By Uzman Unis Bah
Yeliboya, the sinking island in the north of Sierra Leone receives livelihood support from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in collaboration with Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR).
The intervention provides fish processing and preservation equipment to the Yeliboya Fishing Community, which is primarily reliant on fishing to meet its social and economic needs, in the Kambia District.
“Our presence here today is made possible by the generosity of the Japanese Government who recognized the needs of Yeliboya community, so I must start by thanking the Government of Japan for providing these funds for us to be able to bring these equipment today,” the country Representative for FAO, Dr Nyabenyi Tito Tipo said.
FAO provided fish landing equipment, fish hygiene and processing equipment, preservation and transportation materials, which included solar freezers and iceboxes. Dr Tipo said, Yeliboya is a place with lots of potentials, but with climate variability and change, the island is adversely impacted, and that prompted FAO to come to the aid of the needy community.
Hon. Minister of MFMR, Hon. Emma Kowa Jalloh expressed gratitude for FAO’s support in complementing the effort of the Ministry and the Government of Sierra Leone in implementing diverse development projects in the country. She thanked the Government of Japan for helping the Ministry through FAO to aid the deprived community.
Hon. Jalloh admonished recipient of the items to handle them with care to help improve their source of revenue; she said the ministry is committed to providing the necessary support and facilitate the required measures to develop the fishing sector of the country.
The Director of Fisheries, Mrs Khadija Jalloh said FAO started with Yeliboya because it is the most vulnerable area, and the impact of climate change is taking a toll on the community; she admonished the people to take good care of the equipment and ensure they use it for the rightful purposes.
The National Project Coordinator, Abdulai Amadu Bangura, said the donation was a means of support to help the deprived community maintain its source of revenue. There are frequent fire incidents in the island that occur due to the use of local kilns (Banda) made with wood to process their fish products, most of the women have been exposed to smoke while burning woods to process fish, and that is affecting their health, he said.
According to Abdulai, the project targeted women because they are the most disadvantaged in the fishing communities; women are responsible for processing and preserving fish; the donated equipment will enable them to do their work with less burden to get their goods to the market without wastage.
The next step will see the construction of smoke ovens, known as the FAO- Thiaroye Processing Technology (FTT), a new technology that would be fitted inside a structure to support women in drying their fish; the FTT structure is smokeless, and it is more improved and easily adaptable, Abdulai Said.
According to the project coordinator, ten FTT units will be constructed on the island to help the women in drying their fish. He stated that this would enable the women to preserve fish and supply the market in Freetown, where they will get the right value for their fish products.
Chief Pa Adeakalie B Bangura of the Yeliboya community thanked FAO and the MFMR for supporting their community; he said Yeliboya was open to receiving more support from government and its donor partners. He encouraged the men to believe that even though the donation targeted women, men should be proud because besides being on the marketing side of fishing sector; women are the backbone for providing food in the homes while the men are off to fish in the sea.
FAO consulted the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources in developing the project proposal, which was design to address policy issues in combating Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing activities and the Voluntary Guideline for securing Sustainable Small-Scale fisheries for sustainable fisheries and maritime security.
The Director of Fisheries warned the indigenes of the Yeliboya community to take heed and be ready to evacuate at any time, as it is evident that climate change is taking a toll on the island, and the sea level is swiftly encroaching on the land, and the best way out is to start making alternative plans.