Within the 4Cities4Dev project, the Imraguen Women's Mullet Botargo Presidium community in Mauritania is supported by the city of Tours. A delegation from the city will visit the Presidium in 2012, and members of the community attended Euro Gusto in Tours in November 2011.
The Imraguen are an ethnic group who have lived along the Mauritanian coasts since before great Arab migrations. Their survival is closely bound to mullet fishing. Mullet is a staple food in the fishers' diet and their coastal villages are moved along the beach depending on the movements of fish shoals. The Presidium protects their ancient fishing technique, now threatened by huge commercial fleets. The Presidium producers buy mullet from the fishermen and process them, mainly into botargo (dried mullet roe). The producers' work is currently underpaid, as the botarga is bought at a very low price by middlemen and then sold abroad. The Presidium was created around the mullet botargo production chain, but through this product it is concerned more generally with sustainable fishing and the future of the Imraguen women. Working with the women who process the fish and the men who catch them, and trying to develop local, artisanal salt production, the Presidium aims to promote an important local economy. Artisanal fishing and fish processing can provide the local communities with both a source of food and of quality products that can be sold at a national and international level. The work with botargo, based on training a group of around a hundred women who work together, can also be useful for the development of other processed fish products.
The Islamic Republic of Mauritania covers over a million square kilometers, mostly desert, with 700 kilometers of coastline. Unlike much of the rest of the world, the country's waters are still rich in fish, and fleets from western countries have been dividing up the fishing rights. The frozen fish is sent abroad for processing, particularly to North Africa and Europe. In 2006 Mauritania sold fishing rights to the European Union in exchange for a reduction in its public debt, effectively giving up any attempts to combat overfishing and surrendering to a new form of colonialism. The damage has been enormous: Almost 50% of mullet stocks are now endangered and the Mauritanian women's traditional fish processing activities (including botargo production) are in crisis. Despite this, a number of fishing communities and women's fish-processing cooperatives are still persevering. The country's two main ports, where the fishing industry is concentrated, are in the capital, Nouakchott, and Nouadhibou.
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