Project Smoke It (University of Portharcourt)

NAME OF COMMUNITY:   CHOBA COMMUNITY

DURATION:                           ONE YEAR AND 2 MONTHS

 

Generally in Africa, women have begun to do menial jobs and businesses in order to support their family’s livelihood. In most cases, these women do not consider the health implications involved in these businesses. The businesses include; fish smoking, labourers in construction site, querying of solid minerals, food vendor. The sudden attraction of African women into such businesses is as a result of the harsh economic meltdown being experienced in the society in which they find themselves. In some cases they become the bread winner of their families, which have made them to work excessively without considering the health implications of such economic activity.  African women have always been active in agriculture, trade, and other economic pursuits, but a majority of them are in the informal labour force. In 1985, women’s shares in African labour forces ranged from 17 per cent, in Mali, to 49 per cent in Mozambique and Tanzania (World Bank, 1989). African women are guardians of their children’s welfare and have explicit responsibility to provide for them materially. They are the household managers, providing food, nutrition, water, health, education, and family planning to an extent greater than elsewhere in the developing world. This places heavy burdens on them, despite developments such as improved agriculture technology, availability of contraception, and changes in women’s socioeconomic status, which one might think would have made their lives easier. In fact, it would be fair to say that their workload has increased with the changing economic and social situation in Africa. Women’s economic capabilities, and in particular their ability to manage family welfare, are being threatened.   Lack of resources and pressures on time and energies put enormous constraints on the ability of women to maintain their own health and nutrition as well as that of their children.

The challenges faced by African women include:

1. Labor Burden: Studies have shown that women have higher labor burden as opposed to men. (Dejene, 2006) Family and community responsibilities take a lot of women’s time that could be applied for improving their income generating efforts. Their responsibility for child care limits their mobility and obliges them to generate income in less conducive environment for business.

 

2. Skills: Lack of adequate skills are other constraints faced by female entrepreneurs. The coverage and quality of agricultural extension services in processing, preserving and packaging food is limited in many African countries. Training for women often focuses on “traditional female skills” in tie and dye, basket making etc. for which the market is saturated. Women’s high illiteracy rate also limits the types of vocational and skills training they can be offered.

3. Access to Financial Resources:Women’s lack of assets, due to the gender discriminatory property and inheritance practices in many of the African countries limit women’s access and control over resources specifically land. For example, female headed households in Uganda claimed that their inability to finance their startup capital prevented them from investing in businesses and trade activities (Dolan 2002, cited in USAID 2005). The lack of both start up and working capital limits the size, type and location of income generating activities.

 

In relation to the businesses mentioned above, Enactus Team Uniport, located in Choba community Rivers State, identified the fish smoking business as one of the major source of livelihood for women in the community. Therefore we saw it as a challenge and embarked on providing a solution to the health challenges associated with fish smoking, by introducing the Chokor oven for smoking of fish. The Fish traders of Choba community were found to be smoking their fishes in a very dirty environment which is not good for the health of man. Also, the traditional method of smoking fish posed health challenges like eye irritation, respiratory diseases and headache to the women and gave low economic yield to the traders. Enactus Team Uniport identified this as a possibility to solve this problem and decided to build a Chokor oven for them; where more quantity of fishes can be smoked in a more conducive environment within a short space of time. This project cuts across the three factors of; social, economic and environmental.

Note: Rivers State the location of Enactus Team Uniport is surrounded by lots of water bodies, which has made fishing one of the major occupations of inhabitants in this state and the abundance of fish smokers in order to preserve these fishes.

 

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