Tunisia: The role of rural women
in clam harvesting
The Ramsar site of Lake Ichkeul. Bizerte, Northern Tunisia, where seagulls overwinter in wetlands before migrating to Europe or Russia at spring time. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands share a common priority: the enhancement of wetlands and their rational use by communities.
Resources for all: rural women who collect clams near Sfax, Tunisia, arrive at the port of Zaboussa to start a hard day's work.
When the tide is low, protected against sunburn, they walk to clam-rich areas and start digging.
Digging for clams in the sea shallows for hours.
Learning best clam collecting practices is a way to increase income.
Digging for clams with rudimentary equipment.
Harvest: the fresh clams belong to the species Ruditapes decussatus, the original Mediterranean wild clam. The Gulf of Gabes is a particularly rich fishing area, and a great part of the local population depend on fishing to survive.
At mid-day, clam collectors weigh the precious harvest.
According to FAO, if women had the same access to resources, education, outreach, financial services and markets as men, they could increase their yields by 20 to 30 percent (SOFA 2011)
This is the hardest moment of the day – weighing, accounting, writing and negotiating prices. Few women are literate.
They will get 3 Tunisian Dinars or €1.50 for a kilo of clams; negotiations are going to be tough with the middleman.
A few miles away in downtown Sfax, private entrepreneurs run small-scale clam cleaning and export centres. Employees select, purify and clean clams before export. The process could as well be handled by rural women.
Clams are prepared for packing and shipment. They arrive in Rome or Madrid 36 to 48 hours after collection.
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Photos: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano