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Economic role of women in fishing communities: A case study of Koko, Nigeria

Economic role of women in fishing communities: A case study of Koko, Nigeria

by Stella Williams


Even though they come from fishing communities, the women of Koko take up different types of activities. Besides fishing, the main activity, the women distribute their time between household work, agriculture, petty trading, hairdressing, soap making, mat weaving, and notably working in the civil service. They spend up to 16 hours a day working and gain only the essential from their incomes. However, the marketing of fish remains the most lucrative activity.


Situated in the Niger Delta, the town of Koko serves as a port on the Benin River estuary. It is one of the towns where trade links with Europe are very much developed. This geographic location offers it a very privileged advantage in fishing. Here, women's economic activities are closely linked to the socioeconomic conditions and to the traditions of the populations.


Like in most rural communities, the women of Koko spend the day between household chores and activities outside the home referred to as economic activities. Some of these are paid domestic help and others are income substituting activities.

Activities related to fishing

The women are very active in the artisanal fishing industry. Their activities vary from fish processing to the management of fishing industry through the sale on roadsides. Certain women sell their fish fresh. Alternatively, the fish is sundried, smoke dried, salted and dried, or fried.

In addition, they intervene in production by financing the purchase of fishing equipment. That permits them to buy and sell all the catch of migrant fishermen. The majority of the women confirmed to have inherited the activity from their parents.

Other economic activities

Apart from fishing, the women or men are engaged in agriculture, commerce, canoe building, carpentry, and masonry. The promotion of other income generating activities (sale of fuel and water, public transport) are related to the fishing industry.

Secondary activities

In the economic environment, the women take up other economic activities. The most common is the sale of prepared food and processed agricultural products, such as the production of alcohol from sugar cane and the extraction of palm oil. It happens that they also engage in the cultivation of vegetables, pepper, cassava, yam, and small-scale animal husbandry. They are equally interested in mat weaving, hairdressing, and sewing, etc.

The other areas of employment are the sale of firewood, trade in clothes, and petty trading. A small minority works as civil servants in the administration. In most cases, the revenue generated by these activities gives the women financial autonomy. They are classified in the cash activities category.

Household chores

The education of children, the maintenance of the house, the supply of potable water, and cooking are the principal tasks assigned to women. They are helped mainly by the children. The times of the day devoted to household chores varies according to the kind of economic activities practiced : the full time housewife devotes the whole day; a fisherwoman completes her household chores between 7 and 10 a. m, and continues between 1500 and 1900, the fish processor works from 4.30 to 7 a. m and late in the evening; the fish monger does her household chores between 0500 and 0600.

In the context of evaluation, the household activities are classified as activities in kind. In the same way are agriculture practiced by the women and the group works (cooperatives).


The succession of socio-political crises that occurred in Nigeria has had an impact on the income of the Koko women. Most of them do not keep accounts in the real sense. The evaluation is, in fact, based only on daily estimates. Only the women civil servants have a monthly salary.

The main sources of income are: the sale of firewood, mat weaving' the sale of alcoholic beverages, and fashion designing. One can add domestic animal husbandry and gardening. The average daily income is estimated at 140 Naira.

The marketing of fish has a higher return than fish production and processing (up to 1875 Naira per day). The marketing of smoked fish is also more profitable than that of fresh fish. The lowest incomes are experienced in mat weaving and agriculture.


The variation observed in incomes is related to the problems in the fishing community of Koko: spoilage of fish due to poor preservation and the lack of transport means, low level of production, disinterest in cooperatives, and unemployment

To facilitate the task for the fishermen, it is advisable that a credit system be initiated, that insulated container technology be introduced, and that the fishermen are sensitized on the necessity to form cooperatives. In addition, savings scheme should be initiated.


Even if the fishing community of Koko offers various activities to women, fishing remains the engine of the local economy. If the level of fishing increases because of capital support, training and support programmes, it is the whole community that will benefit, including the non-fishermen. It will provide a better distribution of income. In brief, dispositions should be taken to improve the economic wellbeing of the fishermen of the Koko community.

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