MOREE, Ghana The small-scale fishing economy in this
community perched on a rocky headland overlooking the Atlantic is
as dynamic as any larger economic unit. Any missing link in the
production chain a shortage of fish or wood for the smoking
ovens, for example spurs villagers to brainstorm for a solution
and jump to fill the gap.
The following story recounts not only how the communitys lateral
thinking solved a particular problem, but how it acquired and worked
with both local and national allies, setting in motion the momentum
Boom or bust
On the happy days when full fishing boats land their cargo on the
beaches below Moree, the 60 fishmongers and processors in the womens
group gear up for business. They buy all the fish they can afford,
carry it up the hill in big tin bowls, gut and clean it, and lay
it on racks in the smoking ovens. Wood smoke swirls through the
communitys alleyways. The product is trucked to Accra, the
capital, two hours to the east by road, and elsewhere in Ghana.
Community life is difficult. The men do not always find fish. Women
sometimes must travel as far as Nigeria to buy fish to process and
sell. During the hungry season from January to May, there is little
money to buy food and some villagers get by on two meagre meals
a day. Or sometimes on water alone.
Birth of a brilliant idea
With firewood for the ovens becoming more and more expensive, the
womens group hit on the idea of starting their own woodlot.
They approached FAOs Sustainable Fisheries Livelihoods Programme,
which matched them up with local government fisheries officer, Yaw
Sabah, now a member of the Programmes National Coordinating
I thought it was a brilliant idea, but they didnt know
about planting and maintaining trees, says Mr Sabah. So
we brought in the necessary expertise.
As part of the Programme method, another National Coordinating Unit
member, Doris Yeboah, a trained government facilitator, arrived
to take them through the possibilities of what they could
do for themselves.
Attracting powerful partners
In order to bring about dynamic and sustainable economic development,
the Programme encourages community groups to form partnerships with
powerful interests for the duration of the project, and beyond.
Why not get the village chief involved? The local bank manager?
Government extension officers? They all have an interest in the
growth of the local economy. By working together, the groups
convinced the chief to release land for the woodlot quickly,
notes Emilia Amang, the Programmes national coordinator.
Microcredit is proving less successful in Moree. As of late 2002,
only 3 out of 20 borrowers had kept up their repayments, while 17
were 5 months in arrears. On the womens behalf, a local politician
is pushing the project to forgive the loans and start afresh. Fishing
was bad this year, the women say.
However, the women will soon have new sources of revenue. They have
planted cassava, pepper, maize, cowpea, plantain and mango between
their trees. The fast-growing acacias are now eight-metres high
and ready for cutting in 2003.
When ocean fishing is bad, we dream of finding a reliable
supply of fish, says Elisabeth Bentum, the groups financial
secretary. And we want a day-care centre for the children
for when we have to travel in search of fish. Most of our relatives
are also fishmongers, so we have nowhere to leave our children.
If we leave them with an elder child, then that child cant
go to school.
And the men of Moree? They are supportive and have helped with land
preparation and tree planting. But they have not proved as flexible
in their choice of livelihoods as their womenfolk.
Men prefer to stick to fishing, admits Nana Kodwo Mensa-Bonsu II,
Morees chief fisherman. Theyll go and fish elsewhere
rather than try something like farming.
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