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When climate change encroaches on the economic activity of fishmongers (Reportage)

Guessabo is a small town in the center-west of western Côte d’Ivoire. About 415 kilometers from Abidjan (the country’s main city) via the A6 national road, this small village offers several business opportunities to its inhabitants. The populations are shared between agriculture (economic engine of Côte d’Ivoire) and fishing because of the presence of the Sassandra River, one of the four (4) main rivers of the country.

The drying up of the Sassandra River is a reality

A large part of the women of Guessabo devote themselves to the marketing of fish which they buy in bulk from local fishermen. Before 2005, everything was going well until things got more complicated over the years due to the drying up of the Sassandra River. This is also deplored by Dame Alice Konan, a fish trader from Guessabo.

Since 2005 our trade has taken a hit because the water is receding

“Our mothers have always come here to buy fish on the shore and resell them in the markets of Guessabo, Zoukougbeu and Daloa and often even in Abidjan. That’s how I too became a fish trader. It’s a bit of a job passed down from mother to daughter. But since 2005, our trade has taken a hit because the water is receding,” she lamented.

The Sassandra is gradually losing its bed and this has an impact on the quantity of fish caught

It should be added that a bridge is built over the Sassandra river. This stream stretched as far as the eye could see and the landscape was beautiful and pleasant to look at. Travelers reveled in it. Some women confessed that travelers sometimes abandoned their vehicles to take pictures on the bridge or descended to the edge to immortalize their passage in this place.

“When the travelers arrived at our level, they also bought fish which they sent to their families. Travelers made up nearly 80% of our clientele. But now this is no longer the case, the fish are no longer big and travelers too, becoming more demanding, hardly buy our fish anymore. It’s complicated,” added Dame Alice Konan. It is clear that the drying up of the river, which is due to global warming, constitutes a real threat to the commercial activity of these women.

Fishermen’s income is decreasing…

In addition to this, says fisherman Fabrice Zahi, several of his friends have given up their activity to take up farming. “Listen, here, we were all happy to take our canoes and go fishing. We could do an average of two or three hours on the water and catch enough fish that the women there bought with us. I remember that women were grouping the canoes of the fishermen. A single trip could make us pocket between one hundred and fifty thousand (150,000) CFA francs and two hundred and fifty (250,000) CFA francs.

But today this is no longer the case. The river is losing its bed. Fish are becoming increasingly rare. Where it used to take at most three (3) hours for a fishing trip, it now takes more than five (5) and in the end, it is difficult to reach one hundred thousand (100,000) CFA francs as a recipe,” lamented this fisherman. He adds that he risks stopping fishing. This could once again weaken the activity of women traders in Guessabo.

Women adopt a plan B to stay independent

However, the latter are determined to remain independent and help their spouses in taking care of family expenses. With them, the empowerment of rural women takes on its full meaning. As an alternative, they have decided to turn to the Regional Union of Aquaculturists of Haut Sassandra (URAHS) which has more than seven hundred (700) members. For Lady Guinan Charlotte, fish trader, resident in Guessabo, it is a question of marketing fish from fish farmers.

“The Aquaculturists’ Union really helps us. The fish are really big and our customers seem to like it since we are not being blamed. We earn a little more money with fish from fish farmers,” says this trader.

The lack of rain makes it difficult to practice aquaculture

However, everything does not seem to be going in the right direction since aquaculturists are encountering enormous difficulties at their level. A member of this union chaired by Karim Soro said that climate change is seriously affecting their activity. “It’s not just traditional fishermen in the region who are struggling. Them, at their level, the Sassandra River is drying up. We also don’t have enough rain, so the rivers where we could get water for fish farming are also getting dry. It’s complicated for us,” he declared, with a broken heart.

The fish are getting thinner and thinner

The main consequence is the high cost of fish delivered to women. It is worth pointing out that in the past, it rained heavily in Côte d’Ivoire. This favored both fishing and aquaculture activities. But over the years, global warming is gaining momentum to the point of weighing down the economic activity of the women of Guessabo. The Ivorian government, aware of the difficulties encountered by the fishing industry in Côte d’Ivoire in general and the women of Guessabo in particular, has decided to put in place policies to fight against poverty and hunger.

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