Pointing to what was once a vibrant and lucrative Mesurado fishing Pier, near the Coast Guard Base at the Freeport of Monrovia Wednesday, Yevewuo Subah, the coordinator of the World Bank project looking to revamp the fisheries sector in Liberia, foresees a rebirth for fishing where Liberia could become a beehive for fishing activities, not just domestic but for the West African sub-region.
In a post-war, transitioning democratic nation short on cash and an economy in a freefall with prices of traditional resources like iron ore, rubber, gold and diamond, this could mean good news in the long term.
The industry has always been around.
As far back as 1848 when Liberia made its first attempt at commercial fishing, then President Joseph Jenkins Roberts, converted his yacht into a fishing boat.
The first fishing trawler to operate in Liberian coastal waters belonged to Woerman, a German company that operated in the country between 1938 and 1939.
During those days, fishing was a daily activity with the trawlers returning to port at the end of each fishing day and catches were sold immediately to avoid post-harvest losses because of lack of means for preservation of fresh fish. Considering the success of the Woerman Company and the realization of the potential important role of fisheries in national socio-economic development, the Government of Liberia, in 1952, requested the assistance of FAO and the United States Government to help develop its fisheries subsector.
Experts were sent from FAO and the United States of America to assess the fisheries potential of the country. As a result of months of exploratory fishing, it was established that a medium striving fishing industry could be established in the country.
World Bank EU Keen on Resurrection Play
Mrs. Emma Metieh Glassco, Director of the National Fisheries & Aquaculture Authority(NaFAA) explains that a US$40 million World Bank project should address a number of issues holding the sector from taking off in Liberia. “The World Bank is allotting at least 40M towards revamping the Fisheries sector which seems to be a short-, medium and long-term domestic revenue source for a contribution towards the national budget. It tends to focus on the expansion and rehabilitation of Mesurado fishing pier into a modern fishing port and the establishment of landing jetties in fishing communities. The Mesurado fishing port/pier when industrialized could be the engine for national growth.”
Many years later, NaFAA is hoping for a return to the days when the sector was at its peak.
Through the World Bank and the European Union, Subah says efforts are being made to restore the pier so that industrial and semi industrial vessel can resume landing to what we foresee to be an industrial fishing market. “It will provide an opportunity for those who want to go into processing a and give fishermen access to good quality fish and encourage local fishermen to process fish for market. As you know, fresh fish is more valuable than frozen fish.”
For months now, the National Fisheries & Aquaculture Authority(NaFAA) has been in discussions with the World Bank for a fisheries project valued at US$21 million. Phase two of that project dubbed, the West Africa Regional Fisheries Project (WARFP) came to an end as a result of the pause on regional project by the bank in December 2018. It has now been increased to US$40 million subsequent to the agreement in July 2019 to continue with as a National Project.
The project titled Sustainable Management of the Fisheries Project aims to sustain the gains of the WARFP in Liberia and develop National capacity to improve the value added and increase the economic contribution to the fisheries sectors and the restoration of key infrastructure to enhance the sector contribution to the economy.
The new World Bank National Fisheries Project will focus on the rehabilitation and expansion of the Mesurado Fishing Pier to a state-of-the-art Modern Fishing port with onshore processing facilities for value addition, it will also prioritize the establishment of landing jetties targeted in five coastal counties with densely populated fishing communities such as Montserrado, Grand Bassa County etc, in an effort to reduce to huge Post Harvest loss and supply the domestic market with high quality of fish products which has a fish demand deficit of 33, 000metric tons
Liberia has the longest coastline in West Africa and the government is hoping to improve food security and ensure the livelihoods of the country’s 33,000 fisherfolk.
With infrastructure development in the fisheries sector, Liberia will be in a strong position to compete with its next-door neighbor, and gravitate from a regime of only issuance of License for wild marine fisheries to a fully industrialize and commercialized fishing industry which includes huge exports proceeds, signing of fish access agreement through bilateral arrangements such as EU-Liberia or Senegal-Liberia as well as with Private Tuna fishing industry.
To date, Liberia has no site for industrial fishing vessels to unload. This is where the proposed rehabilitation and reclamation of parts of the pier will provide, a jetty for industrial fishing vessels to land and offload and/or transship fish, and (ii) product storage and transport facilities. Mesurado Pier was the site of one of the largest fish export operations in Africa during the 1960s and 1970s, but has fallen into disrepair since the conflict. This rehabilitation would provide the country with a key entry point for fish processing and products.
Abandoned Vessels vs. Illegal Fishing
Abandoned vessels like the CUQE is one of many docked for Illegal fishing which has been a huge problem in West Africa with some seven million people living along the coast and the sea is their livelihood. Industrial fishing fleets from Europe and China and are ravaging coastal fish stocks. The Liberian government has been working with Sea Shepherd for two years to try and stop illegal fishing
Director General Emma Metieh Glassco explains that the World Bank project should address a number of issues holding the sector from taking off in Liberia.
“The World Bank is allotting at least 40M towards revamping the Fisheries sector which is seems to be a short-, medium and long-term domestic revenue source for contribution towards the national budget. It tends to focus on the expansion and rehabilitation of Mesurado fishing pier into a modern fishing port and the establishment of landing jetties in fishing communities. The Mesurado fishing port/pier when industrialized could be the engine for national growth.”
In early, February,2019 Liberia signed a partnership agreement with the Icelandic government for the purpose of establishing and equipping national fisheries competent laboratory to meet up with international standards for the certification and testing of fish product both for imports and exports. It will also include smoke ovens in local fishing communities. Through the setting of the Competent Laboratory, Liberia is expected to gain accreditation from the EU, USA, Japan and other international markets for direct export of fish. Presently, Glassco says, all fish products are tested and certified through second-member states within the sub-region, for example, Ghana.
Portions of the Mesurado Pier is still rundown but not for long. In a few days, the World Bank is expected to put pen to paper on the deal that should get the revamp project underway.
But even amid the expectations, the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority is struggling to rid the area of abandoned vessels still docking at the pier, many of them yet to pay fines for illegal fishing.
Glassco says efforts are underway to remove abandoned vessels from the Mesurado Pier. The process which started mid last year is forcing all vessels owners and agents to apply efforts to remove the vessels including those that went through court proceeding including F/V Nine Star which is being scrapped. The F/V Eros, another abandoned vessel has committed itself to the final payment of financial obligation while agents for the F/V Seiro-1 vessel have promised to get it removed on or before January 31, 2020. F/V Global 8, another vessel has been refurbished for fishing operations as well as F/V Benty-1 which is to be turned over to the Agent for possession.
Besides these five vessels, Glassco says, all others are submerged wrecks which can only be removed under different arrangements.
Illegal fishing has been a huge problem in West Africa with some seven million people living along the coast and the sea is their livelihood. Industrial fishing fleets from Europe and China and are ravaging coastal fish stocks. The Liberian government has been working with Sea Shepherd for two years to try and stop illegal fishing.
Partnering with Sea Shepherd, Liberian Coast Guard sailors and Marine Fisheries inspectors have been working to stop illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in their territorial waters.
This has enhanced Liberia’s reputation as a regional leader in the fight against illegal fishing. Since the start of this co-operation between Sea Shepherd and the Coast Guard, fifteen fishing vessels have been held for illegal fishing and other fisheries crimes; only three arrests were made in the seven years prior to this partnership.
“The World Bank is allotting at least 40M towards revamping the Fisheries sector which is seems to be a short-, medium and long-term domestic revenue source for contribution towards the national budget. It tends to focus on the expansion and rehabilitation of Mesurado fishing pier into a modern fishing port and the establishment of landing jetties in fishing communities. The Mesurado fishing port/pier when industrialized could be the engine for national growth.”– Emma Metieh Glassco, Director-General, National Fisheries and Aquaculutre Authority
The U.N. envoy for West Africa and the Sahel says the region has experienced “a devastating surge in terrorist attacks against civilian and military targets” in recent months.
Mohamed Ibn Chambas told the U.N. Security Council Wednesday that the “unprecedented terrorist violence” has shaken public confidence.
He said terrorist attacks have increased five-fold in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger since 2016 with over 4,000 deaths reported in 2019 compared to an estimated 770 deaths in 2016. In Burkina Faso, deaths rose even more dramatically from about 80 in 2016 to over 1,800 in 2019, he said.
“Most significantly, the geographic focus of terrorist attacks has shifted eastwards from Mali to Burkina Faso and is increasingly threatening West African coastal states,” Chambas said.
The U.N. envoy said terrorist attacks are often “deliberate efforts by violent extremists to capture weapons and trafficking routes” and engage in illicit activities including illegal mining that sustain their operations.
He said governments, local “actors,” regional organizations and the international community are mobilizing to respond to terrorism and violent extremism across West Africa and the Sahel.
Chambas urged leaders in the region to follow through on pledges to tackle terrorism, saying now “is the time for action.”
In a report to the Security Council in late July, U.N. experts said “the most striking international developments” during the first six months of 2019 included “the growing ambition and reach of terrorist groups in the Sahel and West Africa” where fighters from Islamic State and al-Qaida are collaborating to undermine fragile countries.
The experts, who monitor U.N. sanctions against both extremist groups, said: “The number of regional states threatened with contagion from insurgencies in the Sahel and Nigeria has increased.”
They said: “A sharp rise in violence and recruitment efforts in West Africa, motivated by Islamic State or al-Qaida affiliates, has been exacerbated “by porous borders and authorities ill-equipped to confront the growing threat.”
Chambas said terrorism is also often intertwined with organized crime and violence among competing groups.
With close to 70 percent of West Africa’s population dependent on agriculture and livestock-rearing, he said, clashes between farmers and herders “remain some of the most violent local conflicts in the region.”
“Climate change, among other multiple factors, is increasingly exacerbating farmer-herder conflicts,” Chambas said. “The impact of climate change on security also spawns a negative relationship between climate change, social cohesion, irregular migration and criminality in some places.”
The U.N. envoy stressed that “stakes are high in the region this year, both in terms of security and political developments.” In the months ahead, he said, six West African countries will choose leaders in democratic contests.
Source: Associated Press
Ghana has gold, diamonds, bauxite, manganese, salt, limestone, granite and oil. Its mining and quarrying sector contributes significantly to its economy. It is the second-largest gold producer in Africa after South Africa and the tenth-largest producer in the world.
But mining communities in Ghana are generally poor. Mining imposes socio-economic costs on host communities through land acquisitions, environmental degradation, pollution and a high cost of living. Although the host communities are entitled to different types of compensation and mineral royalty transfers, they are still among the poorest communities in the country. One important reason is the local authorities’ capture of mineral royalties transferred back to the mining areas.
In 1993 the government of Ghana established the Minerals Development Fund to, among other things, fund and implement development projects in communities affected by mining. The aim was also to transfer mineral royalties to local authorities. In Ghana, mining companies must pay up to 5% of their total revenues as royalties to the state, and of that, the government transfers 20% to the Minerals Development Fund.
The fund was to keep half of what it received to fund research and development in the mining sector and to transfer the remaining to the Office of the Administrator of Stool Lands. This office is a national institution mandated by Ghana’s Constitution and the Stool Lands Act to collect and distribute customary land revenues. The office was to retain 10% of what it received and transfer 20% of what remained to paramount chiefs, 25% to traditional councils and 55% to the district assemblies of the mining company’s operation area. The local authorities were supposed to use the mineral royalties to develop mining communities.
Despite the establishment of the Minerals Development Fund, mining communities remained saddled with social, economic and ecological challenges. This was partly because transferred royalties were captured by local elites. And there were issues around prompt payments to the fund, its legal status and its mandate.
To address these issues, and to establish a mining community development scheme, a new law, the Minerals Development Fund Act was passed three years ago. The scheme is to receive 20% of the fund’s share (which equals 4% of the total royalties paid by the mining companies to the state, or 0.2% of the mining companies’ total revenue). The scheme is to facilitate development in mining-affected communities. In each mining community, a local management committee is to administer the scheme.
Despite its potential, the act has not been able to address the multiple challenges of mining communities. The reasons for this are myriad. But enough time has passed for the weaknesses in the system to be identified. It’s time the government took steps to fix these once and for all.
There are five reasons why the act will not drive rapid development in mining communities.
First, it does not stipulate how the share going to paramount chiefs and district assemblies should be spent. This means that the act has not been able to minimise misappropriation of mineral royalties at the local level.
Second, the way the local management committee members are selected disenfranchises local people in the mining communities as people are not allowed to elect their own representatives. This can lead to privileged people being appointed to the committees. It can mean that the voices of the community members are not heard when the committees decide how royalties are spent.
Third, the act fails to sufficiently increase the total amount of mineral royalties assigned to the development of mining communities. Even with the new scheme, the royalty transfers to develop mining communities are woefully inadequate. According to the Ghana Chamber of Mines, mining communities would need to get at least 30% of total mineral royalties to address the challenges related to mining and ensure development.
Fourth, the act has no provisions to force the government to transfer mineral royalties in a timely way to the fund. Unsurprisingly, there are still delays in the payment of mineral royalties.
Finally, the act doesn’t ensure transparency beyond publishing the amount of disbursements and spending of mineral royalties by the fund in a national newspaper. There is no information available for citizens to know how much their communities should receive through mineral royalty transfers and the new scheme, or how these revenues are spent in their area. It’s therefore almost impossible to ensure accountability in how the money is spent.
The way forward
To address these challenges and ensure rapid development in host communities, the act should be amended in the following ways:
The mining community development scheme should be assigned at least 20% of the total mineral royalties.
Local people should be mandated to elect members to the local committees.
It should be clear what local authorities can spend mineral royalties on.
The Ghana Revenue Authority should be mandated to disburse mineral royalties directly to the fund.
Information on how much the fund, the office of stool lands and local authorities receive in mineral royalties, and how they spent them, should be made publicly available.
If these recommendations were considered, they would promote participatory development and accountability in mining communities as local people would have a greater say in how mineral royalty transfers were spent in their area.
In addition, there would be more funds to promote alternative livelihoods and sustainable development, address environmental degradation and provide social amenities in mining communities.
This paper was co-authored by John Narh of the Department of Geography, Norwegian University of Science and Technology Trondheim, Norway.