Sisterhood and Seine-Nets: Engendering Development and Conservation in Ghana's Marine Fishery
As processors and marketers of fish, women fishtraders in the Fanti town of Cape Coast, Ghana have become powerful financers and owners of canoes, nets, and other fishing equipment. Since the 1960s, when motors were first introduced to Ghana's artisanal canoe fleet, two interrelated processes have occurred in Cape Coast. First, Ghana's fisheries have become increasingly exploited and—in the case of some species—overfished. Second, the social relations of production in the artisanal sector have shifted from being socially embedded to being more market-based and impersonal. I argue that two recent Women in Development (WID) projects in particular have contributed to the breakdown of fishtraders’ traditional economic networks and livelihood strategies: (a) loan schemes that target women's associations, and (b) the 1985 Intestate Succession Law, which reconfigured inheritance rights. These WID projects, based on western notions of gender and the household, have created disharmony and mistrust among Cape Coast's fishtraders rather than promoting their “development.” The breakdown of fishtraders’ labor and marketing organizations has resulted in increasingly desperate strategies to get fish, increased degradation of Ghana's marine environment, and uncertainty for the future of the coastal economy.
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