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Elisa Sambou, an oyster harvester in Meme Jokadu district, eagerly anticipates the transformative impact of the FISH4ACP project on her livelihood and community

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Elisa Sambou, a mother of five and a decades-old oyster harvester in Meme Jokadu district, begins her day before the crack of dawn, rising as early as 3 am to embark on her daily journey to the estuary. She navigates the steady waters in small canoes alongside her colleagues, venturing into the thick mangroves where oysters are found. Armed with small axes, they laboriously harvest the prized shellfish, knowing that each oyster represents a meagre portion of their daily income. Despite the challenges, Elisa perseveres, boiling the day’s harvest in thick smoke to preserve it for sale at the market.

However, despite her tireless efforts, her labor income barely covers her family’s needs, especially with school fees looming for her children. Yet, hope blossoms with the arrival of the FISH4ACP project, promising innovation and transformation for oyster harvesters like Elisa. Embracing the new method with enthusiasm, she anticipates increased gains and an extended harvesting season, a prospect that fills her with optimism.

The innovative approach introduced by FISH4ACP involves deploying spat collectors in the sea, allowing oyster larvae to incubate until they reach marketable size. This method not only streamlines the harvesting process but also ensures the availability of fresh oysters—a novelty for Gambian consumers. Encouraged by the project’s emphasis on collaboration, Elisa joins forces with her fellow harvesters, forming an association to collectively benefit from the new technology.

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“The new method is a game-changer for us,” Elisa says with a hopeful smile. “It means we can work more efficiently and have a better chance of providing for our families.”.

Implemented by FAO and funded by the European Union and BMZ, FISH4ACP has identified four strategic sites – Kartong, Block, Kubune, and Meme – to pilot this new technology. The innovation is expected to not only increase income for women harvester, but it will also improve working conditions and provide consumers with more opportunities to enjoy fresh oysters.

This initiative aims to transform the Oyster Value Chain and boost productivity in The Gambia. The process involves deploying spat collectors in the sea for a period before bringing them ashore and placing them on mesh bags, where they incubate oyster larvae or eggs until they reach marketable size.

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They gather small oysters from the sea, which we then transfer to mesh bags or floating bags for cultivation into very big oysters during harvest.

“This method has greatly improved our work conditions and allows year-round harvesting, unlike the seasonal four-month window we previously had.”

Elisa Sambou, despite her years of experience as an oyster harvester, faces a significant challenge—she cannot swim. This limitation not only hampers her ability to navigate certain areas but also instills a lingering fear of drowning. However, the introduction of the swimming programme by FISH4ACP, offers a glimmer of hope for her. She eagerly anticipates to enroll in the program, in order to learn this essential life skill, knowing that it will not only enhance her safety in the water but also empower her to explore new areas and opportunities without fear.

“As someone who cannot swim, the thought of being in the water has always terrified me,” Elisa admits. “But with the swimming programme, I see an opportunity to overcome my fear and become more confident in the water.”

The adoption of new aquaculture technology by women oyster harvesters in Kartong, Kombo South, marks a significant step forward in enhancing the oyster value chain in The Gambia. Through initiatives like FISH4ACP, implemented by FAO and funded by EU and BMZ, these innovations aim to not only increase productivity and income for women but also improve working conditions and provide consumers with access to high-quality fresh oysters. With the successful implementation of these project, the future of oyster harvesting in The Gambia looks promising, promising a brighter and more sustainable future for all involved in the industry.

For further information, please contact:

Etheine Sylva

FAO Gambia Communications Officer

E-mail: [email protected]

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