Transforming women’s lives in Côte d’Ivoire through adapted fish smoking technology
- 85 women’s cooperatives and small enterprises reached in Africa, with around 4 000 women benefiting from managerial and small-scale business skills; food safety and hygiene; technical skills and facilitated access to time and labour-saving technologies.
- 700 women trained in Tunisia on value addition, management, marketing and other areas that boost women’s empowerment.
- 40 associations of women cassava processors in Côte d’Ivoire were trained in improved food processing techniques and in origin-linked labelling.
- 40 startups of which 35 women-led dairy processors in Kenya were trained in value addition and business-oriented farming.
- Policy reforms have been fostered, which allow women to benefit from value chain and enterprise development AND decision-makers and public/private practitioners were supported in capacity building for planning and implementing value-chain interventions, to benefit both men and women.
Smoked fish is a vital source of food security, nutrition and income for many African coastal communities. In Côte d’Ivoire, the foodstuff is hugely popular and widely sold in markets.
However, the traditional smoking method requires large amounts of wood, letting off choking clouds of smoke. Research showed that over 60 percent of the women who smoked fish suffered symptoms related to their work, including respiratory and eye problems. Their children also suffered health consequences, as they were often present as the women worked, either bundled up in wraps on their backs or playing by their sides. “If you have kids, and you don’t do this, how will you feed them or send them to school?” said Tia Florence, a fish smoker in Guessabo. “This is hell.”
Realizing the women often have no other options for better working conditions, FAO – as part of a wider project to improve food security and empower women across Africa – teamed up with the Government in 2014 to create a better and safer fish smoking process.
Working in four pilot communities, the project laid the foundation for sustainability of good practices with women’s cooperatives adopting user-friendly and clean technology, known as FTT-Thiaroye ovens. For each kilo of smoked fish produced, the covered ovens use only 0.8 kg of wood, instead of 5 kg with the traditional smoking method, allowing the women to cook better quality fish in less time, with a muchreduced health risk.
“Here, once you put your fish in, you can rest until the fish is cooked and then you can go sell it in the market,” said Blé Odile, who started smoking fish at the pilot site in Guessabo.
The improved quality and taste of the fish brought in higher selling prices, increasing the women’s income. It allowed them to save and get bank IDs, and also to pay for schooling for their children, ensuring the benefits passed down the generations.
Many of the women at the pilot sites also used the extra time for literacy and maths classes, which allowed them to better calculate their profits.
“We are organized women aware of our impact on the national economy,” said Micheline Dion, President of the Cooperative for Fishery Products, Traders and Processors in Abobodoume, in Abidjan. “Thanks to the scale of our activities, we contribute to job creation and food security at the national level.”
Women from other districts in Côte d’Ivoire, and even from neighbouring countries, have since come to learn about the group dynamics and operation of the techniques so they can use them too. The project has empowered women across the continent in similar ways, enhancing the technical and operational capacity of 85 women’s cooperatives, associations, small and medium enterprises. A total of around 4 000 individuals participated in training and benefited from access to equipment, facilities and finance.