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Oyster farming is empowering women in Senegal

Members of the European Parliament recognize added value of FISH4ACP's support to Senegal's oyster sector

2 June 2023, Somone-Thiès - On the Somone lagoon, Ousmane Fall, a 42-year-old fishmonger, and his team are busy cleaning bags containing oyster spat intended for cultivation. Ousmane was initially not interested in oyster farming, but now he fully dedicates himself to it.  

He was convinced by his best friend and current collaborator, Khadim Tine, the president of their farm "La Cabane Penchée. When they embarked on this adventure in 2018, their attempts resulted in significant financial loss. They only harvested one ton of oysters in the first year, but have since learned from their mistakes.  

"Today, we can produce up to six tons," adds Fall, who now solely relies on this activity to support his family. 

He shares his enthusiasm for oyster farming with Seynabou Diatta from Toubacouta in the delta of the Saloum river. Fifteen years ago, she says, her community considered farming oysters a far-flung daydream.  

"Today, it has transformed our lives," she proudly explains, gazing out at the lagoon. 

Seynabou has come to visit the farm at the same time as a delegation from the European Parliament that is touring Senegal to find out more about development programmes funded by the European Union (EU). 

Seynabou and Ousmane are among the beneficiaries of FISH4ACP that the delegation was keen on meeting.   

FISH4ACP is an initiative of the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), implemented by FAO and funded by the European Union (EU) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), aimed at making fisheries and aquaculture value chains in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific more sustainable.

In Senegal, FISH4ACP works to make the oyster value chain more productive and sustainable with a view to transform it into a catalyst for economic and social development, based on sustainable and equitable exploitation that contributes to the empowerment of women.   

"We see that there are many actors coming together, each of them contributing in their own way and we think that this brings added value," explains Catherine Chabaud, Member of the European Parliament, who is leading the delegation.

She also emphasized the importance of preserving the mangrove ecosystem, which plays a vital role in carbon capture and oxygen production and warned about the consequences of pollution that could affect oyster production. 

Technical agents highlighted challenges including a lack of environmental knowledge, quality issues requiring monitoring and control, and the need for mapping of production sites to obtain oyster certification from the European Union.  

"We aim to improve local production, provide better jobs and ease the burden on the environment," says Amy Gaye, FISH4ACP national professional officer in Senegal. She underscored the importance of improving the product's sanitary quality. 

Seynabou and other female oyster farmers also shared their experiences with the delegation. They make up the majority of the workforce in the oyster sector and welcome support, particularly in terms of resources, to further expand their activities and boost production. 

The value chain approach adopted by FISH4ACP provides a significant boost to the Senegalese oyster sector. The men and women working in this field are eager to develop their activities, safeguard the environment, and create new economic opportunities. 

With the support from the donor community and in cooperation with local partners, oyster farming in Senegal can become a promising sector, offering hope to local communities and the women who play an essential role.