As part of efforts to further strengthen the fisheries sector in the country, the Government of Liberia (GoL) through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA) and the Government of Iceland on Friday, December 14, signed a grant agreement of US$3.1 million.
Finance Minister Samuel Tweah signed on behalf of the Government of Liberia, while Petur Skulason Waldorff, head of the delegation and Adviser-Regional Development Cooperation and Partnerships Directorate for International Development Cooperation, signed on behalf of his government.
Prior to signing the agreement, Minister Tweah conveyed on behalf of President George Weah profound gratitude to Iceland and support to NaFAA and to Liberia.
This grant support, according to Minister Tweah, will go a long way in helping to develop the fisheries sector. "I think this a good way in strengthening a good relationship between the two countries."
He told the Iceland delegation that Liberia is at a point where she is working to improve the living condition of her people and the country at large.
"We just launched our development plan and the major priority in that plan concerns agriculture and fishery because the agriculture space is where the majority of our people work.
"More than 70% of the labor force is in agriculture, smallholders and some of the big fish reserved in the region. But the challenge is that the sector is underdeveloped," said Minister Tweah.
He further said that in the last 12 years, there was no progress made in that sector and President Weah really wants to transform the fishery sector.
Also speaking, the Director General of the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA), Emma Metieh Glassco, said the grant will support the sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources for development, in line with goal 14 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
She mentioned that the grant is aimed at directly supporting the government's Pro-Poor Agenda, with specific emphasis on fishing communities in Grand Cape Mount, Montserrado and Grand Bassa counties.
Mrs. Glassco further explained that the grant will also finance the establishment of the first internationally standardized, competent laboratory for certification of fish products in the country, as well as cold food, with the aim of revenue generation.
The lab, she said, "Will enable certification of Liberia's fish products for export to the US, EU, Asia, and other regional markets."
Currently, Liberia is exporting over 200 metric tons of fishery products annually, but these products cannot access markets in the USA and the EU. Therefore, with the establishment of the Lab, she noted, more than 100% annual export increment is expected.
Glassco indicated that the project will provide micro-credit program for fishing men and fish processors or fish sellers in Montserrado, Grand Bassa and Cape Mount counties. And at the same time, she continued, it will introduce improved fish processing and preservation technology, such as modernized fish oven to reduce post-harvest loss.
Glassco pointed out that the grant will benefit 7,500 fishmongers (fish processors or fish sellers) by funding a modern fish smoke-oven which will improve the current traditional process in drying fish, which has both health and environmental challenges.
According to her, the fund will support the program for improved fishing gears for the fishermen, benefiting 5,104 fishermen, will further support programs to improve the water sanitation and hygiene condition in the fishing communities of three targeted counties, and will spread to other coastal counties.
She added that the grant will provide a clean and healthy environment for these communities by constructing latrines and hand pumps. "This will impact the lives of over 5,104 fishermen and their families as well as over 7, 500 fishmongers," she said.
She assured that the Icelandic government's grant will improve the capacity training in fishery science and fishery management, as well as ensure that better and healthier quality of fish is produced from the new technology.
Agriculture Minister Dr. Mogana S. Flomo, Jr., expressed gratitude to the Icelandic government for the grant.
He told the Icelandic delegation that their intervention at this time was very important and timely because it has to do with supporting a government pro-poor agenda that looks at lifting poor Liberians out of poverty and improving the quality of life.
Dr. Flomo, who is also chairman on Board of NaFAA, then assured the Icelandic delegation that the government through NaFAA will make maximum use of the funds that are given to it.
"We are aware that fish from Liberia has not been looked at as something that has value; we have not had a laboratory to be able to test and know the quality of fish we have.
"So, now we are sure that from this project we are going to be able to test what we have here and then we can be assured that we have certified fish that can meet the standard of the international market."
The head of the delegation from Iceland, Waldorff, said with the signing of the grant, they are very proud to support President Weah's agenda.
He said the Icelandic government has identified a specific area that they intend to partner with the Liberian government through NaFAA, which Mr. Waldorff said will be very promising to the two countries.
Mr. Waldorff said with the construction and installing of the equipment, they are willing to train laboratory technicians and are hoping to dedicate the laboratory in 2019.
David A. Yates