‘This women-led community approach to hygienic dry fish production could be a role model for empowering marginalized fisherwomen in the region'
Fishers are part of a marginalized community, who live in harsh living conditions with lack of food security.
The livelihood of the coastal fishers is constantly disrupted during the marine fishing bans imposed by the government aimed at protecting and conserving spawning fishes and crustaceans.
These unforeseen challenges are further compounded by the loss of livelihoods of thousands of fishers’ families due to the sudden onset and prolonged stay of the Covid 19 pandemic.
In some of the cases, the fishing bans are administered amid inadequate and untimely social safety and protection measures.
To address this, WorldFish Bangladesh is training vulnerable fisherwomen in Cox’s Bazar under its USAID-funded ECOFISH II program to produce safe and hygienic dry fish for consumption and trade purposes.
The project aims to train up 2,500 fisherwomen with improved traditional method and provide necessary market support.
ECOFISH II teaches fishermen the process of cleaning and treating the raw fish, drying and packaging through sustainable and environmentally-friendly techniques.
Besides, the project also provides all tools and equipment including scaling knives, protective clothing to drying structure and packaging materials.
So far, 500 women received training and by December 2021 WorldFish plans to reach another 500 women.
“Here in the village, we are all poor fishers. It is really getting tough to live solely on the income earned from fishing,” said Khurshida Khatun, a fisherwoman in Ukhiya.
“During fishing ban period, we have to struggle for food and family expenses” she added.
Last year, Khurshida joined the ECOFISH II to become a beneficiary, and received training on dry fish production.
“Earlier, we didn’t not know how to produce dried fish in safe and hygienic way. But now, we are very clear about the procedures. This activity has created a new option for an additional earning source for all of us,” added Khurshida Khatun.
Despite the popular demand for dried fish, many health-conscious people are often demotivated to consume it due to the suspect of addition of harmful chemicals and insecticides during its preparation and preservation.
“To address the issues, ECOFISH II focuses on safe and hygienic preparation of dry fish from nutrient-rich marine small pelagic fishes” said Dr MA Wahab, team leader of ECOFISH II.
He added: “Nutritional quality and food safety issues are first priorities in this regard. The project facilitates fisherwomen to adopt easy and improved fish drying methods that earn trust among the consumers and this new product fetching high demand and premium price.
"This women-led community approach to hygienic dry fish production could be a role model for empowering marginalized fisherwomen in the region” he said.
“Locally produced sun dried fish is a local delicacy which has a high demand. Thus, fisherwomen are finding an alternative livelihood through safe and hygienic dried fish trade,” said SM Khalequzzaman Biplob, Cox’s Bazar fisheries officer.
“We must take necessary actions to produce hygienic dried fish and ensure good quality through laboratory tests,” he also added.