The week-long workshop taking place in Monrovia, Liberia is the second and final workshop hosted by the Fisheries Committee of the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC) with support from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. It brings together representatives of the national fisheries from the member states of the FCWC: Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Benin, Togo and Nigeria; and technical consultants to conclude the project and prepare recommendations for improvement.
The ceremony began with remarks from the Secretary General of the FCWC, Mr Seraphin Dedi, who welcomed and thanked all attendees. He recapped that “knowledge of trends in capture fisheries including socio-economic aspects, is essential for sound policy-making, decision-making, and to improve responsible fisheries management.” He also expressed his hope “rapid measures to support the preliminary results of sustainable fisheries collection data obtained, before the closure of this project set for December 31, 2017” would be taken.
Mr Martinus Van Der Knaap, the Fisheries and Aquaculture Officer of the West Africa Team in the FAO Regional Office for Africa, shared that the FAO is “ happy to strengthen the data collection, presentation and analysis in a more cost-effective way. Cost effective so that countries at the end of the project do not stop collecting data but that data collection becomes part and parcel of all the tasks of the relevant authorities”.
Mr Ernest Kiazolu Jr, the Country Representative for the Government of Liberia in his opening remarks directed everyone’s attention toward the objectives of the workshop. “During the course of this week’s workshop, our focus will be on what was done. How was it done? Why was it done? What lessons were learned? And what recommendations can be made for future projects?” he said.
The first day of the regional workshop on strengthening routine fisheries data collection was largely focused on country presentations concerning their experiences with implementation of the Technical Cooperation Project TCP/RAF/3512.
During the country presentations, it emerged that all the countries had realized a significant improvement in their fisheries data collection. Togo for example had the ability to access artisanal fisheries data from 2016 and estimate the value of the catch data, a precursor to attaining the goal of determining artisanal fisheries contribution to GDP.
Fisheries data collection via mobile devices (smartphones or tablets) introduced by this project appears to have produced the best results because there was a reduction in the kind data loss resulting from lost or damaged papers. There were also increases in the speed of transmission and reception, analysis, accuracy and verification of the data collected.
Despite the progress made, most countries involved in this project experienced some challenges with data collection and what was common to them all were human resource challenges (under-staffed, unpaid or underpaid enumerators) and technological challenges (irregular power supply, internet access and reliability, IT knowledge gaps).
Toward the end of the session and in response to some of the concerns from the countries, Mr De Graaf, the technical consultant of the FAO reiterated that “data collection is a national responsibility,” and urged countries to be creative in addressing some of their challenges internally.
The outcomes, conclusions and recommendations of this workshop will be taken to the Ministers of Regions for their discussion, decision-making and approval at the 10th FCWC Conference of Ministers in Abuja, Nigeria from the December 12th-15th 2017.