The Fisheries Sector in the Gambia: Trade, Value Addition and Social Inclusiveness, with a Focus on Women

The Fisheries Sector in the Gambia: Trade, Value Addition and Social Inclusiveness, with a Focus on Women The Gambian case study points to three critical dimensions that should be taken into account when promoting fish-export-oriented policies as a pro-poor strategy: i) the existence of gender-specific patterns in the processing and marketing of fresh and cured fish products; ii) the resultant, gender-differentiated impacts of a commercial, export-oriented strategy in the fisheries sector; and iii) the need for trade policy responses that are gender-specific and redistributive. In the Gambia, men and women tend to produce rather distinctive fish products, operate on different scales, and serve different markets. This results in rather specific gender-based trade patterns throughout the chain. Women typically buy a few trays of fresh fish from large-scale mongers at land sites, and transport it to various urban markets where the fish is retailed. The operations of male fish processors and traders tend to be more capital-intensive and on a larger scale: their products are marketed to the inland and sub-regional markets, where the profit margins are higher. Processing factories also procure their fresh fish supply for export to the EU from large-scale (men) fish suppliers. This division of labour reflects deeply embedded social roles: in the Gambian context, women look after the children, work on the family plot, tender small livestock, etc. and are less likely than men to be away from home. However, it is also a consequence of gender disparities in access to productive assets. Observations at selected landing sites, for example, have evidenced women's unequal access to community-managed facilities: women tend to occupy units in need of rehabilitation, for which they pay a rent with virtually no service provided. As in other contexts, the overall tendency seems to be that women tend to receive “diminished” assets, while sectors that attract investment tend to “defeminise”. The acknowledgement of these gender dimensions is critical when designing trade-related policies geared towards upgrading the fisheries sector in The Gambia. Two considerations arise. First, if the constraints affecting women's ability to carry out their trade are not addressed, this may negatively affect the overall prospects for sector development, as women represent the majority of fish processors and about half of fish traders. Hence, a call for trade facilitation and other measures that are gender-specific and gender-redistributive. A critical issue in this respect is the integration of gender considerations into the design and implementation of fisheries infrastructure projects. The objective is to ensure that facilities used by women are upgraded, or that upgraded facilities (including those that serve the export-oriented segment of the chain) can be effectively accessed by women, as well as men. Parallel action should be taken to favour women’s access to resources (credit) and support services (training and extension, marketing, and financial literacy). It is also important to explore niche markets for high-value products that can generate income for women. Second, it is important to carefully weight and balance competing interests and objectives through a gender lens. Indeed, an expansion of the export-oriented fish-processing industry is likely to generate significant employment opportunities for relatively unskilled women downstream (factory processing), with positive effects in terms of poverty alleviation. Yet, the selective upgrading and segregation of the export-oriented segment of the chain can accentuate dynamics of polarization and exclusion. In particular, it is likely to magnify the existing cleavage between small-scale women operators, who mainly operate in the domestic segment, and large-scale dealers, mainly men, involved in supplying the export segment. Likewise, for those fish species that serve both the export and domestic markets, there may be some diversion of supplies from the domestic to the export chain, with important food security and gender implications. Domestic, sub-regional and international perspectives are then to be carefully assessed and weighted in the light of food security concerns, and bearing in mind considerations of poverty alleviation and social inclusiveness. Since women are mainly involved in the domestic-oriented chain, their empowerment is an effective way to safeguard food security and social concerns, thus bringing to the forefront of the analysis issues of sustainability and inclusion.
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