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Food Loss and Waste in Fish Value Chains
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Equitable Social and Gender Environment for On-board Handling in Small-Scale Fisheries

Around the world, the dangerous work of hauling in the catch at sea is overwhelmingly performed by men. If the definition of fishing is however expanded to include processors and marketers of seafood, workers in small-scale and artisanal fisheries, and collectors of clams and other shellfish, women account for a substantial part of the global industry. 

According to the FAO publication, Good Practice Policies to Eliminate Gender Inequalities in Fish Value Chainsevidence indicates that inefficient and unhygienic harvesting, transportation and processing methods lead to substantial post-harvest losses, and contaminated or adulterated fish products for human consumption or animal feed. Case studies show that these problems are particularly prevalent in small-scale systems, and that there is considerable scope for improvement on boats, at landing sites and during transportation and processing. As women outnumber men in post-harvest fish work, both globally and in most countries, gender-aware policies and practices that close the gender gap in access to improved fisheries technologies, extension and training, credit and market information will clearly bring large payoffs in terms of reducing losses and improving quality and safety.

Although men predominate in direct handling of fish on-board, both men and women may have ownership of the fishing business and gears and so stand to benefit from reduced food loss and waste (FLW) and better-quality fish which may attract a higher price and have a greater market access potential. The quality of fish after harvest also has important implications for quality, FLW and value throughout the remainder of the value chain. This may include post harvest activities undertaken by women such as processing and trading.

Non-gender bias policies and implementation processes would give more equal access to productive resources such as modified vessels, insulated boxes, credit, skills and knowledge and market access so that both men and women are able to perform optimally in terms of harvesting and benefiting from better quality, food safe products and minimize FLW. 

Good Practice Policies to Eliminate Gender Inequalities in Fish Value Chains provides a number of recommendations aimed at promoting gender equity and transformation in small-scale fisheries. One of which that is pertinent to on-board handling, is to strengthen women’s roles in organizations representing small-scale fishers, fish processors and traders. Organizations, including cooperatives, for fishers, fish processors and fish traders are known to make a substantial contribution to increasing productivity and returns, by building economies of scale in terms of equipment, inputs and markets, and by attracting extension advice and credit. They also provide a powerful mechanism for negotiating better terms of business with other actors in the value chain and, particularly in the case of regional and national fish organizations/federations, for engaging in advocacy and dialogue with policy-makers.

The challenge is to help strengthen women’s membership and leadership roles in such organizations and, where culturally appropriate, help women establish their own cooperatives and associations. With regard to mixed fish workers’ organizations, there is a need to tackle social norms which often ascribe leadership roles to men and, in each case, to strengthen women’s leadership and managerial capacities to run these organizations efficiently, and to increase their bargaining power vis-à-vis policy-makers, officials and other value chain actors. In many cases, outside assistance from development agencies or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has proved a key catalytic force in tackling gender inequalities in fisheries organizations.

Key Publications

Good Practice Policies to Eliminate Gender Inequities in Fish Value Chains

This FAO publication highlights key gender inequalities in fisheries and aquaculture value chains that lead to underperformance by women, and proposes good practice policies that can lead to increases in production and processing of high-quality fish.

Women Do Fish: A Case Study on Gender and the Fishing Industry in Sierra Leone

Examines the varied situation of women in fisheries in Sierra Leone. Their major concerns are access to better markets and credit.                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Not Just a Boys' Club: Women Hooking into Fishing Industry

Examples of women working in the fishing sector.                                                                                                                                                                                                               

More Resources

More Resources

Gender and development
01 January 2018
Overview of role of gender in the work place and an introduction to an integrated approach to gender equality and decent work with a link to further resources. 
Report that provides information on the role played by frozen fish and cold store facilities in Sierra Leone. 
Examples of women working in the fishing sector.