Faced with the challenges of insecurity and climate change, women in the Lake Chad basin are the last hope of developing the region through United Nations-supported fishing activities.
At eight o'clock in the morning, Falmata Mboh Ali, paddled on a small canoe to the shores of a tributary of Lake Chad, in BOL, a small town located 170 kilometers north of the Chadian capital, N'Djamena.
In his nets, about 50 fish. A catch that would seem pretty good, since she started fishing five hours earlier, but not enough to feed her eleven children.
"I can sell this fish and use that money to buy grain to feed my family," says this fifty-year-old woman, "but I won't get much. I have been fishing for 20 years and it is becoming more and more difficult to catch fish, she regrets.
Fishing has traditionally been a means of subsistence for communities in the Lake Chad basin region. An activity that supports nearly 30 million people living along the shores of the Lake on Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger.
"Lake Chad is shrinking, there are not enough fish, and cultivable spaces are decreasing due to silting," warned Jean de Dieu Djasnan Djeraibaye, project coordinator for the Sahel in the United Nations programme for the Development (UNDP).
Once immense, the Lake that previously covered 250,000 square kilometers is now reduced to one-tenth of its original size. A situation that is largely due to the lack of sustainable water management and the corrosive effects of climate change.
As fish are increasingly scarce and fishermen need to sail further to find it, UNDP has intervened to provide support. "We were helped by a project that provided us with new nets, so my catches are increasing," said Falmata Mboh Ali, "so I hope my family's life can improve."
In the Lake Chad region, UNDP seeks to accompany the existing local economic dynamics by supporting women-led initiatives. "Before the support arrives, even if it is not huge, there has been a destabilization. And without this support, we go towards accelerated degradation, warns John of God Djasnan Djeraibaye.
eudi, in BOL, Falmata MoHA Ali and other fishery representatives explained the challenges faced by a joint high-level delegation from the United Nations, the African Union (AU) and Sweden, which chaired the Security Council in July.
"The fishing we see here in the Lake must be seen in a value chain so that when women fish, they are able to transform the fish, and bring it into the markets and get a good price," said the Deputy Secretary-General of United Nations, Amina J. Mohammed.
Number two of the United Nations hopes that the use of technology will facilitate larger-scale production and enable greater empowerment of women in the region.
For Bineta Diop, the AU Special Envoy for women, peace and security, the challenges for women in Lake Chad are great but not insurmountable. "The roles of men and women are changing, women are now going to fish, whereas before men have played a more important role in society," said Ms. Diop.
"In most African societies, women are the backbone of the economy in a family, in a village, in a country," said Margot Wallström, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden. "They cultivate, sell their production in the markets, maintain the unity of families. This is what makes a society so women are extremely important and we need to create dignified living conditions for them. "
The Lake Chad basin is one of the poorest regions in the world. The access of the people of the region to food, health services and education is extremely limited.
A precarious situation exacerbated by the insecurity associated with the activities of Boko Haram. The insurgency launched by the Islamist terrorist group in northeastern Nigeria and neighbouring countries displaced more than two million people and led to a humanitarian crisis. "Because of the insecurity caused by various negative Islamist movements, families have been separated, the agricultural production force no longer exists, access to fishing areas has been made difficult, as is cross-border trade," explains John of God Djasnan Djeraibaye.
The United Nations estimates that about four million people are in a situation of food insecurity in the Lake Chad region. A food and nutritional crisis that is likely to worsen if more refugees flee the conflict in the Central African Republic to Chad.
For UNDP, the destabilisation of the region is a factor of radicalisation. "Most often, a person who cannot find food, who feels aggrieved, may tend towards radicalisation," warns John of God Djasnan Djeraibaye.
For the AU Envoy, the link between radicalisation and poverty is evident. "People can't see it, but that's the reality we see!" says Bineta Diop, who advocates for more investment in "human security", especially through the construction of more schools and health facilities for children in the region .
"Women are the ones who are resilient here. They're the ones who live here. They don't want to migrate. They don't want to go anywhere else. They want to stay here. They're their cities. It's their land. They want to cultivate it. said the AU Envoy.
For Bineta Diop, women must be at the Centre of the development of Lake Chad, "because they know and understand that if the Lake disappears, they will disappear. So they'll take care of it. "
On the shores of Lake Chad, Falmata Mboh Ali and other women fishermen are hoping to see the water level rise. To continue their traditional fishing activities, to support their families and aspire to a better life. (un.org)