Transforming Yeliboya’s fishing women lives

10Dec 2019
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Transforming Yeliboya’s fishing women lives
  • FAO to launch a bold plan to build the resilience of fishing communities in Sierra Leone

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is implementing a project funded by the Japanese Government for the sustainable development of the fisheries sector in Sierra Leone.

The objective of the project is to enhance fish processing infrastructure and women’s technical capacity to improve livelihood opportunities while reducing the health and environmental issues that the exiting fish processing practices causes.

An FAO field team visited the Yeliboya island to observe the existing smoking infrastructure and how the females’ fish processors carry out their daily processing activities. The team discussed their challenges, climate change threats to the island as well as opportunities the fish processing activities can offer them.

Yeliboya is located between the coastal cities of Freetown, Sierra Leone's capital, and Conakry, the capital of Guinea, and is home for about 5,000 people who are entirely dependent on the island for their livelihoods, however, they import fresh food and water from surrounding areas.

Yeliboya fishing communities were selected as the pilot community of the project in collaboration with the Sierra Leonean Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, as the island has been severely affected by mangrove deforestation, coastal degradation, and rising sea levels, during the last years. The team held meetings with different stakeholders involved in the fisheries sector. "The government of Sierra Leone welcomed this project and will support its successful implementation for the benefits of our fishery communities," says Khadijatou Jalloh, Director General, Ministry of fisheries and Marine Resources.

Stop the dangers of the traditional smoking methods

processors of the Yeliboya are using a very traditional smoking method. Their fish smoking oven which they call the “banda” is a table-like structure constructed with only logs of woods and housed in a low roofed enclosure made with logs and thatch. The primary fuel used for processing is mangroves firewood, which are arranged under the banda. The life span of their "banda" is short, and the process emits smoke and heat. The process is laborious and hazardous; further to this, the processing capacity of their banda is low, which leads to huge post-harvest losses during the bumper seasons.

"This is the first time someone is giving us an opportunity to speak up for ourselves and involve us in decision-making for an intervention intended for us. We're glad about FAO's approach and thankful to their partners," says Adama Kamara the chair lady of the fishing women groups.

females revealed how their fish-smoking infrastructure causes serious health issues for them and the rest of the community because the thick smoke generated by the "banda" engulfs the surrounding homes. They face sporadic fire outbreaks and burns, leading to maiming and loss of property and livelihoods due to the highly inflammable material used for the construction of their fish-smoking infrastructure. They revealed that the logs which are laid as gratings for the bandas catch fire quickly and are changed approximately every three days. The woods used for the frames also burn from the high temperatures and require replacement every six months. Overall the maintenance and replacement cost is high.

Thus, their daily activities contributes to environmental degradation, smoke pollution and poses as a threat to health because it is highly depend on the use of mangrove fuel wood.

"We have seen with the females that their traditional way of smoking fish is not safe. We will now work together to address some of their challenges through capacity building activities and enhancing their smoking infrastructure" says Paula Anton, FAO West Africa fisheries and aquaculture officer, leading the field mission.

After discussions with the females, and the endorsement of the chief of the village, the project will introduce improved cost-effective smoking ovens using the FAO-Thiaroye Processing Technology (FTT). FTT reduces the level of Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the fish produced and eliminates the smoke pollution improving the health and safety conditions; it is built with durable strong materials preventing replacement costs and possible fires, also reduces the amount of wood used decreasing the pressure on mangroves.

"There is a need for scaling up very fast the FAO Thiaroye Processing Technique (FTT) as we are getting more requests from fishing communities. We're thankful to our donor, the Japanese government for ensuring the sustainability of marine fisheries and improving their livelihoods," says Nyabenyi Tito Tipo, FAO Sierra Leone Representative.


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