The EU-funded programme for improved regional fisheries governance in West Africa (PESCAO) will help Nigeria in having easy access to international funds in the aquaculture sub-sector and enhancing regulation, an official has said.
The Team Lead of PESCAO, Mr Amadou Tall, spoke with newsmen during the Joint Fisheries Society of Nigeria (FISON) and PESCAO High Profile Conference of Stakeholders held on Monday in Lagos.
The conference focused on the set up of West Africa Non-State Actors for Fisheries and Aquaculture (WANSAFA) platform in Nigeria.
It had the theme: ‘Potentials of Non-State Actors in the Fisheries and Aquaculture Development in West Africa’.
Tall said: “Today’s conference is to set up a national Non-State Actors platform for Nigeria to make sure that they can have one voice and get access to opportunities offered by our programme and WANSAFA’’.
According to him, this is a unique platform to ECOWAS and can help to have work plan activities based on the needs of the region, which Nigeria can benefit from.
“Regulation challenges are not specific to Nigeria, it is the same all over the world. The thing is, the small scale fisheries sector in the developing countries do not have enough means; they are highly illiterate, they have a lot of difficulties, so we have to help them organise.
“But it is the bottom-to-top approach; we listen to them, discuss what we have as experiences and if they like what we give them, they take it. After all, WANSAFA is set up by fisher folks themselves.
“Now we are coming to different countries to make sure that they have a national platform, so, one single authority that will speak with the federal department of fisheries, ECOWAS in the different countries,” he said.
He said that money does not solve all problems, but the people should be organized and trained on rules and rights, to give the sector a formidable voice in the long term.
The President of FISON, Dr Lukman Agbabiaka, said that it was embarrassing that Nigeria was lacking in the area of regulations in the fisheries sub-sector, which made the conference apt at this time.
Agbabiaka said it was observed that sometimes, fisherman A would approach a particular body for a grant and fisherman B would approach the same body for the same grant.
“We have a lot of organisations, but unfortunately, these organisations do not know themselves, which is an embarrassment to Nigeria when it comes to applying for assistance.
“What somebody has been given grant for in Epe, somebody in that same Epe is asking for similar grant for; it is embarrassing.
“If for instance we have been meeting and rubbing minds together, if something has been given to Mr A, Mr B will know and not ask for the same thing from the same person.
“That is why we are thinking we should stay together and share common knowledge and agenda so that we will come up with a document.
“Usually, there are instruments that guide implementation. For instance, before you can do anything in West Africa, there are people who will determine the people than can have access to what,’’ he said.
Agbabiaka said there were also discussions on the gender factor in fisheries and aquaculture.
‘’Just like the meeting we had in Lome where that was talked about, I come from Nigeria and I know the challenges women face while smoking fish.
“There are many challenges women face in the riverine areas; women are vulnerable because of low capacity, especially funding.
“In such cases, we can fashion out an alternative source of livelihood, because it is not compulsory that every woman in the riverine area must go into fish trade.
“This has been one of our challenges. When I came on board, I saw the need and decided to galvanize our people; sometimes ago we had a consultative and sensitization programme and this is the outcome of that event,’’ he said.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Sabo Nanaso said that artisanal fishermen contributed over 90 per cent of the fish Nigerians consumed and they were highly unregulated.
Nanaso, represented by the Deputy Director of Fisheries, Mrs Bola Kupolati, said there was need to formalize a body that would assist government in the area of capacity building and financing artisanal fishermen.
“One of the reasons for this conference is to bring together non-state actors in the fisheries sub-sector for example we have the state actor and none state actor, who are the fisher folks, NGOs among others.
“The reason for this conference is for them to formalize this and assist in the area of capacity building, finance, networking, and when formalized, will assist government in ensuring that there are contributions for policy making in the fisheries sub-sector to regulate all sections of fisheries business’’, he said.
According to him, this will assist government to regulate the body of artisanal fishermen.