By Christopher Carew
Ibrahin Sorie Dumbuya carpenter building boats at Tambakula Wharf has explained the process of boat-building to AYV.
He says the process starts by first going to the provinces to cut the trees bring and them bringing them to the site before laying-out the shape and size of boat. He said the building can take a maximum of two weeks if all the materials are at hand, adding that they work in teams.
He lamented that job opportunity is lacking for youths although he is engaged in building boats which in itself is self-employment. He used the opportunity to encourage other youths to engage in boat-building as it is a lucrative business which can change the life of any person.
He maintained that he started building boats when he was a small boy and that it has helped him tremendously in taking care of his family and other business. He used the opportunity to encourage his peers especially those that are skilled to make use of their skills which would help them make money to take care of themselves and their families rather than wait on government to provide employment for them which is an uncertain situation because the government has many challenges and programmes apart from job-creation.
Melron Luke representing a group coming from Susan’s Bay in central Freetown explained that the government is building the boats and providing fishing equipment and therefore the youths are being empowered to engage in fishing as a career which would see them making money to take care of themselves and their family, adding that they need people around to manage the business which was the reason he was there as a representative of a group in Freetown.
On sustaining the boat project and ensuring that it fulfills the objective of the government, Luke said many of the youths engaged are already fishermen and that the project seeks to train more youths interested in fishing in order for them to gain permanent employment. He said they already have a modus operandi through which they catch fish, distribute the fish, sell the fish, receive money and utilize banks to safeguard their profits among other processes to make the fishing business viable and finally enabling them to be able to pay back for the boats during a specified period and could later even build or buy more boats.
Susan’s Bay is an informal sector where fishing is a career. He said the project is looking for young people to come into fishing and make it more appealing so that the benefits are realized to the full.
According to the Chairman Tambakula Wharf, Saio Kamara they are managing the boat building project. “Fishing not easy especially when you imagine that, we sometimes spend six or more days at sea and so we are happy for the project. We have different boats: Snapper boats take more fishermen onboard, Mina boats take up to three, and other smaller fishing boats which take only two or one fisherman. He explained how they sell the catch so that they do not run at a loss. He added that he ensures that he manages the boats and fishermen to ensure that their welfare is taken into good account, adding that five boats are already completed with five more remaining.
Joseph Maada Lahai Manager for the Ministry of Youth Affairs Fisheries Project stated that the Youth in Fisheries Project is a commitment made by President Bio to empower young people living especially in coastal communities. He added that the project is being implemented in seven districts Bonthe, Moyamba, Pujehun, Port Loko, Kambia and Western Area Rural and Urban. He said the ministry wants to achieve economic diversity for more young people, improvement in nutritional status, reduction in illegal migration, and job creation.
In order to sustain the project, Mr. Lahai said it is a revolving project and it is not free as there is a payment plan which when fulfilled the boat becomes the property of the youth group that paid for it; as there is a small amount they pay to the government until they have paid in full. This money, he added is then revolved to build boats for other interested youths. He said that at the end of every two to three months the ministry would be able to build more boats.
The youths themselves will be able to build additional boats from the profit they make he said and urged the youths to use the opportunity properly for maximum benefit. He further explained that they are working in partnership with IOM to reduce illegal migration.
On his own part, Akao Kunikazu of IOM-Sierra Leone who is also Project Manager of Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training Project informed AYV that the whole project is about encouraging and assisting states to create job opportunities that would see more youths engaged beneficially which would make them desist from risking their lives to travel abroad seeking greener pasture. He added that IOM is seeking to provide as many job opportunities to youths so as to deviate their minds from taking undue risks which might even lead to death. He maintained that some youths can get employment in big companies but some others want to start their own business and IOM helps in this direction by providing training, equipment and other essentials for the project to be sustainable.