Researchers reveal a more sustainable approach to address postharvest fish losses
Small-scale inland capture fisheries contribute significantly toward enhancing the food, nutrition, and economic security of millions of people in low-income countries. Over time, several factors have restrained women’s participation in fishery value chains, limiting capture fisheries from achieving their full development potential. These factors have also reduced the impact that small-scale fisheries can have on poverty alleviation and food and nutrition security.
Technical and social constraints have been the major causes of postharvest loss in fish farming. An example of a technical constraint is the use of inadequate methods when drying fish. However, the gender constraint is more of a problem because it restricts women’s decision-making capacities on the types of activities they participate in, their time and labor investments, and how they use their incomes in fishery value chains.
Researchers carried out a study in Gender, Technology, and Development (March 2020) to understand how fisheries extension and development programs can effectively address these constraints to reduce or end postharvest losses. The study compared the gender accommodative and gender transformative approaches in terms of influencing women’s empowerment outcomes within a postharvest fish loss reduction intervention. The study took place in fishing camps in the Barotse Floodplain, Zambia.
A gender accommodative approach recognizes gender constraints but seeks to work around these constraints to engage women rather than challenge the barriers that limit women’s participation in or capacities to derive benefits from value chains. In contrast, a transformative approach seeks to engage with and reduce or overcome gender-based constraints, not work around them. This approach encourages critical awareness among men and women of gender roles and norms, promotes women’s position, challenges the distribution of resources and allocation of duties between men and women, and/or addresses the power relationships between women and others in the community.
The study revealed that tackling the technical and social constraints in value chains using the transformative approach provides small-scale fisheries with more significant potential to enhance the food, nutrition, and economic security of all people who depend on their natural resources. The findings also suggest that integrating gender transformative approaches with technical innovations offer a more potent way forward to address food losses.
IITA Gender Specialist Steven Cole, who led the research for the World Fish Center in Zambia, mentioned that the study’s findings could contribute to informed decision-making by development programs working in fisheries.