Along the Pacific coast of Colombia, cultural traditions and ancestral knowledge play a key role in the transformation of local foods, such as fish caught from small-scale capture fisheries.
In Buenaventura, women of African descent walk through the streets with a platter, locally known as "platón", on their heads selling fish, seafood and other fish products from the Pacific Ocean. Fabiola García Panameño is one of the 11 women who make-up a group of entrepreneurs, called "platoneras". The platoneras contribute to the local community’s food security and socio-economic development by sourcing and selling traditional seafood products such as fresh dogfish, shrimp and shellfish.
Fifty years ago, when Fabiola settled in Buenaventura, she mainly sold food and second-hand clothes. In a one-parent household with seven children to raise, this income was not enough to meet the needs of her family.
Seeking to improve her income and quality of life, she decided to start selling fish and seafood. As a platonera, her day starts early, at 4.00 am, where she sources and purchases fish in Pueblo Nuevo. Later, she heads to Bolívar to sell the product, and by 1.00 pm she goes home.
The Platonera initiative has progressed with the support of the Sustainable Management of Bycatch in Latin America and Caribbean Trawl Fisheries (REBYC-II LAC) project, financed by the Food and Agriculture Organization and developed by the Colombian Marine and Coastal Research Institute. It provides training for the processing and marketing of fish products, a dignified workplace in Buenaventura society, and a sense of recognition and support. The platoneras were also able to form a federation, giving them access to a wider range of employment opportunities and social protection programmes.
Fabiola has been working in this sector for 25 years and, for her, being a platonera means she can earn a prosperous livelihood and provide enough nutritious food for her family.