A common refrain among politicians as this year’s general elections beckons is, “our fishing communities need better support, else….”. Common complaints and concerns of fishers which politicians play politics with include, increased poverty which makes it difficult for parents to pay fees for their school going kids, irregular supply of pre-mix fuel, activities of pair-trawlers, unsafe landing beaches and a general increase in the cost of fishing gear and other inputs. The challenges of fisher folks are getting space in the rhetoric of politicians once again as the November, 206 elections draw close.
As a keen follower of happenings within the fishing industry and its associated politics, it didn’t come to me as a surprise when I heard key members of two major political parties slugging it out on radio regarding which of the two major political parties have done more for the fishing community. This debate has obviously been triggered by the “changing lives” tour being embarked upon by the President Mahama and the commissioning of cold stores for the fishing community.
On Accra-based Okay FM on Monday, Afenyo Markin, MP for Afutu and Allotey Jacobs, NDC Central Regional Chairman ramped up the decibels on government support or the lack of it for the coastal fishing communities. According to the Mp, government has not kept faith with fishermen by reneging on its promises and therefore making the fisher folk poor and unable to take care of themselves and their families. Allotey Jacobs countered by saying that Hon. Markin was telling untruths and that Marine police dealing with the criminals engaged in unhealthy fishing practices like pair trawling, and moreover, government has completed huge cold store facilities to enable fishermen take advantage of bumper harvests.
In a recent past, Paa Kwasi Nduom of the PPP had taken issues with the way problems of fishers were being handled when he stated that pre-mix fuel is part of the items covered by the deregulation policies implemented by both the NDC and NPP Administrations. Therefore, the hand of government must necessarily be removed from its distribution as it is with other subsidized products such as kerosene, he stated.
He added that the formation of national, regional and local pre-mix communities was fraught with many challenges. Again as a deregulated sector, roles and responsibilities of political appointees, if any at all, must be made clear as opposed to that of the fishermen/women themselves. Pre-mix fuel though subsidized, is not provided free of charge. Like kerosene and others, the customers have to pay for it. Customers deserve good treatment and must not be treated as if they do not matter.
Paa Kwasi Ndoum advised that the important role of government should be to ensure the security of pre-mix fuel, its availability and the safe delivery of the products to their intended destinations.
Over the past two weeks, The Gazette newspaper has been interacting with fishers, assessing their concerns and expectations in some of the fishing communities in the Western, Central, Greater Accra and Volta Region. It is based on the need to caution stakeholders that it is imperative that governments listen and act urgently to the challenges of fishers. Historically during past national elections, there have been correlations between the electoral fortunes of political parties which lose votes in the coastal communities and their fortunes in the overall results in the elections. For instance, in the 2000 elections, the National Democratic Congress lost the coastal communities in Greater Accra, from Ablekuma South to Tema East and actually lost the general elections. In 2008, a similar fate befell the NPP Administrations as a loss of grips of the coastal communities proved very costly when the overall election results were declared.
The Gazette can confidently reveal that the Mahama administration is implementing good policies to take advantage of the country’s valuable fisheries that Experts estimate generate in the order of US$ 1 billion in revenue each year. The fisheries support 135,000 fishers in the marine sub-sector alone. Ghana’s fisheries contribute 4.5 percent to annual GDP and indirectly support the livelihoods of 2.2 million people or 10% of all people in Ghana.
The Ghana Fisheries and Aquaculture Development Plan (2011-2016), which the Gazette sighted, described the steps that have been taken to implement the Policy. The Plan set seven explicit targets to be met in five years and the program of activities that will be implemented to meet these targets. The implementation of this plan is targeted at: maintaining current capture fisheries production (target 1); increasing revenue and profitability in capture fisheries by at least US$50 million per year after five years (targets 2 and 3); increasing aquaculture production from 9000 to 100,000 tonnes per annum within five years (target 4); retaining Ghana as a landing and processing hub for the West Africa tuna industry (target 5); developing fisheries management to allow effective control of all commercial fishing effort in Ghanaian waters (target 6); and ensuring fisheries management costs are sustainable and that the fisheries sector overall makes a fiscal contribution to Government revenues (target 7).
The Gazette noted the following concrete interventions by Mahama administration in the fisheries sector:
· Building of cold stores across fishing communities, with the latest recently commissioned by President Mahama and the Fisheries Minister respectively at Nyanyano, Koromantin in the Central Region and Shama and Half Assini in the Western Region
· Providing outboard motors at subsidized prices. So far 1000 pieces have been distributed at 40 percent subsidy; and about 3000 pieces have been ordered for further distribution
· Procuring nets at subsidized rates to fishermen
· Arranging credit facilities for fish processors as financial assistance to increase trade opportunities and boost income
· Rehabilitating all fish landing sites along the coast and constructing more modern ones at James Town, Keta, Elmina, Winneba and Dixcove
· Rehabilitating the old Tema Ship Yard and Dry Dock to serve as repair workshop for fishing trawlers and canoes
· Established and equipped the Marine Police to patrol and thwart illegal fishing practices such as pair trawling
· Established the Monitoring and Surveillance Team which comprises the Navy and the Fisheries Commission which constantly mounts searches on both canoes and fishing trawlers to inspect, arrest, seize items, and prosecute fishermen engaged in illegal activities
· Empower landing beach committees to retain profits from sale of premix which are used to undertake livelihood improvement activities in the fishing communities. This intervention has enabled fishers to provide for their felt needs in their communities.
There are clear signs of gratitude among the fishing communities for the interventions of President Mahama to touch the lives of fishers. They have indicated strongly their love and support for the President and intend to show their appreciation in the upcoming elections.
More to come.
Source: "THE GAZETTE" NEWSPAPER
|Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the writers and do not reflect those of Peacefmonline.com. Peacefmonline.com accepts no responsibility legal or otherwise for their accuracy of content. Please report any inappropriate content to us, and we will evaluate it as a matter of priority.|