The Government of Liberia through the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA) and Conservation International (CI) have signed a 2 million United States Dollars grant management agreement to enhance women’s participation in fisheries under the World Bank financed Liberia Sustainable Management of Fisheries Project.
Speaking at the ceremony held at NaFAA corporate headquarters on Bushrod Island Freeport Tuesday June 20, 2023, Director General Glassco said the project seeks to engage and support dialogue with financial institutions to target women entrepreneurs as a viable market and enhance their financial products offering through hands-on financial literacy, and business management training for women-owned small and medium enterprises.
Madam Glassco said the grant intends to empower women to develop their businesses progressively from macro-businesses to micro-businesses which would include adopting climate-smart interventions, educating other women-owned enterprises, and ultimately earning positions as small- and medium-scale enterprises with proven credit absorptive capacities when they would be linked with the formal financial market.
She continued: “The project will support the following specific activities: a) use matching grants as the main financing instrument for productive investment subprojects considering the capacity constraints of financial institutions and experience with credit lines in Liberia (for example, other bank-financed projects in Liberia such as STAR-P), best practices will be applied in managing the matching grant fund, including a staged selection process adhering to strict conditions and criteria, an independent investment committee, and use of a professional fund manager to manage operations”.
The funding is part of World Bank’s US$40 million loan and grant to the Liberian government for the improvement of the fisheries industry. Represented at the signing ceremony was Mr. Fisseha Tessema Abissa, World Bank Task Team leader for Fisheries and Forestry Projects.
In a brief statement, Mr. Abissa expressed optimism the project will help Liberia transitioned from semi-industrial fishing to industrial fishing, but said this was impossible without the involvement of women.
“Today is a major milestone in the Liberian fisheries project which is financed by the World Bank. This is how Liberia can grow from artisanal fishing to Liberia owned semi-industrialized fishing. Women are the most important and keeper of the sector. If we are to transition from semi-industrial to industrialization of the sector, we have to involve women. This project is all about women empowerment”.
Earlier, Conservation International Senior Vice President for Africa, Madam Suzanne Ngo-Eyok, said giving women the opportunity to invest and benefit from the fisheries sector was one effort geared towards sustainably managing the sector due to their importance.
“Everybody knows women are custodians of tradition and also livelihoods, and giving them the opportunity to invest in the sector and be professional was important”.
The scheme would, therefore, have an in-built mechanism to give a series of graduated loans and non-financial services to recipients who would prove to be creditworthy and have climate mitigating action in their proposals as an incentive. The activities to be financed out of the matching grant facility will include construction of improved smoke ovens and thereby reducing the use of wood as energy source and the negative health effects on women , use of low energy or solar powered freezers/cooler for fish storage, assisting in the formulation of climate-resilient business improvements, support to alternative livelihood activities (other businesses in the fishing community), and establishment of new businesses by women in fishing communities making women an integral part in dialogues and also in the decision making process and nominating women to take a lead role; and support capacity development for women and in women entrepreneurship. It will comprise training and demonstration in adopting Climate Smart practices, including using energy-efficient equipment and solar-powered chill storage in better product handling, especially in fish smoking and drying technology as well as packaging to enhance shelf life with solar powered cold storage. It will also support trainings in business development, including financial management (FM) and other capacity-development activities that could enhance the leadership skills of women in the fishery sector. In particular, the project is aiming to narrow gender gaps in women’s access to finance, vocational training and skills, income-earning opportunities and agency for women entrepreneurs in the targeted coastal communities.