March 4, 2015 By Mohamed Massaquoi
The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) last Friday (27 February) signed a US$342,000 Sustainable Aquaculture for Food Security, Livelihood and Nutrition project at the Youyi building in Freetown.
The project, which is one of FAO’s Technical Cooperation Programmes (TCPs), will establish 30 to 50 hectares of fishponds in non-coastal communities of Bo, Kenema, Tonkolili and Kono districts in a bid to equipping rural communities with relevant and adequate knowledge and skills to establish and manage fishponds.
It intends to contribute to the creation of livelihood opportunities that have the tendency to generate income and ensure temporary and permanent jobs for women and youths within the project areas.
While officially signing the project, FAO Representative Dr. Gabriel Rugalema said the project is part of the post-Ebola recovery programme, given the prevailing challenges that Sierra Leone is currently faced with.
He emphasised the need to revive the aquaculture industry, noting that it has the potential to contribute positively to a country’s foreign exchange and the diversification of livelihood of farmers, plus overall poverty reduction.
“With good fish farming people cannot just rely on fish as a source of protein, but also as a source of income generation,” he stated.
Dr. Rugalema encouraged relevant stakeholders to ensure the successful implementation of the project because of its strategic importance, and to inspire the swift intervention of other partners.
In his remarks, Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Charles Rogers, expressed gratitude to FAO for the project and noted that, “It is not the magnitude of the money involved, but it is the importance of the activity to the country”.
Mr. Rogers maintained that an improved aquaculture industry could greatly contribute to the country’s attainment of food security, which is at the heart of the government’s Agenda for Prosperity.
He explained that aquaculture is crucial to the country’s GDP as it provides employment for about five thousand people nationwide, although the industry had envisaged global challenge due to exploitation and other illegal activities.
Majority of Sierra Leoneans depend on fish as a source of protein and the demand for fish has multiplied because of the ban on eating bush meat as a result of the outbreak of the Ebola virus disease.
The project is intended to improve aquaculture by providing assistance to smallholder farmers in communities and group fish farmers through empowerment and capacity building, strengthening of extension services for fish farming and pilot production of local fish feed.
The Sustainable Aquaculture for Food Security, Livelihood and Nutrition project is expected to commence soon as it is projected to end in 2017.