Extracts from Golden Fish, African Fish, reproduced with the permission of the filmmakers Thomas Grand & Moussa Diop, Sénégal, 2018
With the support of: Fondation Rosa Luxemburg et Mundus Maris
1. “Years at sea in your bones and body”
“at a certain age you start to feel the consequences of all these years at sea in your bones and body.”
Fishers identify their work as ‘noble’– if money circulates in town it is because of them.
Pirogue captains are seen as ‘noblemen’ because they have houses and cars of their own.
2. Vulnerable bodies
The physical transport of fish and rays from the pirogues to the onshore market is performed by fit, young men. They must dive and wade out to the pirogues in rough surf conditions carrying boxes laden with fish back to shore and up across the busy landing area to the markets.
Accidents seem inevitable–carriers can get hit and injured by the pirogues and there’s no local hospital or financial support if they can’t work.
3. Fisheries connecting nations
The fishery at kafountine is a hub for food supply, labour, and incomes. Workers come from all over – including guineans, cameroonians, ghanaians, sierra leoneans, liberians, malians, bissau-guineans, burkinabes.
Kafountine fisheries supply lots of other african nations with processed fish: guinea conakry, burkina, cameroon, liberia, cote d’ivoire, malia, the gambia, burkina faso, bissau-guinea. In this way, the fisheries also enable connection between these neighbouring nations, and distributed economic opportunities.
4. “The smoke is hard to bear”
Fish processing (smoking and scaling) is work performed mostly by women. There are dozens and dozens of kilns in kafountine, each one can smoke over 5 tonnes of fish in 2 weeks.
Unlike the fishers, the women do not seem to sing as they work and appear exhausted and unwell. Their work is hot and smoky, their hands covered in ash and fish matter. They have no protection, no masks, no gloves. Children sit and wander nearby, also exposed to the smoke.
Most of the women come from gambia, where there is fewer economic opportunities.
A male stall holder describes these women as ‘brave’.
5. “The smokers have grown like sardines”
A thick smoky haze from the kilns cloaks the market and spreads down over the landing area. It seems that only the fishers work free of smoke, once they are out at sea.
Kiln worker: since 2011, there are more smokers because the number of pirogues has grown. People learnt that catching fish in kafountine in easy. Pirogues have come from the gambia because this is the only region where there are any fish left.
6. “The word ‘factory’ means death for all of us”.
Djiby diouf, trader
The fisheries of kafountine are threatened by export-oriented fish factories.
Were they to come “there would be no more fish left to parry, no fish to smoke, no fish to fry”. The women would not get smoked fish to scale – which currently gives them 250 fcfa per basin.
“export-oriented fishmeal factories would take away the fish that feeds us to feed it instead to horses and pigs and other livestock. Sabotage. These people are against africa. They process them, load them into ships and take them away while pouring toxic waste into the water. All the fish goes back to asia, europe, and the u.s.”
Djiby diouf, trader
Souleyman nene ndiaye, a re-seller, says that “all the dynamics comes from the kilns. If a factory were set up, all that would go.” There are no factories yet in kafountine but … chinese factories are already in gambia.
A frustrating sense of inevitability looms.
7. “People attack the forest”
Warrant officer of the chief water and forestry services in diouloulou
The forests surrounding kafountine are being combed for timber to burn for both domestic fuel and the smoking kilns used for fish processing. The 40 year conflict between senegalese government and independent movement in casamance is forcing more people to move into the region’s forests. With no electricity, everyone’s need for fuel exacerbates deforestation.
The reliance on wood to fuel the kilns is further impacting surrounding forest. With less trees, the cost of wood increases and there is less available for people living around the forest.
8. “Development is not about creating a new system but to improve existing ones.”
Alphonse Ndiaye, gardener
In 2018, two fishmeal factories were constructed in casamance. The first in the heart of the abene marine protected area, just 5 km from kafountine. Production started without having done an environmental impact assessment. It dumps waste water into the rice fields and sea.
Casamance represents the southern parts of the senegal-mauritian sedimentary basin and is the last zone of retreat and refuge for the fishers. It’s a spawning area, one of the biggest deltas in west africa.
We cannot consider development if it does not create emancipation of endogenous populations and their involvement in the economy.”
The fishmeal factories have brought about a disconnect between neighbours and neighbouring countries. It does not improve or enable economies for the endogenous populations.
9. The fishers’ work song
Pull this net and I shall feel your strength!
I shall tell you what worries me!
Everything that happens to us
Is due to them.
The trawlers that threaten us
It’s because of them that we have to go
Fishing further and further away.
This is why we, the fishers, are protesting.
These boats need to be driven away
Far, far away into the high seas.
Look how many people are working
On this pirogue
All these people have only
One hope, going to sea.
We are only using the encircling net
But everybody accuses us.
But it is not us destroying the sea.
Pull this net and i shall feel your strength!
It is thanks to the encircling net
That I earn my living.
It is here that I have grown up.
It is here that I have learnt everything.
I did not go to school
And I have not learnt Arabic.
It is here that I do my prayer.
It is here that I continue earn my living.
The fishers work song is also a protest narrative. The refrain ‘pull this net and i shall feel your strength!’ sets the rhythmic tempo of their labour as they pull a heavy net back into the pirogue. It’s repeated chanting provides the song’s physical pulse, while the callers storyline strikes at the heart of the extractive issue for artisanal fishers.