Women of Slow Fish 2007
11 Apr 07
The fishing communities which played a leading role at Terra Madre 2006 will take part in Slow Fish (Genoa, Italy, May 4-7, 2007). These include communities whose members are all women. They are the custodians of ancient techniques for and knowledge of fishing or preserving seafood. And though they may not produce quantities to match large fishing boats or industrial seafood processors, their work fully respects coastal ecosystems and seasonality of fish species.
The importance of the role of women in this industry is also underlined in the 2006 UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s report on the state of fishing and aquaculture worldwide :
“Millions of women around the world work in the fishing sector, especially in developing countries. Their work often involves making or mending nets, baskets, preserving containers and hooks. The women rarely take part in ocean or deep sea fishing, but more often work in small boats or canoes in inland waters or on the coast, gathering bivalves, molluscs, pearls, and seaweed or positioning the nets.
Women also play an important role in aquaculture where they work in maintenance of the tanks and gathering the fish.
However most of the women working in the fishing sector are involved in the preserving and sales processes, and many countries are showing a strong increase in female businesses in this field.”
Listed below are some of the female fishing communities taking part in Slow Fish 2007:
Fishermen and fish smokers of Chokomey
Chokomey is a village of 1,000 fishermen surrounded by the Densu river in the Greater Accra region of southwest Ghana, 15 km from the capital Accra. The Ewe people originate from another of Ghana’s 10 regions, the Volta. To reach the ocean, they must cross the river in canoes (of which they have four). While the men fish, the women dry and smoke the fish for local consumption. The community is part of the Development Action Association, a federation of associations that is 98% women that works to guarantee fair recompense for workers and deals with problems relating to food safety, income diversification, environmental decay and HIV infection.
Chokomey, Greater Accra region
Fish processors and sellers
The community includes over 25,000 women from coastal areas, all of whom belong to the Union Nationale des Operatrices de la Fenagie Pêche. The most frequently processed fish are twaite shad, umbra, a type of Carcharhinus shark and shellfish (Noah’s ark, mangrove oyster, murex, etc.). The women are responsible for all of the processing, starting with gathering these fish from their aquaculture tanks or among the coastal vegetation at low tide by hand or using small machetes. The shells are taken to the village, boiled and opened, and the molluscs are removed for drying. The fish undergo traditional preserving processes: dry salting or brining, grilling and drying (ketiakh) or smoking (methorah), fermenting either in pieces (guedj) or whole (tambadiang).
Seaweed gatherers, Pichilemu
Native communities living in coastal areas have always found sustenance in the sea. In the town of Pichilemu, which overlooks the ocean, seaweed has always been a fundamental part of the local diet and is still the focus of the women’s efforts today. The main variety gathered – using techniques learned passed down from older generations – is Antarctic Durvillaea, known hereabouts as cochayuyo. This seaweed is particularly firm, fleshy and elastic in texture and is used in a variety of dishes from mixed salads to rich first courses like vegetarian paella. Cochayuyo’s nutritional benefits make it an important daily food source: it contains plenty of iodine, calcium, iron and magnesium and is rich in protein and fiber.
Federation of small-scale fishermen in southern Thailand
The community consists of about 300 inhabitants on the island of Muk, which is inside the Had Chao Mai National Marine Reserve struck by the 2004 tsunami. The village’s activity consists of small-scale fishing and processing of the fish, which is mainly carried out by the women working for the community. The fish caught along the coast (prawns, shrimp, crabs, anchovies, scampi, pomfret) are made into various products, including fresh fish paste (nam prik pa yang) and pla keng (pomfret), sun-dried shrimp (an ingredient in many Thai recipes) and prawn crackers. All the products are within the village as well as outside of it.
13 provinces in southern Thailand
Mussel fishermen in the province of Tiznit
Mirleft is a fishing village on the Atlantic coast south of Agadir, still unspoiled by mass tourism. There are wide beaches and long rocky cliffs in the area where mollusks proliferate – especially mussels. They are harvested manually from the rocks using rudimentary tools, then shelled and steamed in sterilized steel containers. Once cool they are packaged and shipped to local markets. The community also produces more traditional sun-dried mussels, and some of the mollusks (about 10 tons per year) are sold au naturel. The Tifaouine association works with the fishermen – 46 women and nine men – to rationalize production, improve quality standards and guarantee fair social development.
Mirleft, province of Tiznit
Imraguen women’s mullet bottarga (Slow Food Presidium)
The Imraguen are nomadic fishermen who follow the shoals of grey mullet and umbra along the Banc d\'Arguin, on the northern coast of Mauritania, moving their provisional villages as they go.
Traditional fishing techniques are still used, which are more sustainable but less profitable than modern methods. Only the Imraguen are allowed by the park to fish with lanches - motorless sailing boats – but during the season when the large shoals of mullet are passing through (late October to early January) they still usee traditional methods. About 10 men enter the water holding a long net which surrounds the mullet and close it around them. The women have always been responsible for the production of bottarga, tishtar (dried chopped mullet fillets) and oil. However traditional fishing both without boats and using lanches is threatened by pressure from industrial fishing vessels which enter the Banc d\'Arguin waters illegally. The waters of Mauritania are among the very few worldwide which are still richly stocked with fish. Foreign fleets divide fishing rights, hiring local fishermen. The fish is frozen and transported elsewhere for processing, mostly North Africa and Europe. The traditional skills linked to mullet processing are being lost and with them, an important part of the Imraguen’s cultural identity.
The surivial of the Imraguen is closely linked to mullet fishing. Since mulet are the basis of the fishermen’s diet, their villages on the beach move with the shoals of fish. The Presidium involves a cooperative of Imraguen women supervised by the local NGO Mauritanie 2000 and living in the city of Nouadhibou. The Presidium producers purchase the mullet from the fishermen and process them. Their work is underpaid today – bottarga is bought at a paltry price by an intermediary and sold abroad. Slow Food, with the help of the producers of Orbetello bottarga (Toscana), is trying to help the Imraguen women to improve the quality of production. In 2006 three women visited Orbetello to attend a training course and some fishermen will travel to Nouadhibou to help them set up a small workshop. The objective is to find alternative markets and manage direct sales of bottarga.
Villages of Banc d’Arguin and Nouadhibou.