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Trying out the net: Supporting the fisherwomen of Nkombo, Rwanda

“I was motivated to fish because I saw fishermen making more money than I was. One day I decided to try out the net,” says Valeria Maniraguha, a 38-year-old mother of four children who started fishing in 2010.

Valeria shows off her skills with one of her team’s fishing boats. © FAO

In 2015, FAO launched a Youth and Women Employment programme to boost access to quality employment opportunities by developing the skills of young people and women and building well-functioning value-chains. Historically, women and youth in Rwanda have been underemployed and subject to poor working conditions. In this setting, Valeria is a pioneer for change in her community. She sets out on each fishing trip at two in the morning, with a team of ten women. Each member of the crew has a task to perform: some hold the lights, some throw in the nets, and others pull the fish out of the water and onto the boat. They catch small-sized sardines, locally known as Isambaza, and other local fish such as, Ndugu and Isamake, which Valeria and her team collect in one of their boats until it can be sold.

Valeria and other local workers in the fishing industry received training from FAO on a variety of safety guidelines. The training focused on the sanitation of the fishing gear, hygiene and safety procedures of fishermen and women, handling, storing and processing the fish they catch and sell, as well as on food safety standards. For example, they were trained in smoke-drying fish to increase its shelf life and preserve its taste.

“Our hygiene practices were not good. We used to wear dirty fishing clothes and used old basins to sell the fish. We have since learned how to wash the fishing nets properly and store the fish so it is safer for everyone,” explains Valeria.

In addition to the training, Valeria and others in her community are scheduled to receive further instruction on fish seed production, proper fish seed handling and hatchery management. Plans to build a processing centre for the fish cooperatives in Rusizi are also currently underway, another sign that fishing in Rwanda is a growing industry.

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