In September 2020, with her Bachelor’s degree in Aquatic Science and Fisheries from the University of Dar es Salaam in her pocket, Régina Clément Likopéro was hired as an intern at SWISSAID Tanzania. The following months were dedicated to the “Fish farming” project, which aims to improve the living conditions of coastal populations through sustainable fish farming. In the interview below, she tells us about her experience in the field, directly at the heart of the project.

What is the internship about?

Concretely, the project leader and I have to train the fishermen in sustainable pond construction techniques, adapt these techniques to the available resources, and advise and guide the participants. In collaboration with the communities, we are also planting mangrove trees along the coast, which are essential to the balance of the marine ecosystem. I am also preparing a guide in Swahili on sustainable farming of Milkfish and Tilapia, the two fish species popular with fishermen in this region.

“Generally this internship was a bit challenging especially at the beginning where I had to put in a lot of hard work, sacrifice a couple weekends and few restless nights. This was when I developed self-motivation skills, expecting high performance even when things got harder. Travelling long distances by a motorcycle to remote places with poor infrastructure was difficult and exhausting too. But as a young lady and a fresher with no prior experience with fish farming, I believe my time spent in SWISSAID was worth it and a rewarding experience.”, Regina Clément Likopéro, intern at SWISSAID Tanzania

Picture: backstopping and measuring pond size/area in Masasi and Mtwara

Are these projects well received by the communities?

It depends. There are fishermen who are very motivated to learn, who ask us a lot. Others don’t really see the point. Since the sustainability of the project depends on everyone’s commitment, we have to make them understand that everything we do, we do for them. We try to motivate them by organizing meetings between fishermen who are convinced of the techniques and those who are more reluctant. Often, when the latter see the benefits of using sustainable techniques, the fishermen are much more motivated and take ownership of the project.

Is being a woman among all these men difficult?

I wouldn’t say difficult but confronting. Because in addition to being a woman, I am a young woman. So it took a while to be accepted and respected. But eventually I gained their trust and they gained mine. At the beginning, going to the field alone, surrounded by men, a thousand miles away from what I knew, was very scary. Now I can talk and laugh with them, and it’s a great relationship.

“I participated in several training programs to the rural fish farmers. Prior to stocking season in the month of November; Ivisited all villages in the region to train them on pond fertilization and fingerlings collection, that is, when and how to fertilize the pond and to collect fingerlings respectively, ready for a new stocking period. Moreover, the farmers began to harvestmilkfish in the ponds from June 2021 and I had a chance to participate in this activity.”

Picture: harvesting of milkfish in Hugo group-Mtange, Lindi

Do you have a lot of responsibility?

Yes, my boss trusted me very quickly and gave me many tasks. In March, he told me “now you can do the field visits alone, you know enough”. The first few times I went alone, on bumpy roads, on a scooter and then on foot, I said to myself “God, please, let me find the village”. Beyond the field visits, I organize myself as I want, I manage my schedule and the course of my days. It is very enriching from a professional point of view.

An anecdote from the field?

When we go to visit the ponds, it is always in very muddy swampy areas. I remember one time, without really looking where I was sinking, I got stuck, with mud up to my knees. I had to shout to the two fishermen who were with me, already far ahead, to come and get me. Two of them came to get me out!