Supporting fishers’ households’ livelihoods: training women to process fish

by Siti Zulaeha and Prisillia Morley Loijens

In Indonesia, a gathering of women’s groups is often delightfully boisterous and exciting. That is how we can describe the atmosphere when the members of Mama Tuna Mandiri gather and work. Mama Tuna Mandiri is a women-led fisheries processing and marketing association based in Bone, South Sulawesi. The cheerful excitement that they bring to work creates a lively atmosphere and helps them stay productive throughout the day.

As the name suggests, the mothers (who are familiarly known as ‘mamas’) of Mama Tuna Mandiri work together to make processed fish products and support the financial stability of their households. They source the raw materials from the local fishers and suppliers. Since 2021, they have been producing smoked tuna and tuna floss for a distributor in Makassar. However, to further diversify their sources of income, they are currently exploring new processed fish products to add to their production.

Through the Fisheries Community Organization program, MDPI supports trainings for the members of Mama Tuna Mandiri to enhance their individual and group capacity to develop a more productive business. MDPI also assists them to maintain production quality, by supporting the construction of a production house that adheres to production best practices and standards, including health and sanitation requirements.

Members of Mama Tuna Mandiri learned how to make different fish products to diversify their income in Bone, South Sulawesi.

Their excitement never fails to enliven the production house, where they gather to also learn and cook different kinds of fishery products. In February 2023, the house hosted 15 Mama Tuna Mandi members who participated in a Coastal Livelihood Diversification through Fish Processing Training, led by Dr. Nuraeni, a woman leader of Fatimah Azzahra fisheries business group, and MDPI. The training covered topics such as business development, public speaking, marketing, and best production practices. Participants were also taught how to make fish cakes, fish nuggets, fish balls, tuna sambal and fish crackers.

The training, based on production best practices and standards, aimed to build Mama Tuna Mandiri members’ capacity to improve their livelihoods, and their understanding of business development, product diversification, product competitiveness, production cost and selling price, and unit productivity. The products from the training will soon be tested on the market. “We plan to use Ramadan events as a momentum to sell our products,” said the members.

Mama Yuli, member of Mama Tuna Mandiri, holding the business group’s tax ID, a requirement for establishing a micro or small entreprise.

After the training, members also decided to collaborate to improve their business structure and legality. With MDPI’s support, they registered their business, ensuring a legal structure and allowing them to focus on developing a more sustainable income. As the financial manager of fisher households whose income is dependent on fishing seasons, women need to make sure their families have different sources of income when fish is hard to find. That is why, the members of Mama Tuna Mandiri are determined and committed to keep their families’ economy stable.

The training sparked enthusiasm among the Mama Tuna Mandiri group to show the important role that women can play in fisheries management and in improving the economies of costal communities. With their newfound confidence, the group presented their processed products at the South Sulawesi Provincial Fisheries Co-Management Committee meeting in Makassar in early March. Not only did they showcase their products, but they also spoke about the need for diversifying livelihoods and greater participation of women for the sustainability of the livelihoods of fishers’ households. Seeing the group’s active involvement continues to motivate MDPI to further increase participation of women’s groups in future activities and meetings.

Although newly formed, Mama Tuna Mandiri’s journey is a testament to the power of empowering women in fisheries and promoting sustainable livelihoods. We hope that the association can become a role model for other women-led enterprises in the area and continues to inspire change and progress in local communities.