The 65 000 fishermen that share the 1 770km of the Haitian coastline rely on rudimentary equipment and fishing vessels such as canoes and wooden boats (representing 51% and 37% respectively of the country’s estimated 28,000 active fishing boats). However, even with basic equipment, the techniques used have negative impacts on the marine resources and ecosystems. Indeed, available evidence (IRAM, 2007) shows a catch reduction per fishing trip in coastal waters, indicating that inshore stocks are either fully exploited or depleted, therefore threatening the sustainability of marine resources and of the fishery sector. The most destructive fishing method being the beach-seine fisheries which disturbs the breeding activities and frequently leads to the capture of juveniles.
Within this context, the Ministry of Agriculture, through the financing of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Haitian government (16.5 million USD), implements the Artisanal Fisheries Development Program (AFDP) in the South-East, South and Grande Anse departments. The strategy of the AFDP for the development of the sector relies on three pillars: (i) strengthening the legal framework and institutional management of the fisheries sector at both national and local level; (ii) improving the quality of public infrastructures to connect fishermen with markets; and (iii) increasing artisanal fisheries productivity and reducing economic losses while protecting marine resources by promoting techniques and equipment that will displace fishing efforts away from coastal areas towards high seas.
After decades of equipment grants from NGOs and development programs (motors, boats, nets, coolers…), the AFDP developed an innovative approach never implemented before in the fishery sector of Haiti: the provision of a matching grants mechanism to strengthen fishers’ and merchants’ associations. Indeed, lessons learned from the IDB and other donor-financed operations observed positive results of management capacity of fishermen associations (organizational capacity, financial sustainability and maintenance capacity) which lay the foundations enabling a change of practice. Therefore, the AFDP chose to only provide equipment through a co-financing mechanism (except for post-disaster response). To benefit from it, the associations must follow the following steps: (i) demonstrate their legal and managerial eligibility; (ii) present their needs (shopping list) and management plan to the evaluation committee led by the Ministry; and (iii) pay their matching amount (10 to 30%, depending on the association and equipment). For each step, local officers of the AFDP provide technical assistance to the associations.
At first, to be honest, most stakeholders involved in the project were skeptical regarding the potential success of this mechanism which represents an important change of practice from complete donation to co-financing. After the first campaign in 2018-2019, 50 associations completed the three steps and have now been delivered the equipment or are expecting an imminent delivery. It is an unexpected success and the demand is much higher than planned. Therefore, a second campaign will be starting in the second semester of 2019 and a third is already planned for 2020!
Despite this success, the AFDP is still facing the following challenges: (i) How to change fishermen’s behavior to move away from full grants? Some fishermen associations reject the mechanism because they are afraid of not receiving any more donations from other projects if they start to co-finance equipment with the AFDP. To cope with this, local officers of the program are conducting awareness campaigns and engaging dialogue with all identified associations in the three departments. (ii) How to include fisherwoman associations? Despite the major role that play women in the value chain, the first campaign was dedicated to catchment and thus to men associations. To be more inclusive, the second campaign of the AFDP will have a specific focus on women associations for their post-harvest processing and commercialization activities (solar fish dryers, igloos, protective equipment…); (iii) How to deliver the equipment in a timely manner? Some delays have been observed to deliver equipment after the matching has been paid by associations. This not only generates tensions but also weakens the trust in the system. The team is working with suppliers to improve delays from contract signature to delivery; (iv) What are the impacts of the mechanism? How to conduct an impact evaluation in a context where data is inexistent and with a sector that is entirely informal? The AFDP will conduct a comprehensive evaluation to assess the impact of the projects support mechanisms to fisher and merchant associations by comparing the relevant outcomes of interest (productivity, income, food security) among a representative sample of treatment and control observations; (v) How to ensure the maintenance of equipment? The AFDP is monitoring the use of distributed equipment and is developing a maintenance strategy including technical assistance to the beneficiaries.
All in all, based on a demand-driven approach, the AFDP is an opportunity to test an innovative financial mechanism to move from grants to co-financing to enhance the implication and ownership of beneficiaries.
To be continued…
Photography by Géraud Albaret