By MFMR MEDIA UNIT
In response to President Julius Maada Bio’s clarion call on development partners, including government and non-governmental organizations to embark on meaningful development activities that would promote food security, provide employment and household income for rural communities in the country, the National Commission for Social Action, (NACSA) has developed thirty-two Fish Ponds in various parts of the country. The project which is implemented alongside Inland Valley Swamps rehabilitation under the Agricultural Value Chain Development of the Sierra Leone Community Driven Development (SLCDD) Project, Phase 2 is funded by the Government of Sierra Leone and Islamic Development Bank, (ISDB).
Addressing beneficiaries during symbolic harvests of fish from ponds at Katik, Debia Chiefdom, Portloko District, Modavies, Ribi Chiefdom, Moyamba District and Kpetema, Lower Bambara Chiefdom in Kenema District, the Commissioner of NACSA, Dr. Sao-Kpato Hannah Max- Kyne, described her appointment as a clear manifestation of President Bio’s unwavering commitment to empowering women for national development. Madam Max-Kyne who is on record as the first female Commissioner of NACSA, catalogued a number of projects undertaken by her institution in various parts of the country including the construction of water wells, health, toilets facilities and the promotion of Inland Valley Swamp Farming, while expressing government’s desire to reduce poverty in rural areas through the support of development partners.
The Commissioner who also presented Measuring Scales and Bowls as Start-Up Kits to the Fish Farmers, entreated the female beneficiaries to unlock their potential, engage in activities that would improve their standard of living and work alongside their male counterparts to promote national development. Giving a brief historical sketch about the project, she disclosed that the programme started with negotiations between the late President Alhaji Ahmad TejanKabba and the Islamic Development Bank and implemented by the current government after serious renegotiations.
She thanked the Islamic Development Bank for providing the funds and pledged NACSA’s continued support to rural communities. Madam Max Kyne advised the beneficiaries to put aside petty jealousies, party politics and compliment government’s effort in promoting development in their localities.
NACSA’s Director of Field Operations, Catherine Sillah, described the exercise as “test case and an opportunity to help the beneficiaries generate revenue, create employment and promote food self-sufficiency”. She thanked them for their immense contribution to the project and challenged them to endeavor to produce more fish ponds in their communities. Director of Programmes, NACSA, Regina Saffa, underscored the vital role women play in national development and admonished them to take the project seriously. She advised the farmers to always weigh their catches, using standard scales to ensure transparency and profitability.
Programme Manager, NACSA, Momoh Juana, appreciated the interest shown by the beneficiaries in the implementation of the project and intimated that the process of procuring Mobile Freezers and other logistics that would add value to the fish products is underway while disclosing plans to improve on the production and management of the Fish Ponds.
Giving an overview of the project, NASCA’S Agro-business Specialist, Jonathan Williams, said, the SLCDD project is comprised of various components including Fish Farming. The project, he added also provides inputs such as Fingerlings, Fish Feed and Training Programmes on Fish Pond Production and Management, among others. He encouraged the farmers to manage the projects well and save proceeds from sale of fish for future development.
Head of Aquaculture and Inland Fisheries in the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine resources, Osman Sheku Kamara, said one of his ministry’s mandates is to ensure fish is accessible, affordable and available in every parts of the country. He emphasized the importance Fish Culture, adding that fish provides natural animal protein which no farm animal can produce. He pledged his ministry’s determination to strengthen collaboration between two entities to promote rural development. Mr. Kamara also spoke of challenges facing Capture Fisheries and urged communities to invest in fish farming as an alternative source of livelihood, while appreciating the regions huge potential in terms of fish farming.
In response, beneficiaries from the affected regions, including community leaders, showered praise on government and NACSA for what they described as an unprecedented intervention and pledged their continued collaboration. Deputy Town Chief of Modavies, ShekaTuray said he was proud to see the foot prints of NACSA’s development strides in almost every corner of their community. He spoke of progress made so far in implementing the project and on behalf of his compatriots promised to maintain it.
The programme which was attended by a good number of community stakeholders, was climaxed by singing, dancing, harvesting, weighing and selling of fish.