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Role of gender in global fishery value chains

28 January 2013

A study published in December 2012 by Globefish on the role of gender in global fishery value chains, describes women’s role in fishery value chains, investigating how much they access and control these fishery value chains in selected countries, including several African countries, such as Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Tanzania.

Generally, women play a role as workers in fishing, marketing and processing as well as caregivers to fishing community families. Often less educated, they tend to concentrate on the low value end of the value chains. Men tend to dominate commercial channels of high commercial value species such as tuna and swordfish, while women mainly have access to lower economic value species such as small pelagics, for local markets and direct consumption.

The study highlights that this is due to the lack of access to economic resources. It also highlights that ‘in combination with scarce knowledge about fish demand, market connections’, this excludes women from the most profitable markets.

The fact that women deal in the fishery value chains with a perishable product like fish adds another parameter. Because of the limited shelf life of fish products, and the paramount importance of food safety, which often depends on the way the fish is handled and conserved, ‘these factors make such value chains complex, especially when other factors like variability in demand and price, and environmental factors are to be considered.’ 

With increased participation in the international fish trade, new challenges have to be met to achieve efficiency, minimise costs and meet the specific requirements of international markets. One of the key requirements to address these challenges is access to market information. Collaboration between the various producers, and easy access to credit, are also crucial. But the study shows that the actors’ gender is an important factor in terms of access to information and investments.

An additional study looks at various countries’ experiences about overcoming gender inequalities in fish value chains, which includes providing better access to credit and investments, and better access to information on market dynamics.

Editorial comment

This study rightly highlights that one key aspect of improving access to and benefits from the international fish trade is for fisheries and aquaculture producers, both men and women, to have access to information about market dynamics. In this context, it should be recalled that the EU is currently establishing a system to monitor fish and aquaculture product prices and to provide information on market dynamics.  ACP producers, who have increasing access to internet facilities, may find such a tool useful to better understand EU market dynamics, and get an idea about price formation for ACP products sold on the EU markets.

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