What roles do women play in fishing communities?

Opportunities for alternative livelihoods in fishing communities in Indonesia are being investigated by a team of Indonesian and Australian scientists.

They’re working to understand fisheries and the options for women in coastal areas, while reducing the pressure on targeted marine resources.

Small-scale fisheries are an important source of food security and income in developing countries. Many are also growing into international exporters, but they can place a huge strain on fish populations.

The team is reviewing past projects that encouraged alternative livelihoods for coastal communities—such as nature-based tourism or aquaculture—and whether change continued after these projects and their funding ended. They want to know how livelihoods from fisheries might be improved, as well as looking at alternative livelihoods.

The Australian lead researcher, Professor Neil Loneragan of Murdoch University, says that often women are balancing the household income and wellbeing of the whole family, along with gathering small shells for ornaments from reefs (‘gleaning’), seaweed and fish preparation in factories, and buying and collecting fish for sale and transport.

But little information is currently available in government statistics on the number of women working in small-scale fisheries, so it’s unclear whether attempts to diversify options have been successful.

Dr Budy Wiryawan of Institut Pertanian Bogor is the Indonesian leader of the work, which is a collaboration with Associate Professor Natasha Stacey of Charles Darwin University and also involves a number of Indonesian researchers from government and not-for profit organisations.

Neil, who’s also Chair of the Board of the Asia Research Centre, says the work will help Australians to better-understand Indonesian perspectives on fisheries, and will be shared with the Indonesian Ministry for Marine Affairs and Fisheries. It’s due for completion in December 2016 and is supported by the Australian Centre of International Agricultural Research under the Fisheries Program, led by Dr Chris Barlow.

Credit for banner image: Australia Indonesia Centre.