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3. Contribution to the sub-regional socio-economic integration: The little documented or simply forgotten roles of women in artisanal postharvest activities

The integration of the West African region, and more specifically the ECOWAS region, is customarily appreciated and evaluated mostly by the so-called conventional institutions working there. On the other hand, the contribution of fisher womenfolk to the development of intra-regional trade is little known or even ignored. In the case of Guinea, starting from the port of Boulbinet (still more so than Bonfi and Taminataye, areas of the Conakry conurbation), women transform large quantities of fish into "smoked products". These consist mainly of catfish, barracudas and flat sardinella, some of which is consumed locally and otherwise destined for some countries of the sub-region from the famous N'Zérékoré market. This strategically located market between Guinea and some of the neighboring states is considered as a "distribution-point" of some typically Guinean products that are very successful in the sub-region because they are labels. This is the case of the Guinean smoked catfish which has a very high commercial value, especially in Senegal.

Women play an important role in the postharvest sectorWomen have traditionally dominated much of the post-capture industry. Similar to what we have documented in many localities in Senegal, we find many women not only in the processing and conditioning of fresh produce, but also in local and sub-regional trade in the Sahelian countries. As already mentioned, they are omnipresent in outdoor catering.

However, their negotiating power to access raw material has changed a lot in recent years as a result of changes in the ownership and organisation of work in the various sub-sectors. Thus, foreign investors with their purchasing power and impact on the work organisation have now cut off much of the direct relationship that existed between the fishers and women processors and traders. Rare are now the women who can still access the freshly landed product. Instead, they are increasingly confronted with a bulk frozen or packaged product (see description by Ms. Fofana below).

These changing conditions in Conakry have probably also played a role in the migration of many Guinean women to southern Senegal where they contribute in particular in Kafountine to the important growth of the artisanal fishery. They deal particularly in fresh fish (sardinella, rays, etc.), which they smoke and trade in the sub-region. This was documented in film on artisanal fishing in Casamance shot by Thomas Grand of Zideoprod and co-sponsored by Mundus maris. The film will soon be available for release.