In West Africa, women play important roles in artisanal fisheries in post-harvest activities such as selling fresh fish, processing, storing, packaging and marketing.
But their working conditions expose them to dangers in an area where health and safety standards are almost non-existent. Their means of production are often rudimentary, their work underpaid and their contribution to the economy underestimated.
An experience-sharing event was organized in Senegal in May 2022 by the West African Coastal Fisheries Initiative (WCFI), a project of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) to build the capacity of women fish processors and sellers in Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal.
“An exchange visit between women processors highlights the enormous challenges they face every day” in the exercise of their profession, explained Paula Anton, Aquaculture and Fisheries Officer at FAO’s Subregional Office for West Africa.
“They have similar experiences, they go through the same difficulties and can therefore express themselves and understand each other. This can help make their work easier in the future,” she added.
During the visit, a new three-oven unit of FAO’s Thiaroye Processing Technique (FTT) was inaugurated in the presence of Senegal’s Minister of Fisheries and Maritime Economy, Mr Alioune Ndoye, and the Coordinator of the Subregional Office for West Africa and FAO Representative in Senegal, Dr Robert Guéi.
The FTT ovens reduce workers’ exposure to harmful heat, burns and smoke, and provide consumers with quality products while contributing to environmental protection by reducing pollution and the use of wood as fuel.
“We are extremely pleased to know that the inauguration of this pilot seafood processing unit will enable the fishing communities of Dionewar in Senegal to increase their income thanks to the innovations introduced. This unit will improve the living conditions of women processors and their households, by reducing the arduousness of the work and the risk of accidents,” said Dr Guéi.
Through this initiative, FAO aims to empower women in the artisanal fisheries value chain, which is fundamental for the organization to achieve the IPC vision and develop more holistic processes.
The project is expected to develop integrated approaches to sustainable coastal fisheries management by sharing best practices and lessons learned at national, regional and global levels, in order to replicate and scale up these new approaches.