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Coastal Fisheries Initiative underway in West Africa

Photo: ©FAO
Small-scale fisheries community at work after the landing of the morning’s catch outside Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire
Photo: ©FAO
Fish drying activities in Dionewar, Senegal, where the FAO team travelled to visit proposed activities.
Photo: ©FAO/Catanzano
Women awaiting the morning’s catch in Cabo Verde.
Photo: ©FAO
FAO officers meeting with women’s fisherfolk associations in Cabo Verde to discuss the training priorities.

Overfishing, competing uses for coastal areas, promoting sustainable fisheries management, building strong fisherfolk associations, supporting women in fisheries, ensuring efficient fisheries value chains. These are common challenges facing coastal fisheries communities around the globe.

The GEF-funded Global Fisheries Initiative  is an ambitious programme with five projects – three of them regional and two global. The main objective of all projects is to strengthen coastal fisheries communities worldwide.

The regional projects include Latin America (Ecuador and Peru), Asia (Indonesia), and Africa (Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal). One of the important aspects of these projects is the knowledge and information sharing across the three regions, allowing coastal communities to learn from the experience of other fisheries communities – sometimes half a world away.

FAO manages the overall global project, and also leads on the West Africa project. In September, the West Africa Inception workshop was held – officially kicking off activities.

In December, representatives of the FAO Coastal Fisheries Initiative team visited project sites in Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal, alongside national fisheries administrations, to meet with stakeholders and assess current progress as the project begins to take shape.

On the archipelago nation of Cabo Verde, the team visited the capital of Praia, on Santiago island, and the city of Mindelo on São Vicente island. FAO has been working extensively with the government of Cabo Verde on its Blue Growth Charter (To learn more, see this short film).

The country’s Blue Growth Charter ensures that all activities are clearly linked to country-identified Blue Growth priorities. While in Mindelo, the team met with the Deputy Secretary of State for the Maritime Economy, to discuss progress on the Coastal Fisheries initiative and to ensure that activities are consistent with the country’s Blue Growth priorities.

The team also met with a local artisanal fisheries association in nearby São Pedro, to begin mapping country activities aimed at strengthening collective action and bolstering the professional capacity of fishers and fish sellers.

In many coastal West African countries – including Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal – smoked fish is extremely popular; smoked fish is less common in Cabo Verde. On the island nation, fish is generally sold fresh and these sales are often handled by women. At the port of Praia, the FAO team met with these women fish sellers and discussed their desire to strengthen their entrepreneurial skills in order to better market their products to the public institutions and the tourism industry, including hotels and restaurants that often import fish from abroad.

In Senegal, the team met with local and national government officials, artisanal fisheries communities, and post-harvest processing groups. In the country, organizational capacity of many of the associations is relatively high, but the women and post-harvest associations often experience problems gaining access to fish once landed. These groups spoke to the FAO team to explore possibilities for strengthening value chains that would provide them with a stronger flow of fish products in a sustainable manner.

The team also travelled south of Dakar to the Fatick region, voyaging along the Saloum River to visit potential project sites in Foundiougne, Diamniadio and Dionewar. Work is being done among the women’s groups working in these areas, improving fish drying methods, introducing safe fish-smoking ovens, improving hygienic methods, and generally strengthening small-scale fisheries communities). Logistics are extremely complicated in this region, with small fishing pirogues he main means of  transport between neighbouring towns and islands. The team experienced frequent breakdowns and delays, and spoke with villagers about the difficulties this situation creates for regional trade and markets.

“It is very difficult to gauge the time required to travel between the sites and islands,” according to Gunilla Tegelskar-Grieg, FAO West Africa Project Coordinator for the Coastal Fisheries Initiative. “During our voyage, even though we had representatives from the regional fisheries administration with us, weather conditions and other circumstances meant we had to cut the route short as darkness fell and were required to schedule an unplanned overnight stay.”

In Côte d’Ivoire, the team consulted with ministry officials and representatives of women’s fish-processing associations about supporting activities at the newly opened artisanal fisheries landing site at Locodjro. A shift from the old landing site, Abouboudoumé, is ongoing, and there are several concerns related to this, including women belonging to different cooperatives and a fear of losing traditional clients.

At Sassandra, the second country project site, joint FAO-UNEP activities are foreseen with local communities to promote the sustainable development of mangrove areas that would support targeted fisheries activities and reduce deforestation.

FAO’s Tegelskar-Grieg added, “Visiting Locodjro and Abouboudoumé provided us with valuable insights into the processes involved with upgrading working conditions and sanitary standards. We also met representatives of the Secretariat of the Abidjan Convention, which is hosted by UNEP, to discuss a joint mission to Sassandra. We want to ensure that we work in a coordinated and mutually reinforcing way in these communities that are part of very complex ecosystems.”

Although in the early stages, the three countries taking part in the West Africa project of the Coastal Fisheries Initiative present numerous activities to be developed as the project launches. We will be covering these activities to strengthen these coastal communities more closely in coming months, as activities get underway.

Photo: ©FAO/Kambou
Small-scale fishermen mending fishing nets outside of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
Photo: ©FAO/Catanzano
Small-scale fishing boats off on the coast of Sal, in Cabo Verde.
Photo: ©FAO/Kambou
Offloading the catch at the port in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
Photo: ©FAO/Kambou
Fisheries workers in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
Photo: ©FAO/Catanzano
Small-scale fishing boats in Cabo Verde.

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