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The Dried Fish Sector in Western Côte d’Ivoire

Moyen Cavally and 18 Montagnes regions
June, 2011

After ten years of political instability, the presidential elections in November 2010 again plunged Côte d’Ivoire into an episode of violence which ended with the arrest of the outgoing president in April 2011. Hundreds of people were killed, more than 500,000 were displaced inside the country, and 180,000 people took refuge, mainly in Liberia. The conflict occurred right in the middle of the planting season for rice, maize and other cereals and vegetables. In the west of the country and in particular in the Moyen Cavally and 18 Montagnes regions, the majority of rural households were affected, whether they were displaced themselves or whether they took in displaced persons. Most host community households who normally depend on revenue from agriculture find themselves impoverished due to the looting of stocks, insecure access to fields and also the burden of accommodating large populations of displaced people.

Dried fish is an integral part of the diet of vulnerable households and constitutes their main source of animal protein. The dried fish sector is also a large source of employment through fishing and related activities. The crisis affected the operation of the dried fish market system, especially the supply system. Therefore, this study, carried out in June 2011 using the EMMA methodology, focused on the dried fish market system. Key analytical questions focused on the impact of the crisis on vulnerable households' consumption of dried fish and the reasons for any observed change in consumption; the impact of the crisis on the dried fish market system and promising indirect and direct programmatic interventions to support vulnerable households' protein consumption.

The main actors in the dried fish market chain include fish farmers, traditional fisherman, professional dryers, fresh fish merchants, dried fish wholesalers and dried fish retailers. The main factors include seasonality and hydroelectric dams (which affect the water level in the country's rivers), illegal fishing (which reduces fish populations), regulations and laws, taxes and insecurity (which affects both market actors' and consumers' access to markets. Other key elements of the market system include the Buyo hydroelectric dam, bridges, roads, essential fishing equipment such as nets, storage facilities for both dried and fresh fish, labor and informal credit.

The 2010-11 violence had severe impacts on the dried fish market system. First, the number of certain types of market actors decreased given the lack of security and the displacement of large numbers of fishermen. Insecurity also disrupted the key supply chains that normally delivered fish from Abidjan to the study regions, resulting in the reduced availability of dried fish in area markets, which in turn led to a relative increase in prices. The main effect on vulnerable households was a decrease in purchasing power and thus a restructuring of spending – such households were devoting more than two-thirds of their income to food following the crisis. Because the “lean season” (the period between harvests) had begun at the time of the study, the majority of vulnerable households reported that they were no longer able to buy fish given the rise in prices.

This report recommends unconditional cash transfer programs targeting vulnerable households, complemented by voucher programs for specific food items, which would include dried fish. In addition, the report recommends supporting fish farmers with coupons for fish feed, facilitation of access to young fish (fry) and training. Finally, given the serious impacts of insecurity on the market system, this report suggests that any of these interventions must be accompanied by other actions to promote social cohesion and the re-establishment of the rule of law.

Report authors: 
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