The pandemic has seriously disrupted fish production and supply chains, which has led to a significant drop in the demand for fish. Lockdowns and quarantines all troubled seafood trade flows, as shipments and freight flights were redirected or halted as demand dropped, ports and airports closed, and some animal imports were banned.
Movements have been restricted and unemployment rates have soared due to challenges in accessing both the fish and the market. Female fish workers have faced a particularly high burden as a result of the pandemic, with changes in trade, schooling and socialisation, yet their voices are often overlooked in media coverage.
We partnered up with WorldFish and AWFISHNET to train and develop a community reporter network of female fish traders to understand the impact of the virus on their lives and create solutions led by them.
From Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Nigeria to Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Zambia, a network of 14 women have come together, through their phones, to hold their own investigation into the impact of Covid-19. As a completely remote community reporter network, they are reaching deeper into their communities and sharing this insight – both the issues and solutions – in a dedicated group chat.
During the early stages of onboarding, women were invited to participate through community referral links across the AWFISHNET community. Then added to a digital chat group, they were brought together, where they could share stories, support each other and seek advice. This also meant that we could identify any connectivity or capacity issues ahead of the reporting phase.
The next steps involved a one-week remote training course, where the network was introduced to techniques of citizen journalism, reporting through your phone, ethics, and keeping safe both generally and during Covid. Across the 8 modules, Eastina, our Sierra Leone Engagement Coordinator, would set a task and share her own examples in the group chat. This included: ‘recording your own origin story’, ‘gathering the views of other people in our community’ and spotting fake news. At the end of each stage, all the community reporters received a digital certificate.
Once completed, the 6-week reporting sprint kicked off. Weekly assignments were set to act as a guide but by no means a mandatory activity. This covered topics including the disruption of fish production and supply chains, distribution challenges and market access, inspiring women in their communities, the increased work/care burden, the sex for fish phenomenon, and a topic of their choice.
During this time, reporters have been supported and encouraged, both by Eastina and the other reporters themselves. Despite the different locations, the group chat has a real sense of togetherness where community reporters interact with each other frequently to show interest and support in the stories being shared. As the insight comes in, this process offers an agile feedback loop and a community chat app group that sits across all of the network, enabling women to see stories and ideas coming in from other countries, which can prompt their own enquiries.
Throughout the entirety of the reporting sprint, 11 of the 14 reporters were actively engaged – having engaged more than once over the 6 weeks. They sent in 59 mobile reports across this time, using text, audio, image and video.
Now, using the insight gathered from these stories of community experience, we will be moving onto the next phase of the project – the co-production stage. As part of the delivery and design, both the partners and the network of reporters have been sent a report documenting the journey and stories shared to read, listen and watch. Following this, they upvote the themes and issues that stand out to them, and from this, the creative output will start to take shape.
Reporters will tell us what concerns matter to them, who they want to reach, and what form they’d like the production to take. From this, we hope to identify stories which the reporters will film themselves following further training. This will then be curated into a piece that will be shared with the partners and showcased at upcoming summits, where the issues and community-led solutions can be acted upon and pushed. We hope to take this back to the communities themselves, letting them see the impact of their stories.
We hope that they will spark a deeper conversation, add more context to the data and research being shared, and inspire and trigger more action at a local, regional and global level.
WorldFish and AWFISHNET
(Photo credit: Fatuma, Tanzania; Martha, Malawi)