CHALLENGES OF WOMEN INVOLVED IN AQUACULTURAL ACTIVITIES
1.1. Background of the Study
The Fisheries subsector is a significant source of fish food and livelihood for many people living in the coastal communities as it supplies animal protein necessary for growth and income. However, it has become clear that the challenges women are facing needs to be addressed and evaluated at their various levels. There is enormous need to study the challenges of artisanal women fisherfolks as they are regarded as the backbone of aquaculture. The engagement of women is particularly in coastal communities as women represent almost 50% of the total workforce engaged in fisheries around the world though have been generally overlooked in marine conservation and fisheries management in developing countries (Robinson, 2000).
In Africa particularly around the great lakes women have been participating more actively in promoting hygienic and food (fish) safety aspects of the landing sites (Den de pryck , 2012) but the focus has been mainly on post harvest roles. In Gambia, women have been involved with the National fisheries post harvest operators platform and participated in the formulation of fisheries Act (FAO, 2012). The World Bank, FAO and World fisheries (2012) found out that women make up to 47% of the fisheries supply chain workers, which is equal to about 56 million jobs in the harvest, and post harvest sectors.
Just in the harvest sector, FAO (2012) estimated that 5.4 million women worked either as fishers or fish farmers. Women account for half of the workforce in inland fisheries while in Asia and women market West Africa, 60 percent of the seafood. FAO (2012) also estimated that at least 30 percent of the people employed in fisheries (harvest and post harvest were women with regards to FAO (2008) majority of fishers (womenfolk’s) are poor, small scale fishers, their poverty and challenges encompasses more than just low income: It includes land ownership, high degree of indebtedness, poor access to health, education and financial capital and political and geographical marginalization. Fishing is often seen as a male activity, especially where this involves boats, equipment and long absences at sea or river but women play key roles in maintaining equipment, processing and marketing of the fish even though women roles are often less acknowledged. In Africa, for example women are charged with 80 percent of the food security (Mandosela, 2002) and 90 percent of the water security in rural and coastal communities (GWA, 2006).
Women are crucial to fisheries and aquaculture sector worldwide, fisheries and aquaculture production activities provide an estimated 155million people of whom a substantial proportion is female in developing countries as most fishing activities fall into the small scale fisheries sector employing roughly 37 million people and directly affecting the livelihood, poverty prevention and alleviation and food security of approximately 357 million others. Various studies have been carried out on the roles of women in fishing activities as it made effort in revealing the strength of women in aquaculture agreeing with the fact that the world two major fish producing countries, China and India, women represent respectively 21% and 24% of all Fishers and fish farmers (FAO 2012). Women make up at least half of the inland fisheries workforce with 60% and 80% of seafood marketed by women in Asia and West Africa (FAO, 2012). Studies in West Africa, Cambodia and Thailand have shown that women own and manage fishing boats and may have their fishing gear. In some countries such as Ghana income from fisher wives is vital for supporting the entire fishing industry as they invest in canoes and other gears giving out loan to their husbands and other fishers. In Philippines, Cambodia, Thailand, Congo and most of the Pacific island the Fisher women have assumed a leading role in the rapid growth of aquaculture (Fish, shrimp mussel, seaweed, crab fattening) with their investment along the aquaculture value chains( production, processing and marketing).
In addition to providing food women collect fuel for energy in mangroves in plant and herbs for medicine from coastal forests and use coastal resources to support the economic stability of their families and communities from fishing activities. In respective of their strength in aquaculture according to United Nations Development Program UNDP (2009). The collapse of fisheries and degradation of other natural resources not only undermines food, health, energy and water security as it affects women folks and fisherwomen. The varying threats of women in aquaculture include omission of women from planning, implementing and monitoring of conservation initiative in accordance with cultural norms where the cultural norms may appear prohibitive and adaptive to the support of women engagement in natural resource management (Bene, 2003). Women are disproportionately represented in the unpaid labour force. Several cultural forces have been used in the past to keep women away from the fishing trade (Geheb et al., 2008). In some communities like the luo community in Kenya there is a law prohibiting menstruating women from going to the lake as they would contaminate the lake and affect it’s productivity.
However the important role played by women in aquaculture have been to some extent derailed by the land tenure system which gives ownership right to males, inaccessibility to credit and saving services and facilities, high level of illiteracy and inadequate technical knowledge on pond management (Butt et al., 2010). These various challenges can be remediated by calling for special attention for more women to be involved in trainings and having more women extension agents( FAO, 2012), provide new aquaculture technology and opportunity for women empowerment also to create gender equality in women unequal place in fisheries, by enhancing women’s role in fishery resource management with instances of them being owners of boat and gear, by participating in Fisheries organization and having active role in decision making at all levels ( Fisheries Administration, 2007). Proper measures must be taken into account to address the obstacles inhibiting women from managing their fisheries resources; increased exposure to health risk and other social, cultural, political and economic barriers. Unpaid work by women in support of fishing family enterprises has long been seen as being significantly important. Indeed, in some regions it is probably the major connection that women have with the fishing sub-sector. There are two aspects to this:
• Normal child minding and household management tasks
• Specific shore side management and other support provided to a family fishing concern (especially where the husband is at sea).
PRESENT STATUS OF WOMEN IN AQUACULTURE IN NIGERIA
The role of women in the national development has begun to attract attention in recent years. In order to develop social standards of women and to enhance their participation in all economic activities, there is need to equip them with quality education in the area of latest technology in agriculture and industry (FAO, 1999). The women involvement in other fisheries sectors is diverse. It has increased significantly with the emergence of fish processing as a growth area within the manufacturing sector in the past years in Nigeria. The expansion in the industry during this time has largely been attributed to the contribution of women workers (FOS, 1998)
Women form the core of the industrial fisheries labour force through their involvement in post- harvest or processing activities. This mode of involvement conforms to perceived gender biases in development, where women are largely employed in areas pertaining to traditional labour divisions Women’s economic empowerment is a prerequisite for sustainable development (FAO, 2011). Achieving women’s economic empowerment requires sound public policies, a holistic approach and long-term commitment and gender-specific perspectives must be integrated at the design stage of policy and programming. Women must have more equitable access to assets and services; infrastructure programmers should be designed to benefit the poor, both men and women, and employment opportunities must be improved while increasing recognition of women’s vast unpaid work. Innovative approaches and partnerships include increased dialogue among development actors, improved co-ordination amongst donors and support for women organizing at the national and global level (UNICEF, 1990)
The development of aquaculture increased the demand for female labor and their participation is vital in the culture of fishery, especially in fish rearing, feeding and harvesting. Moreover, women act as knowledge bearers of traditional fish processing and preservation techniques. Thus, they play an important role in the transfer of knowledge from one generation to another. Fish processing for ethnic markets using traditional knowledge is an emerging important business among many fishing nations: where, women play great role in fish processing with traditional tastes and flavors (FAO, 2011). Generally, male dominance is a common feature in capture fishery and value chains. Still women play significant but invisible role in both capture fishery and aquaculture.
1.2. STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
Despite the strenuous and pervasive involvement of women in fisheries activities, the women invaluable contribution is often overlooked and undocumented. Several cultural/traditional forces have been used in the past to keep women away from the fishing trade (Geheb et al., 2008). Also much work have not been done on the strength, weakness, opportunities and threats of the women fisherfolks engaged in aquacultural activities in rural and coastal populated fishing areas in Anambra state.
1.3. OBJECTIVES OF STUDY
The general objective is to evaluate the challenges of women in aquacultural activities in the study area. The specific objectives include to:
I. Determine the socio-economic characteristics of the women involved in aquacultural activities in the study area.
II. Highlight the roles and potentials of women across small-scale fisheries and aquaculture development in the study area.
III. Identify the strengths and the opportunities available for the women fisherfolks to counteract their weaknesses and threats limiting their efficiency and potentials in the study area.
IV. Proffer appropriate recommendations to overcome the challenges.
1.4. SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This study will be of great benefits to the women and their stakeholders which include the rural and the urban female fish farmers in Anambra state and Nigeria as a whole.
1. The study will also help to highlight the unequal gender relations within and outside the household and organization of fisheries and its resources.
2. This study will bring to light the roles and potentials of women involved in small scale fisheries and aquaculture as much work have not been levelled to the challenges of women involved in aquacultural activities in the study area.
3. This study will also enable the federal Government and state to create empowerment, adequate policies and programmes, adequate credit facilities to the women fisherfolks to ensure increased fish production, sustainability of poverty alleviation and natural resource management in coastal fishing communities.
4. This study will also help to identify the women fisherfolks strength in the view of overcoming their weakness and ensure that the women’s role in the fisheries sector do not remain invisible and the need to increase their right to participate in decision making processes with respect to fisheries planning management in as much to explore their opportunities so as to tackle their threats in the study area.
5. The result of the study will also serve as a source of reference and guide to other researchers who wish to do similar work on this topic in future.