Several women fishmongers in Robertsports and its surroundings have begun to feel the impact of a village savings and loan program, being organized and implemented by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) with support from the European Union (EU).
The village savings and loan program is intended to help women fishmongers in coastal communities expand their businesses, so as to improve their lives sustainably.
The women narrated with excitement that the loan program has empowered them to improve their fish businesses to support their families.
“We are very happy today and would like to thank the EU, through the EJF. We have used the loans to repair fishing canoes and other aspects of the business to support our families,” said some of the beneficiaries, who preferred to remain anonymous.
One of them said, “I took a loan of L$20,000 and, with the amount, I was able to repair my canoe, and expand the business to send my children to school.”
“Business has been very difficult, prior to joining this program,” another beneficiary added. “I took L$15,000 which I used to improve my business. Today, I have close to L$ 35,000.00 in profits accrued as a result of the loan invested. I am very impressed by this initiative.”
The women used the occasion to encourage other women to take advantage of the program to improve their lives.
The EJF has provided financial literacy training for more than 60 women and has established two Village Savings and Loan Associations, as well as provided startup materials to support the women’s business ventures.
For many fishmongers living in coastal communities, fishing is their only source of livelihood. With no access to financial services, there is no possibility of expanding their businesses so as to improve their lives.
However, the Communities for Fisheries (CFF) project’s village savings and loan scheme has provided an avenue to save their monies and access loans very easily. With such financial service at their disposal, fishmongers are quickly expanding their businesses, improving the lives of their families, and working to end the cycle of poverty.
The CFF project is a four-year project implemented by EJF with funding from the European Union, which aims to create skilled, capable and effective community co-manage associations for fisheries to curtail illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and promote sustainable fisheries in Liberia.
The project is being implemented in Grand Kru, Grand Bassa, Margibi, and Grand Cape Mount Counties to ensure a sustainable fisheries sector.
Atop the building (left) are solar panels provided by the EJF to the CMA to run its day-to-day activities in Robertsport.
The organization has supported the Collaborative Management Association (CMA) by providing solar energy for their offices to enable them to run their day-to-day activities; trained fishermen and installed the Dase app on their smartphones to enable them to monitor and report illegal activities at sea; supported their elections; and capacity building initiatives.
The app also helps to report threats of Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing by both small-scale fishers and industrial vessels poses significant economic loss on coastal communities that are solely dependent on fishing for food and livelihoods. The ever-present threat to their livelihood threatens their very existence as a community.
The Foundation has also supported over 200 women fishmongers to form a cooperative and develop a set of bylaws to regulate fish trading, improve their livelihood and bring social cohesion amongst women of Robertsport. Their bylaws are sanctioned by the Circuit Court there.