Matoso is a fishing village. Because of the way things work here, being involved in the fishing industry is very high risk. Not of drowning, or having fingers and limbs cut off, but of contracting HIV. I mean, maybe fishermen drown and lose fingers and other parts here like they do in the rest of the world, but here, they are also at very high risk of contracting HIV.


It didn’t make sense to me at first, and I confess I still don’t completely understand, but here is what has been explained to me. The fishermen go out in their boats and spread their nets, and pull them in to the beach in the morning.  Then they have fish to sell, and the fishmonger women come to buy them. It turns out, the women compete for the privilege of buying the fish, and the competition involves sex. So they won’t get to select from the best fish unless they are willing to have sex with the fisherman. Then, maybe he lets them buy fish from him. Anyone who is not in on the game gets only the tiniest or poorest fish, if anything.

So maybe the fisherman has a couple of “fish wives”, as well as one or more wives back tending the farm. And I suppose the fish-monger women may have to barter with more than one fisherman in any given week. Anyone making their living fishing here is in a very hand-to-mouth existence. There is not a lot of money in fishing with nets, in wooden boats that are not even watertight. I suspect there is even less margin in buying and selling fish in the market.  The desperation is evident, and the price is the high rate of infection in fishing communities.


4 thoughts on “Fishing in Lake Victoria: High Risk Occupation

  1. Amazing story, Stephanie. I wish I could send over some of the fish abundance the salmon fleet is enjoying in this part of Alaska this year.


  2. The things we take for granted, going to Safeway and being able to grab fish without pondering the possibility of having to sleep with someone to feed my family. One unfortunately common thread is that women the world over have resorted to offering up their bodies in the most desperate of situations to feed and protect their families. Thank you for being our window to this part of the world.

    Love and miss you!


    1. Oh, yeah! You would love it here, I am sure, but it is such a long journey to get all the way to this corner of the world. Enjoy your Safeways and please eat some ice cream for me. That is what I miss the most.
      love to all,


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