Fun – to strengthen fisheries coastal communities around the world.

The component managed by FAO, in three west Africa countries – Cabo Verde, Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal – places great emphasis on strengthening women’s role throughout the entire fish value chain.

Strengthening women’s role in marketing locally caught fish  in Cabo Verde

Women in Cabo Verde, similar to many coastal countries, are crucial actors in fisheries from the moment the fishermen return to shore with their catch. The women purchase the fish, clean and gut the fish, and then sell it on the market.

Joseph Catanzano, Consultant for FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, has been working extensively in Cabo Verde through the Coastal Fisheries Initiative, and has been speaking with the women working in this sector to devise better ways to negotiate directly with hotels and restaurants locally to set up direct – and short – supply chains.

According to Catanzano, “Particularly on the island of Sal, where you have a well developed tourism industry and large hotels, we see that the hotels are largely relying on fish imports – mainly from Europe – to meet customer demands for seafood products. This is one area we are targeting in this Coastal Fisheries Initiative. We want to work with local fishermen to improve practices for fishermen to ensure the products entering the market meet the highest standards.”

“Next we will be working with women’s groups so that they can negotiate directly with the hotels and set up direct supply chains for locally caught seafood products. This is all part of the Blue Growth Charter the Government of Cabo Verde has put in place, with an emphasis on creating employment for those working all along the seafood value chain, and for placing greater value on local products and promoting the rich and diverse coastal culture of a small island developing state such as Cabo Verde. By linking fishing, ecotourism and local culinary traditions, we can strengthen Blue Growth development and the position of women working in the fisheries sector – something we believe will benefit both locals and the tourists who visit these islands.”

Women in Côte d’Ivoire handle tasks related to fish smoking, shown here with traditional smoking ovens, which have adverse effects on their health and the health of their children, who are often nearby as they smoke.
Adopting relatively inexpensive technologies like these FTT ovens can dramatically improve the final product and the health of the workers, while also fetching higher prices for final product.

Bolstering women’s fisheries associations in Côte d’Ivoire

Jacqueline Alder, FAO’s Senior Fishery Industry Officer and the Chair of the Coastal Fisheries Initiative Global Steering Committee, also commented on this clear division of labour in the west African country of Côte d’Ivoire. “Once the fish have been caught, the work of the fishermen is completed, but the work of the coastal fisheries women has only begun. They will then take the fish from their husbands or buy it from other fishermen, clean and gut the fish, smoke it, sell it on the local markets, and also handle all the cooking, cleaning, household tasks and childcare.”

“It’s an extremely grueling day. We’re pleased that this Coastal Fisheries Initiative places such a strong emphasis on the role of women in coastal fisheries communities, because we believe by focusing more attention on this aspect of the entire value chain, significant progress can be made and livelihoods improved. One of strengths we have taken note of for our project development in Côte d’Ivoire is the strong spirit of entrepreneurship among the women.”

“They are handling all aspects of post-harvest production, smoking, and selling on the markets, while simultaneously caring for their families. We hope to cultivate and improve the entrepreneurial skills already in place, perhaps through the strengthening of women’s fisherfolk associations .”

FAO is working closely with these associations to help them strengthen their already impressive entrepreneurial skills – helping them to bargain better access to markets, improve their cold storage, expand the day care facilities they have set in place to lessen the burden on the women working long days selling their fish products, and adopting simple and relatively inexpensive technologies that can improve not only the quality of their fish products, but the quality of their lives as well.

FTT-Thiaroye ovens were developed jointly with FAO and introduced in 2014 in Côte d’Ivoire as a simple, but efficient alternative to traditional fish smoking. Benefits for women have proven to be numerous: healthier working environment, better quality of products, extra time to attend literacy classes.

Many women are now able to pay for the children’s schooling and the women’s associations have also allowed them to start saving and obtain Bank IDs.

These ovens are also being introduced into the Ivorian women’s associations through the Coastal Fisheries Initiative.

You can learn more about these ovens and how this relative simple technology has radically transformed the lives of women fish smokers in one rural community in Côte d’Ivoire in this film.

FTT-Thiaroye Ovens in Côte d’Ivoire: transforming lives through simple technology




On International Women’s Day, it is an excellent opportunity for us to take time to thank all the hardworking women who contribute so much to the fisheries and aquaculture sectors. Happy International Women’s Day to all women working long days in fisheries and aquaculture!

 

 

A woman in the Comoros with fish to be sold.
Women’s work in the southern African island of the Comoros begins on the beach when the fishermen bring their catch to shore.
Women in coastal communities have many years of experience working in various aspects of fisheries, particularly in getting the product to the market
The Coastal Fisheries Initiative works with women on the island of Sal to market their locally-caught fish directly to restaurants and hotels on the island.
Smoked fish being sold at the market in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. Women generally smoke the fish, which they will sell at market stands.
Young girls in southeastern Africa’s Comoros Islands with the day’s catch.
The scene is similar in the Caribbean, as women in Haiti arrive early in the morning and wait for the fishermen to bring in their catch.
A young mother and her son on a beach on the Comoros as she gathers the day’s catch and prepares to go to market.

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