Liberia: Artisanal Fishers Welcome Japan and Liberia Fisheries Grant Agreement

Leadership of artisanal fishers at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs during the signing of the Japanese grant agreement.

The Japanese government has signed a fisheries grant with the Government of Liberia for the supply of 400 Yamaha outboard motors, a development that artisanal fishermen have hailed, citing great prospects for increasing their earning potential and for the nation's food security.

According to Emma Glassco, Director General of the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA), 2000 of 33,000 artisanal fishermen will directly enjoy the Japanese Government's gesture. During the Agreement signing, held on Monday, October 7, 2019 at the Foreign Ministry of Liberia, she disclosed that NaFAA will deliver the motors to fishermen that have registered licenses.

Commending the Japanese Government for the donation, Madam Glassco reaffirmed the Liberian government's "commitment that the donation of the 400 motorized Yamaha engines will be used for the improvement of artisanal fishermen's catch and subsequently phase out paddling canoes."

Stressing the artisanal (small-scale) fisheries sector's immense potential for growth and contribution to the national economy, she described fishing as "a vital social-economic activity for thousands of Liberians and fishing-related activities contribute to the livelihood of tens of thousands more."

According to Glassco, fishermen in the artisanal sector use underdeveloped fishing crafts that cannot allow them to fish long distances. The outboard motors, she said, will augment their fishing efforts and improve the catch level.

Madam Glassco emphasized that though faced with numerous problems, the small-scale fishery over time and as of now has remained the main producer of seafood products on the local market, and yet their livelihood remains unimproved.

According to NaFAA's 2018 annual report, artisanal fisheries across the eight coastal counties of Liberia caught a total of 13,201 tons of fish, valued nearly US$37.5 million. Of the total tonnage for that year, non motorized fishing vessels (Kru canoes) brought in 6,749 tons, while motorized canoes (Fanti) brought in 6451 tons.

With an average crew of 4 within the Kru fisheries, Glassco said, it is expected that over 2,000 fishermen will directly benefit from this donation, with at least 8,000 indirectly benefiting.

"Compared to migrant fishermen that export the proceeds of their sales, Liberian fishmongers will constantly have access to fish which will be sold on the local markets and the proceeds will be reinvested in the Liberia economy," Glassco said.

Liberia's Foreign Minister Findley, Japanese Ambassador Himeno and NaFAA Director-General Glassco at the grant signing ceremony on October 7, 2019.

The NaFAA Director-General also mentioned that her management will collaborate with CICA Motors, a local automobile dealership and authorized importer of Yamaha engines, to among other things provide specialized tools and spare parts to local mechanics at various landing sites. These, she said, will include the provision of Yamaha recommended engine oil (2-stroke) and ensure that local mechanics are trained by CICA Motors specialists.

Speaking earlier, the Japanese Ambassador accredited to Liberia, Tsutomu Himeno, stated that the Yamaha engines granted Liberia through the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority is his government's way of identifying with the Government and people of Liberia.

Ambassador Himeno said the people of Japan remained committed to the overall development of Liberia and the empowerment of Liberians.

Also speaking during the ceremony foreign Minister Gbezongar M. Findley commended the Japanese Government for entering into such an agreement, aimed at empowering local fishermen and enabling the local fish sellers to earn more money.

In response to the grant, leaders representing Liberia's artisanal fishermen told the Daily Observer that the Yamaha motors will increase artisanal fishermen's catch and increase fishmongers' income. Jerry Blamo, president of the Liberia Artisanal Fishermen Association (LAFA), said that the outboard motors will positively impact food security among fisheries communities.

"Our catch has been decreasing," Blamo explained, "and it is something that is not good for all of us; especially with food security. With the outboard motors, I am sure that we will have an increase in catch which will result in more local-caught fish on the market."

Majority of Liberian artisanal fisheries use these labor-intensive, paddle-operated canoes on the high seas on a daily basis.

P. Nyantee Sleh, the president of Core Management Association (CMA), a community monitoring group initiative of NaFAA, emphasizes how much more efficient and productive artisanal fishers could get, using the outboard motors.

"You know that our people have been using paddles, something that makes our work labor-intensive. Unlike the paddles, the outboard motors become more efficient by going far on sea," Sieh said.

Nonetheless, limited access to storage facilities across the country still pose a threat to fishing communities, resulting in serious post-harvest losses. In the absence of adequate storage, artisanal fisheries remain at the mercy of customers who bargain below fair price or the unsold fish risks going to waste.

In a related development, the Japanese government is reviewing separate a grant proposal from the Liberian Government, through NaFAA, for the construction of a Modernized Fishing Port/Landing Cluster, which includes processing facilities, dry docking, fresh fish market and marine store. If approved, the grant, valued at US$7.8 million, would be constructed in Fanti Town, Buchanan City, Grand Bassa County.

During Madam Glassco's recent visit to Tokyo, Japan with the President George Weah in July of this year, she noted that if the grant proposal is accepted, it will significantly reduce post-harvest losses, add value to fish product being harvested for sale on the domestic market and, in so doing, produce certified high valued fish products for export to International markets.

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