Imraguen Women's Mullet Botargo Mauritania
Small-scale fishing in Mauritania is threatened by an appalling phenomenon: industrial fleets, mostly foreign, are plundering its fish-rich waters, causing serious problems for local communities. In 2006 Mauritania sold fishing rights to the European Union in exchange for a reduction in its public debt, giving up the fight against overfishing and encouraging a new form of colonialism. The industrial fishing boats hire and fund the local fishermen and the fish is frozen and taken to North Africa or Europe for processing. The damage has been enormous. Almost 50% of mullet stocks are at risk and the fish-processing activities, including botargo production, traditionally practiced by the Imraguen women have been abandoned.
Few are able to continue making a living. The local NGO Mauritanie 2000 is working with groups of women to try to preserve local knowledge, strengthen their technical skills and improve hygiene conditions. The producers buy mullet from fishermen, extract the eggs, rinse them, salt them and let them dry naturally, obtaining a traditional botargo (from the Arab butarikh, salted fish eggs). The women also prepare tishtar (dried and finely chopped mullet fillet) and mullet oil.
The Presidium comprises three groups of Imraguen women who work in Nouadhibou and Nouakchott, the country's main ports. Slow Food, in collaboration with the producers from the Orbetello Bottarga Presidium, has helped the Imraguen women improve production, directly manage the sale of their products and find alternative markets. In 2006 three women visited Orbetello for a training course and some Italian fishermen went to Nouadhibou to help set up a small workshop. Thanks to the projects supported by the Piedmont Regional Authority and the City of Tours, the women have acquired a vacuum-packing machine and a refrigerated room for storing the bottarga. A guide to good practices for processing mullet has also been produced, in Arabic and French, and a project has been launched in collaboration with the French association Univers Sel to create a local saltworks. The Presidium producers participate in many of the international events organized by Slow Food.
Nouadhibou and Nouakchott
280 women (mostly Imraguen) organized in three groups who work with the NGO Mauritanie 2000
Nedwa Moctar Nech
tel. + 222 22306973 - 36306973