(ERGO) – Fatuma Magan Abdi has managed to connect her house with electricity, open a kiosk for her husband, and put all six children in school, since her business selling fried fish took off in the southern Somali port town of Kismayo.
Fatuma is one of 230 women from poor backgrounds and some from displaced families awarded $500 small business start-up loans within the fisheries trade to enable them to build well paying, sustainable livelihoods.
Fatuma buys raw fish at $1.5 per kg and sells the cooked fish pieces at her shop in Kismayo market for the equivalent of $3 per kg. She is now making at least $30 a day – 15 times more than when she was selling ice creams.
With good profits and wise management, she saved $300 to open a small business for her husband who was operating a wheelbarrow. Her six children’s primary school fees cost her $60 and they benefit from electric light at home to study and do their homework at night.
“If I sell more fish I can sometimes make $15 or $20 more than my usual profit,” Fatuma told Radio Ergo. “I deposit this money in my savings account at the bank.”
She has already paid back $360 of the loan she took in February.
The microcredit scheme is being run by the NGO, SADO, with support from the German development agency, GIZ. The idea is to empower women in this coastal town to make a decent living in the fishing industry.
Shamsa Haji Abdinoor, another grantee, used to live in Daryeel IDP camp in Kismayo. She was earning a pittance washing clothes in homes in Kismayo at a rate of $3 a day – but was not always paid for her work at the end of a long day.
Since Shamsa started her fish business, her family of 15 has moved out of the camp to a rented house in Guulwade, at a rent of $20 per month. All her five children are in school.
“I buy 100 fish a day, take them home and fry them, and then sell them in front of my house at half a dollar per piece,” she said.
One unexpected challenge has been the attitude of men working in the fisheries industry, who feel threatened by the rapid encroachment of women in what they have seen as their territory.
According to Shamsa, the fishermen selling the raw fish try to inflate the prices to keep her and other women out of business.
“When I try to compete with the men pricewise and add some money to the price they have bargained with the fishermen, they cry foul and tell me that I am being used by the other women,” she said.
SADO project director, Mohamed Ibrahim Ali, said they held business trainings for the selected women before giving them loans.
“Most of those in the fish trade in Somalia are unskilled mothers. We saw a dire need to help these women selling the small types of fish and wanted to improve their lives,” Mohamed told Radio Ergo.
The director of the Jubbaland’s fisheries ministry, Mohamed Khalif Ali, said women were more creative than men in expanding fish sales as they moved around to sell in restaurants and other public places. He suggested increasing the start-up funds from $500 to $2,000 based on the success of the initiative
The ministry trained the women on proper means of preserving fish using refrigeration.