David Patrick, Acting Country Representative, Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has identified lack of policy and comprehensive regional strategy as major challenges facing fishery and aquaculture sector in the ECOWAS region.
He said this in Abuja at the stakeholders meeting on the Development of ECOWAS Fisheries and Aquaculture Regional Policy and Strategy Framework for member countries.
The stakeholders in agriculture from the European Union (EU), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and ECOWAS are currently meeting in Abuja to develop a framework on Fishery and Aquaculture for ECOWAS countries.
Patrick observed that lack of framework to improve coordination and ensure effective cooperation in actions for the benefit of the sector was hindering the development of fishery and aquaculture at the regional level.
“It also includes the weakness of human domestic and regional capacities, and weakness of information systems to inform the political decisions in the sector.”
He, therefore, challenged stakeholders to develop a realistic road map and integrate the various important stages of the process.
Patrick also urged them to review, validate and adopt terms of reference and ensure the composition of the Regional Committee of Fisheries and Aquaculture of ECOWAS.
He said this has become imperative in order to ensure consistency with the programmes and projects related to food and nutritional security and poverty reduction in the region.
The country representative said that with the production estimated at 2.8 million tonnes, the fishing and aquaculture sector is playing an important role in food and nutrition security as well as in social and economic life of the people in West Africa.
“Fish, especially small pelagic species, is still the main source of protein animal, widely available for about 60 per cent of households in the ECOWAS zone. The sector would also employ millions of people including fishermen, processors and fish traders, as well as other associated jobs, thus creating significant revenue for all these households in coastal areas,’’ he said.
The country rep, however, said that in spite the support of technical and financial partners, the sector is facing challenges, which if they are not addressed in a comprehensive and concerted way could compromise the important role of fisheries and aquaculture in the fight against food insecurity, malnutrition and poverty.
Patrick expressed the gratitude of FAO to the Federal Government and the people, for accepting to host the meeting and for their exceptional support to FAO.
He also commended the European Union for the constant support that it continues to provide to FAO for the benefit of Member States and regional economic commissions in particular in West Africa.