Struck by COVID, Senegalese girls discover hope in fishing

BARGNY, Senegal (AP) – Since his beginning on the Senegalese coast, the ocean has at all times given life to Ndeye Yacine Dieng. His grandfather was a fisherman and his grandmother and mom processed fish. Like generations of girls, she now helps to supply for her household within the small group of Bargny by drying, smoking, salting and fermenting the catches introduced again by the male villagers. They had been baptized with fish, these girls say.

However when the pandemic struck, the boats that took as much as 50 males to sea carried only some. Many residents had been too terrified to go away their properties, not to mention fish, for worry of catching the virus. When native girls managed to get their palms on the fish for processing, they didn’t have the same old consumers, as markets had been closed and neighboring landlocked nations closed their borders. With out financial savings, many households have gone from three meals a day to at least one or two.

Dieng is one among greater than a thousand girls in Bargny, and plenty of others in different villages dotted round Senegal’s sandy coast, who course of fish – the essential hyperlink in a sequence that is without doubt one of the largest exports of the nation and employs lots of of 1000’s of its individuals.

“It was catastrophic – all of our lives have modified,” Dieng stated. However, she famous, “Our group is a group of solidarity.”

This spirit resonates all through Senegal with the motto “Teranga”, a phrase within the Wolof language for hospitality, group and solidarity. Everywhere in the nation, individuals say to themselves: “we’re collectively”, a French expression which means “we’re on this ensemble”.


This story is a part of a year-long sequence on how the pandemic is affecting girls in Africa, particularly within the least developed nations. The AP sequence is funded by the European Growth Journalism Grants program of the European Journalism Middle, which is supported by the Invoice & Melinda Gates Basis. AP is answerable for all content material.


Final month, the primary actual fishing season for the reason that pandemic devastated the trade, introduced new hope to processors, their households and the village. Huge, brightly coloured wood fishing boats referred to as pirogues every carry dozens of males out to sea, and other people crowd the seaside to assist fishermen carry their masses to purchase them.

However the challenges of the coronavirus – and rather more – stay. Rising seas and local weather change threaten the livelihoods and houses of these residing alongside the coast, and plenty of can not afford to construct new properties or transfer inland. A metal processing plant rising close to Bargny Seashore raises air pollution fears and can be part of a cement plant that can also be close by, although advocates say it’s wanted to switch sources depleted by overfishing.

“Since COVID got here, we have now lived in worry,” stated Dieng, 64, who has seven grownup youngsters. “Most people right here and the reworking girls have had troublesome lives.… We’re exhausted. However now, little by little, it is getting higher.

Dieng and his fellow transformers overcame the pandemic by constructing on one another. They’re used to being the breadwinners – one professional estimated that every working lady in Senegal feeds seven or eight members of the family. Earlier than the pandemic, a very good season might herald 500,000 FCFA for Dieng ($ 1,000). Final 12 months, she stated, she did little or nothing.

Dieng’s husband teaches the Koran at a mosque subsequent to their house, and the couple pooled his cash with their youngsters, with a son discovering work fixing televisions. Different girls obtained assist from a household overseas or rented elements of their fridges to retailer them.

They survived, however they missed their job, which is not only a job – it is their legacy. “The processing is a pleasure,” stated Dieng.

Most fishing actions in Senegal are small-scale and practiced utilizing conventional strategies, a number of generations previous, as previous as the best way Dieng and different villagers course of fish. They name it artisanal fishing. As soon as processed, the fish is offered to native and worldwide consumers, and its preservation means it lasts longer than contemporary fish and is cheaper for everybody who buys it. In Senegal alone, fish represents greater than half of the protein consumed by its 16 million inhabitants, which is crucial for the meals safety of this West African nation.

Industrial fishing can also be practiced in Senegalese waters, by way of motor boats and trawlers as an alternative of conventional canoes, and greater than twenty corporations additionally concentrate on industrial processing within the nation alongside flour factories. of fish and canneries. Fishmeal factories fee girls like Dieng by paying extra for fish and depleting sources – 5 kilograms of fish are wanted for 1 kilogram of fishmeal, an inferior powder-type product used for animals from farm and pets.

The Senegalese authorities additionally has agreements with different nations permitting them to fish off the coast of the nation and inserting limits on what they will carry, however monitor what these large boats from Europe, China and Russia harvest turned out to be troublesome. Villages say foreigners are devastating native provides.

Dieng has turn into a neighborhood chief and mentor whose neighbors more and more ask her for recommendation on all the things from cash points to their marriages, and he or she and others at the moment are a part of a rising collective voice of girls within the Senegal working for change alongside the coast and past.

Senegal has designated land close to Bargny as an financial zone in its redevelopment funding efforts. Dieng’s neighbor, Fatou Samba, is a municipal councilor and president of the Affiliation of Ladies Processors of Fishery Merchandise, and he or she testified on the challenges of artisanal fishing. She hopes to cease a lot of the massive trade’s enlargement as fishmeal corporations acquire fish and ship the product to Europe and Asia.

“If we get left behind, in two or three years girls might be out of labor,” Samba stated. “We aren’t in opposition to the creation of a challenge that can develop Senegal. However we’re in opposition to tasks which ought to make girls lose the precise to work. “

Samba additionally warns of the consequences of local weather change, with rising tides eroding the Senegalese coast and forcing fishermen to hunt their catch additional out to sea. Samba and Dieng have every misplaced at the least half of their seaside properties whereas the rooms had been emptied of water in the course of the wet season of the previous decade.

Along with their laborious fish processing work, Samba and different girls do many of the work from home.

“Particularly in Africa, girls are fighters. Ladies are employees. Ladies are heads of households, ”Samba stated. “Due to this fact, girls have to be empowered.”

Dieng, Samba and different girls wish to be heard – by the federal government and by the businesses constructing tasks close to them. They need higher funding, safety of their fish and processing websites, and improved well being laws.

These girls are opening their doorways to household, associates, neighbors and even strangers who cannot wait to listen to concerning the work they’re so pleased with and wish to protect – to assist put meals on the desk for his or her households and pay college charges. their youngsters in order that they will have a future that won’t contain fish. But when they’re joyful to speak about work, they hesitate to deal with themselves. Neighborhood is what they’re most comfy with.

On the finish of final month, when the message unfold that the fishermen had been lastly returning to Bargny with catches, Dieng and others rushed to satisfy the canoes, tied by ropes to the seaside. It was the longest Dieng had been away from the maintain. She purchased sufficient for her transport to be carried in a horse-drawn cart throughout the land she and her associates claimed alongside acres of black sand. Then she began the job she has identified for many years.

After the fish had been stacked on the bottom, the ladies smoothed them with a small, flat piece of wooden. They coated them with gentle brown peanut shells, purchased by the bag, then lit embers in a bowl and positioned them on the shells, which started to burn. Smoke was flying in all places, an indication of progress. Nevertheless it additionally made the try to breathe as brutal as toil within the scorching solar – much more troublesome throughout Ramadan, when girls had been fasting.

The ladies stoked the fireplace and, after feeling satisfied that he would smoke for hours, walked away. After a day or two, they got here again to show the fish over and let it dry within the solar. One other day handed and the ladies returned to wash it up. Lastly, the fish had been packed in massive nets, offered and brought away in vehicles.

The pandemic has taught villagers an important lesson: the fish cash might not at all times be there, so you will need to try to save a few of their revenue.

The pandemic will not be over both, so Dieng and different girls are going door to door to lift consciousness and encourage individuals to get vaccinated. Like many different nations in sub-Saharan Africa, Senegal imposed strict measures firstly of the pandemic. The federal government has been extensively praised for its complete dealing with of the pandemic, and curfews have been lifted and restrictions largely relaxed. However the nation has recorded greater than 40,000 instances, and volunteer and authorities campaigns intention to maintain one other wave at bay.

On the finish of an extended day at work, and earlier than heading house to interrupt the Ramadan quick together with her household, Dieng stands in entrance of her smoking fish and data a video that she hopes will inspire the ladies who work within the trade. trade.

“It is our gold. This web site is all the things, this web site is all the things to us,” Dieng stated of the coast and its very important significance to Bargny. “All girls should stand up. … We should work, at all times work and work once more for our tomorrow, for our future.”


Meet the ladies of Bargny: see the series of portraits.


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