October 25, 2021
By Alhaji Haruna Sani
Fishermen at Tombo Community have raised serious concern over the absence of a cooling store to preserve fish, thus making their daily catch perish within a short period of time.
The community, which is predominantly occupied by fishermen and situated at the fringe of Western Area Rural of the country, also complained about complete absence of electricity since time in memorial, coupled with the awful condition of their wharf, which they say is very much devastating to their trade.
“Many a time my fish get perished due to the absence of cool store facility in the community. We have to travel to Waterloo and most time to Freetown to buy ice blocks at expensive rates, and it only preserves our fish for a short time. No government has ever thought of providing us with electricity let alone provides cool store, even though we immensely contribute to fishing market in the country,” Augustine Kanu, a fisherman lamented.
Kanu also complained about the rising cost of their equipment including boats, seine, power horse machines and petroleum products.
He said prices of those equipment have quadruple within the last four to five years and that owning a fishing boat will cost one a whooping sum of over Le 200,000,000 (Two Hundred Million Leones)
The livelihood of the people of Tombo community is predominantly dependent on the fishing they do. Evident of that showed in May last year when Covid-19 restrictions were placed on fishermen, permitting 10-15 out of the more than 400 fishing boats to sail the shore for fishing at a time.
The measure aimed at reducing the gatherings of crowds at the landing site when the canoes will return, but the fishermen reacted adversely, rejecting the order thus leading to a serious protest leaving the Community Health Centre, Police Station and Radio Station vandalized and some youths wounded, killed and some arrested.
Tombo Wharf (pepper wharf), besides fishing, also served as a gateway to Freetown especially from the Shenge in the Moyamba District. Goods and human are frequently transported from Shenge via Tombo to Freetown.
Abdul Kamara, another fisherman said despite hosting the biggest fishing harbour in the country, Tombo community is completely neglected. The community, he said still dwells in perpetual darkness. He also cried about the absence of cool room of which they are in dire need of.
Kamara stated that few months back, they were seriously challenged with wash facility until the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Ireland, in collaboration with UNICEF and the Ministry of Fisheries built some toilets and water tanks which provide them enough water supply.
Kamara maintained that some years back fishermen used to catch fish few meters from the shore, but that now they have to sail miles before they catch. He said due to lack of cool store at Tombo, quite a number of his colleagues take their fish to Conakry for sale.
The Harbour masters are responsible for regulating the activities of fishermen at Tombo wharf. They usually take a manifest of each boat that depart the wharf for fishing and also settle dispute between and among fishermen, and they also ensure their safety.
Abdul Turay is the deputy master harbour at the Tombo Wharf.He complained about the absence of cool store, the debilitating condition of the wharf and the absence of electricity in the township.
Turay said whoever fixes those problems would have the full support of the Tombo people despite the organization or political party they belong to.
He pleaded to the Government and of Sierra Leone and other Non-Governmental Organisations to come to the aid of Tombo People, if not for any reason, but for the important role of the fishing sector in the market.