UL, Partners Launch Fisheries Program -“Program will Improve Economy” -DG NaFAA

MONROVIA – As part of its drive to contribute to the human capital development of the country in critical disciplines that will fast track the nation’s development, the University of Liberia (UL) and its partners, the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority and the World Bank yesterday, Wednesday, January 25, 2023 officially launched a Bachelor’s of Science Degree program in Fisheries and Aquaculture at the UL just as the Director General of the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA) Mrs. Emma Metieh-Glasco said the program will positively impact on the capacity building of prospective graduates which in turn improve the economy through the availability of highly trained manpower that will be produced from the exercise.

The Fisheries Science program is expected to provide students with an opportunity to obtain an undergraduate degree in fisheries and aquaculture science. At the same time it is also designed to prepare fisheries professionals with competencies and acquiring practical skills in fisheries and aquaculture as well as fish processing and marketing issues.

Speaking at the occasion while giving the overview of the Fisheries Science Program during the launch held at the Main Campus of the University of Liberia, Director General Glasco mentioned that the overall goal of the program is to build the needed human resource capacity that will support the Liberian government in achieving its sustainable development objectives of national food and nutrition security, resource conservation, and sustainable management of fisheries resource of Liberia, marine and inland ecosystems to provide long-term goods and services to the communities.

“It is anticipated that the program will start its first semester in academic year 2023/2024 and we look forward to the 2027 Graduating Class, the inaugural”

Madam Emma Metieh Glassco moreover said the program is expected to provide students with an opportunity to obtain an undergraduate degree in fisheries and aquaculture science and also designed to prepare fisheries professionals with competencies and acquiring practical skills in fisheries and aquaculture as well as fish processing and marketing issues.

Speaking further on the fisheries science program Madam Glassco stated that NaFAA in collaboration with the UL administration has also agreed that in order to provide short-termed hands-on technical trainings, research and scientific interventions in addressing the gaps in the sector, they have establish a Regional Centre of Excellence for Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences at the University of Liberia.

She said the Center of Excellence will be very key in supporting the transition of the Liberia fisheries sector to semi and large scale industrialization through capacity development, institutional strengthening, innovation, research, extension service, quality assurance, among others. “Additionally, it is envisaged that the immediate focus of the Center will be providing technical, capacity development, and knowledge support for the efforts that are aimed at industrializing the fishery sector in Liberia and beyond”, she said.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we are excited today for reaching this far. It did require a lot of time, efforts, lobbying, research and resources. We want to appreciate the cooperation of the Leadership of the University of Liberia and encourage them to remain focused in ensuring that this program is effective and successful”.

She thanked the World Bank for providing the funding without wishing it was going to be impossible to undertake the project. She also called on the World Bank to consider the program in its activities for the year 2023, especially in securing additional funds for the Regional Centre of Excellence. She noted that they are grateful for the level of support from the Bank and are confident that there will be an intervention for more funds.

“We would like to extend our appreciation to the World Bank Group for the support they have provided and continue to provide for the development of the Liberia Fisheries sector. Your presence speaks to the level of interest the Bank attached to this project. We can assure you that NaFAA will remain committed to ensuring that the requisite resources provided to support the program are utilized appropriately”, she said.

Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor who launched the program, thanked NaFAA, the World Bank and others who made it possible to have the program introduced as part of the disciplines which she described as being insightful and rewarding.

While lauding the initiative she was also concerned about the sustainability process which she said was key to the success of the program. “As we talk about Fisheries and Aquaculture, what we must not leave out in the process is commercial fish farming in our rivers. That is the angle that will help us sustain the ocean, to keep it blue and to ensure that we still have fishes that we can eat and export”, she said.

“In many countries in the world, fish farming in the rivers is now becoming the most important part of the Aquaculture system. The value chain is amazing and everyone has a part to play

“It is important to encourage females to form part of this program, it will help sustain our families, provide all kinds of benefits for our children. So Dr. Nelson has the responsibility to ensure that we encourage girls to join this program”, she said.

The Vice President who also used the occasion to emphasize the direction of the government in providing the dividend of democracy said the primary concern of President George Manneh Weah is to make Liberia a better place and said towards that end, the government of Liberia will make its own contribution of USD500m to the program to ensure that students undergo studies at no cost to them.

Earlier in his welcome address, the President of the University of Liberia, Prof. Rev. Dr. Julius J.S. Nelson, Jr said he was excited to witness the program coming to fruition after a tedious task and thanked NaFAA and the World Bank for a worthy partnership that brought forth the additional academic discipline to the others that have been added in the course of five years.

While stating that fisheries in Liberia play a key role in terms of food and nutritional security, highlighting important feature of the country of some 5.4 million people with a coastline of 579 km comprising an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 246,000 km2 that is home to valuable demersal and pelagic fishery resources.

“This means we can do a lot with our fishery sector. Right now, the fishery sector provides jobs for 33,000 Liberians, revenues and foreign exchange earnings for the government and contribute around 10% to our GDP.

“But I believe we can do better to improve these numbers. That is exactly what we have recognized in our partnership with NaFAA and the World Bank”, he said.

He said since 2010, the World Bank intervened in the Liberian fisheries sector, and this industry has been evolving quite rapidly since then. “But let me just say that while much progress was being made to revamp this sector, it was soon realized that human capacity development was a major challenge that needed to be adequately addressed”, he said.

Speaking further on how the program was conceived, he said in 2012, the World Bank-West African Regional Fisheries Project, agreed to finance the preparation of a bachelor’s degree in Fisheries and Aquaculture Science Curriculum (FASC) for the University of Liberia (UL) and approved funding to support the establishment and running of the program under the Liberia Sustainable Management of Fisheries Project (LSMFP).

“And with this support, a new Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture Science was created at the University of Liberia. The program is designed to prepare fisheries professionals with competencies in science and practice of fisheries and aquaculture as well as fish processing and marketing.

He said the University anticipates offering the program to students as early as the first semester of the 2022/2023 academic year.

Also speaking at the program, Valerie Hickey, Global Director of Environment, National Resources and Blue Economy World Bank Group, said the timing of the program is right and added that the University of Liberia has the infrastructure and capacity to offer the program.

Pledging further commitment, she urged the stakeholders to make sure that Liberia will not only access the market but will become leaders in the industry and assured that those that will earn a degree in the program their jobs will significantly contribute to the GDP of the country.

The Acting Chairman, Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, Dr. Alvin S. Jueseah, said the program will kick start during the first semester of the 2022/23 academic year, stressing that though it is a new program, the academic staff available are enough to provide the requisite teaching of the courses being offered. He said plans are also on the way to send some of the staff for further studies as a way of improving the learning environment.

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