Vanuatu women provide for their families from dawn to dusk, in all weathers. Rural women engage in agriculture and sometimes fishing, household and community activities and rear children; their working hours far exceed those of men. Most of production from their hard work is used to feed the family and maintain it; so where markets are available surplus is sold. This enterprise also contributes to the economic activities of the country. Women produce much of the food and they are the major resource base in agricultural production.
Fisheries has a low accent in Vanuatu, but it is receiving more attention as the population grows and the economy attempts to keep up with the population's demands. Women and men who rarely go to the sea to harvest for subsistence may simply lack knowledge of the value of fish protein to their family's nutrition. As knowledge expands and education increases people's expectations however, there will be increasing pressure on inshore resources coupled with an increase in opportunities for women to sell their harvest. While the government, NGOs and other organisations should support those women who want to sell fish, the Fisheries Department will have to establish and maintain a fine balance between encouraging fisheries exploitation and discouraging over-exploitation. This it can do by establishing and supervising the ground rules for sustainable fishing practices and developing, promoting and supporting new and improved ways of handling the harvest. Women having little time to go fishing will be tempted to engage in unsustainable fishing practices to harvest rapidly; and. unless firm measures are maintained, inshore fish resources will be severely impacted as the national population increases.
Across the board, women are increasing their involvement in business, per se. Of those who already engage in economic activities to support their families most of those interviewed admitted that they could spend more time on those activities. As their children grow up and the raising of school fees becomes important' they will almost certainly do so.
Support for women's increasing involvement in fishing activities should come firstly from offering relevant training. The nation cannot develop to its potential if it continues to only offer women training in domestic activities; and if it continues in that way, it does a disservice to women's capabilities. Other important government and non-government assistance can come from access to appropriate credit lines and credit levels. making available information on new fishing techniques and resources. improving domestic marketing systems and facilities, supporting the development of more cooperative activity within communities and between organisations, and by developing a national appreciation of women s fishing' as being worthwhile and distinct.
Where yield from offshore fishing appears unable to meet expectations the government is looking at inshore fisheries resources to contribute to sustaining the national economy. Inshore areas are the domain of the women fishers. Women should always be consulted in the preparation of plans for inshore fisheries. Through being consulted people offer support, and their knowledge contributes to wise utilisation and management.
The recommendations in this report are made to increase awareness of the contribution that women's fishing activities make to the national economy and the nation's well-being, to promote the increased involvement of Vanuatu women in national fisheries development activities, and to enhance income-earning opportunities for women based on and around fisheries.
Practical suggestions offered in this report are not in themselves new; yet their application in Vanuatu and the necessarily different approach to national fisheries development required appear not to have been considered before. Undertakings such as grow-out fish farming, value-adding, maintenance of quality, wise resource management and marketing can utilise the skills and situation of women as part of communities.