Feature by Paul K.YanKey
Takoradi, Nov. 26, GNA – That, the fish stock in Ghana's marine waters is increasingly depleting is something nobody can simply wish away.
It is a reality we need to deal with this should be done sooner and cannot wait.
The declining fish stock has come about mainly because of unacceptable fishing practices and illegal activities by some fishers and unauthorized fishing vessels.
This has impoverished – made life uncomfortable for people fishing communities and also scaled down the fisheries sector’s contribution to Ghana's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
All this is however about to substantially change with the launch of the “Far Ban Bo” (Protecting Fisheries Livelihoods) project.
This is a four-year project spearheaded by a consortium of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) - Care International, Friends of the Nation and OXFAM and funded by the European Union (EU).
It has designed pragmatic measures to sanitize the fisheries sector, aid all actors to do the right things to sustain the sector.
The move is in recognition of the pivotal role the sector plays in the nation’s economic development - employment, livelihood support, poverty reduction, food security, bringing in foreign exchange and sustainability of resources.
The project aims at using participatory approach to combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in Ghana. It is uniting the efforts of all stakeholders - NGOs, the EU, fishers, fish mongers, traditional rulers, fisheries enforcement units, the Fisheries Commission and the mass media.
The “Far Ban Bo” group has also introduced the Village Saving and Loan (VSLA) scheme to serve as alternative source of livelihood for fisher folks.
Madam Ellen Sedziafa, Project Officer of Care International, says the VSLA is a community-managed savings and credit scheme to support livelihoods of small-holder fishers – providing them access to loans based on their savings.
As part of the EU's unswerving commitment towards assisting to end all forms of illegalities in Ghana's fishing industry, to give fishing activities a major boost, a-four-man delegation from the EU recently paid a-three-day verification visit to the Western and Central Regions.
Led by Mr.Roberto Schiliro, Head of Sector Infrastructure and Sustainable Development of the EU, they received first hand information about what the consortium has been doing to sensitize the fishing communities to ensure sustainable fishing.
At the Takoradi office where the consortium hosted the delegation, the Project Coordinator of Care International, Mr.Kwame Mensah, said they were empowering small-holder fishery associations to take active part in fisheries governance, thereby improving livelihoods and nutritional status of fishers and users of fishery resources.
He announced plans to hold a dialogue session to look at the transparency component of their task - how much subsidy had been spent, the number of offenders arrested and transparency in the fishing sector.
The Programmes Manager of Friends of the Nation, Mr Kojo Kyei Yamoah touched on securing land tenure rights, support mapping, demarcation and documentation of fish landing sites in fishing communities.
That, he added, had become mandatory to safeguard these lands, to make sure that they were not used for any other purspose, other than fishing activities.
The delegation interacted with fisherfolks at the Albert Bosumtwi- Sam fishing harbour in Sekondi and later moved to Dixcove for a durbar with the stakeholders in the fishing industry.
What became clear during the visit by the delegation was the eagerness both on the part the traditional authorities, the Anomabo Municipal Assembly and the fishing communities to unite behind the consortium to deliver the expected outcomes of the “Far Ban Bo” Project.
It certainly represents hope - the way forward for sustainable livelihoods for the people in the fishing communities.