Gambia-Senegal sustainable fisheries project launched
Thursday, August 20, 2009
The Gambia-Senegal sustainable fisheries project called "Ba Nafaa" supported by the American government through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), West Africa Regional Program, was last Tuesday launched at the Kairaba Beach Hotel.
A five-year regional initiative,'Ba Nafaa' is a Mandinka word, which literally means marine benefits. The project will be implemented through the University of Rhode Island with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) -West Africa Marine Eco-Regional program as the regional implementing partner.
Officially launching the project, Momodou Kotu Cham, the minister of Forestry and the Environment on behalf of the minsiter of Fisheries, Water Resources and National Assembly Matters, reiterated The Gambia government's concern and commitment to addressing issues that may affect the continued availability of the country's fisheries resources. He said the over exploitation of resources, illegal fishing, destructive and unsustainable fishing methods as well as degradation of habitats and the ecosystem, which used to militate against sustainable management of fisheries resources will be addressed.
According to Minister Cham, the fisheries sector has the potential to make significant contribution to the economic and social development of The Gambia in terms of food security and improved nutritional standards, employment generation as well as poverty reduction and foreign exchange earnings. While the sector presently contributes up to 4% of Gambia's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and provides direct and indirect employment for an estimated 200,000 people, Minister Cham expressed optimism that the project will be another major step in complementing efforts to achieve sustainable fisheries management and development for increased national socio-economic benefits.
However, he was quick to add: "This level of contribution to national socio-economic development can be increased significantly if the sector is managed and developed in a sustainable manner". He further informed the gathering that the government of The Gambia attaches high priority to the conservation and sustainable management and utilization of the fisheries resources. He then underscored the need to prioritise the social and capacity building components of the project during implementation so as to enable stakeholders to effectively contribute to poverty reduction.
Minister Cham then used the platform to express Gambia government's appreciation to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for supporting the project and assured them of his government's relentless commitment to the sustainability and management of the project. For his part, Barry Wells, the ambassador of the United States of America in The Gambia, said it is remarkable to see USAID transforming many Gambian communities. According to him, the USAID is committed to the development of projects in The Gambia, noting that The Gambia-Senegal sustainable fisheries project will immensely contribute to the harmonisation of the two countriesl' fisheries sectors and help to conserve their marine bio diversification.
The US diplomat told the gathering that the project would also improve lives of thousands of people, with its main focus on the artisanal fisheries sub-sector. "We therefore wholeheartedly rely on this project as it will undoubtedly improve the lives of many people," he said. Brian Crawford, the director of International Programs, Coastal Resources Center at the University of Rhode Island, said putting in place measures for sustaining the benefits of the fisheries resources is a key priority. If effective governance arrangements are not put in place, he observed, the bounty that can be harvested from the sea particularly the River Gambia, would be placed at risk, with the consequences of declining food supply and income for fishermen and mongers as well as exporters.
According to Crawford, it is the intention of the project to work with the government and other stakeholders to prevent over-fishing scenario and to ensure that current benefits can be sustained for the present and future generations. The project, he added, would also coordinate with a related initiative being implemented in Senegal, which was also supported by USAID called "Wula Nafaa" (also meaning in the Mandinka language- benefits of the forest).
He then expressed hope that as the project progresses, The Gambia can be highlighted as an example and leader in effective fisheries management within the region. Dr Ibrahima Niamadio of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), West Africa Regional program based in Dakar, said "Ba Naffa' in The Gambia and "Wula Nafaa" in Senegal are two major projects that are actively collaborating with USAID in the management and sustainability of marine and forest resources. Niamadio expressed hope that the partnership between the two projects and the USAID will yield more benefits.
Author: by Amadou Jallow