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Modernization of fishing industry drives Haiti's socio-economic development

By Rosenie Mont-Gerard   |   June 25, 2013 at 5:25 PM   |   Comments

ANSE-D'HAINAULT, Haiti (GPI)-- Laurenssaint Pierreman, 55, has been a fisherman in Anse-d’Hainault, a coastal town and district in southwestern Haiti, for 45 years. But the trade was never as profitable as it is now.

When he was 10, he used a traditional fishing method with a small basket and canoe. He could not catch or earn much.

Now, the fishing industry in Anse-d’Hainault has advanced toward motorization. Pierreman can garner more fish and profits than ever to provide for his wife and 10 children.

“When I started to fish, I made 100 [$2.35] or 200 gourdes [$4.70],” Pierreman says. “But now, I can make 15,000 [$350] to 20,000 [$470] gourdes per day. I live well with that.”

This is during high season. Fishermen typically make catches two times to three times per week.

Wearing khaki pants, a beige T-shirt and a red cap, Pierreman attributes the development of fishing in Anse-d’Hainault to both an innovative man and the area’s ecology.

Anse-d’Hainault, a municipality and district in Haiti’s Grand’Anse department, sits close to a large canal with a continental plateau that draws many species of ocean life. A bounty of mangroves attracts fish.

The man local fishermen credit for the modernization of the fishing industry is Georges Simon, mayor of Anse-d’Hainault since 1995 and an aquaculture entrepreneur. Simon began improving training and equipment for local fishermen in the 1980s.

“Simon is a savior for all fishermen,” Pierreman says.

Simon brought in professionals to teach the fishermen how to build fish aggregating devices, which had been too expensive to buy, Pierreman says. The devices, which lure fish, enable them to fish in the canal. In the canal, they can catch more expensive types of fish, which they sell to large retailers.

Simon is also behind a platform and an association that have increased access to training, equipment and funding. In addition to earning money from fishing, Pierreman can also earn money by selling the fish aggregating devices he builds to the association.

“For every FAD I make, I get 3,500 gourdes [$80],” he says. “If it is for another institution, they pay me 15,000 gourdes [$350].”

With these profits, Pierreman says he no longer aspires to work for the state. He makes money every day, while government employees receive their salaries once a month.

Still, despite advancements in Anse-d’Hainault, constraints on national development limit the fishermen’s success.

Haiti is undergoing a crisis in the fishing industry, Pierreman says. Fishermen here even feel its effects when large buyers or the local fishery does not buy fish. Sometimes the fishery stops working if demand is low in Port-au-Prince, the capital, or if the boat that transports the fish stops working.

“Even though other buyers come from outside of Anse-d’Hainault,” Pierreman says, “when the fishery is not working, even for a very brief time, we cannot sell our fish. That is our greatest problem.”

Modern fishing techniques and equipment thanks to Simon and his development schemes have enabled fishermen in Anse-d’Hainault to take advantage of the area's unique ecology to become top fish producers in the country. Thanks to increased earnings, they can take care of their families. The region has also developed socio-economically. Although some fishermen still rely on traditional methods, the majority benefit from modern methods. The programs are also enabling fishermen to share their training with others in the region. They ask for increased investment to fully motorize the fishing industry locally and to extend its development nationwide.

Agriculture, which includes fishing, accounts for about 25 percent of Haiti’s gross domestic product and 50 percent of jobs, according to a 2010 World Bank report.

But ecosystems have been suffering advanced decline in Haiti as a result of sedimentation caused by erosion of watersheds, pollution from land-based activity and the encroachment of human habitation, according to the World Bank. This has reduced fishing catches and aquaculture potential. Harvesting of mangroves and the destruction of coral reefs have also left coastal areas vulnerable to storms and hurricanes.

The fishing industry has also suffered from inadequate equipment and a lack of processing, marketing and credit systems, according to the World Bank.

In contrast, the fishing yield in Anse-d’Hainault is much higher than in other areas of Haiti thanks to modernized techniques and its unique ecology, Simon says. Of the 12 districts in the Grand’Anse, only Anse-d’Hainault is able to furnish enough fish for the other communities in the department and Port-au-Prince.

More than 50 percent of Anse-d’Hainault’s population works in the fish industry, Simon says. More than 70 percent of fishermen now use fish aggregating devices, motorized boats and large fishing lines. And 40 percent of them have received free training from Simon's development schemes on how to apply these modern methods.

Before Simon, the fishing industry in Anse-d’Hainault was in crisis. After moving from the Sud-Est department to work for a governmental agricultural development program in the 1980s, Simon studied the economic situation in Anse-d’Hainault and its unique geography.

Simon left his job and began using his own funds and supplies to offer fishermen training and equipment.

Development began in earnest in 1997, when Simon launched the Plate-forme pour l’Amelioration de la Pêche et du Développement Intégré, a platform to assist local fishermen, with help from agricultural experts, engineers and fishing professionals. PADI has offered training to the fishermen, teaching them how to make fish aggregating devices and to fish in the canal.

PADI started to provide basic equipment in 2004, says Alex Jean, the current director. At that time, all fishermen had access to a common boat with a motor, a huge net and line, an equipment shop and financial assistance.

Later, Simon conceived of an association for fishermen, so various fishermen started the Association Marin Pêcheur de l’Anse d’Hainault. AMPA started in 2007, says Mikens Milford, a fisherman whose father was one of the founding members. AMPA provides fishing equipment and financial assistance.

Fishermen can obtain fishing materials from AMPA at a discounted rate. Members pay just 25 gourdes (60 cents) for every 500 gourdes ($12) of materials they receive, while nonmembers pay 100 gourdes ($2.35), says Antoine Esterline Polycarpe, a local fisherman.

Simon also started a fishery in 1998, buying the fishermen’s seafood at a high price of about 2.50 gourdes (6 cents) per pound. The fishery continues to buy small fish from the fishermen. Polycarpe says the industry developed so much this past year that residents now call the area housing the fishery the “fishing zone” or “zone with a sweet smell.”

Pierre Paul Sius, a fisherman, says fishing in Anse-d’Hainault before Simon was a miserable business. Fishermen could not fish in the canal because they lacked motorized boats, nets, lines and fish aggregating devices.

“Before the projects PADI and AMPA, the fishermen did not have enough to eat,” Sius says. “They were unable to put their children in school or send them to university.”

Sius says that fishermen seemed to age quickly, as they worked too hard for too little and ate poorly. His life began to change with the arrival of PADI.

Fisherman Wilson Milfort says many fishermen used to die during hurricanes because their small canoes were not strong enough. As a result, many fishermen quit fishing.

“Before the development project, I was a brave, young man who did not quit,” says Milfort, a father of 10 children. “But to fish in that manner, we put our lives at risk, and we did not receive enough of a salary to take care of our families.”
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