Senegal: Thiaroye-sur-mer and its ghosts

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Once a prosperous locality, Thiaroye-sur-Mer, an old fishing village East of Dakar, is now a ghost of its former self. “Our processing activities are going to the dogs as a result of the lack of fish”, says plainly Mambou War, woman fish processor, President of the Economic Interest Grouping (GIE) “Pentium Senegal” in Thiaroye-sur-Mer. “Both my husband and my son are fishermen and I am a fish processing woman. I can say that my whole family’s livelihood depends on fishing”.

In the fishing village, hundreds of young people, unemployed and hoping for a better life, have given up fishing and illegally migrated to Europe. Hundreds of women fish processors have been waiting for their sons, brothers, husbands to come back – many years, without news: “My 28 years old son went from Nouakchott [Mauritania] to Spain on a boat. This was about six years ago, and we haven’t received any news since then. Before he went, I tried, in vain, to convince him to give up on the idea. I did everything possible to know his whereabouts, I even sent letters to the Senegalese Embassy in Spain, but still I have no news of my son”, confides Mambou War.

“For our processing activities, we now have to rely on financing from the foreign traders coming from the sub-region, who then impose their purchase price for the processed products. They buy our processed product for 100 francs CFA a kilo, but once they get back home, this same fish is sold at 5000 francs CFA”, explains Mambou War.

“It is very hard for us to witness that we work day in, day out, and night in, night out and then other people take away all the profits. And this is what we live through every single day”, she adds. She thinks increasingly about changing activities and selling second hand clothes, rather than processing fish. “We have become like steps of a ladder used by these foreign traders to make money on our backs, while we continue to live in poverty”, she says, disappointed.

Inoussa Maïga.

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