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Cape Mountaineers appeal for alternative livelihood

Fishermen in Robertsport, Grand Cape Mount County, are seeking alternative sources of livelihood apart from fishing.

By Emmanuel Wise Jipoh 

Robertsport, Liberia, May 29, 2024—Residents of Robertsport, Grand Cape Mount County in western Liberia, predominantly fishers, are pleading to the government for alternative livelihoods to revive their only means of survival. They repeatedly suffer during the rainy season, when fish is scarce, their only source of livelihood.

They made the appeal in Robertsport at the start of a week-long Forest Conservation short-term training course for Liberian Journalists organized by the Wildlife Chimpanzee Foundation (WCF) in partnership with the Societal for Conservation and the Forestry Development Institute (FTI).

Residents explained their living conditions, difficulties, and sources of livelihood to reporters participating in the ten-day training.

According to them, they have been deprived of infrastructure developments, empowerment, and other essential services, as they largely depend on fishing in the Atlantic Ocean as their only means of survival.

Soulemany Jalloh, a popular businessman, noted that unlike in the past when Robertsport had a hotel, where hundreds of citizens used to work to earn their daily meals, and modest income to cater to family, children, and other daily activities, lack of infrastructural developments, road connectivity have disrupted economic activities, lamenting that the situation in the past couple of years has been devastating.

He expressed frustration with the government for neglecting the county over the years. The lack of basic social amenities has negatively impacted their lives, with fishing now their only means of survival.

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“No fish, No Business, Dry Season, fish die, we get business, but this season is too hard, no fish die, so it is difficult for us, so I’m pleading to the government, let them bring companies to help us, and help our people as it is difficult to survive without fishing,” Jalloh said.

He reiterated that fishing is the only source of income for Cape Mountaineers, especially Robertsport, which hindered road connectivity, as the city has only one-way access.

“Here is only one way, so no fishing, no business, things become extremely difficult for us,” Jalloh told the NEW DAWN.

Mr. Jalloh indicated that since fishing is the only source of income generation in the city, residents, especially youth, have truncated their education, becoming high school dropouts because of fishing.

He added that children are vulnerable in communities without education because of a lack of social amenities.

James Frampton, a fisherman, said he lives by the Sea, either fishing or crossing the lake to catch illegal mangrove woods. This is prohibited as conservation for the forest is now forcibly used as an alternative livelihood for residents.

According to him, the government, through the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), has banned cutting of trees and plants from protected forest areas, but residents are forced to breach such a ban because there are no alternative livelihoods.

“The sea is our source of livelihood. Without the sea, life becomes difficult,” says Frimpon. He continued: “Aside from the sea, we only had one option, that is when no fish is dying like you seeing now, we  go across the water, go into the forest and cut trees, which we sell and generate income.”

The Governor of the Kru Town community in Robertsport, Grand Cape Mount, Anthony G. Wiagbe, said the people’s only source of livelihood was fishing.

He emphasized that fishing has been a key source of livelihood since the 1920s but stressed challenges in alternative livelihoods, especially lack of infrastructure development and social amenities, have hindered cooperation in forest management.

According to him, these challenges have made the community’s cooperation with the Forestry Development Authority’s regulations on forest conservation and management, including waste disposal plans, difficult to adhere to, despite these regulations being crucial for protecting both the forest and the sea.

When asked about laws protecting the forest, Amara Kamara, a fisherman, said there are laws that the FDA imposed: “We shouldn’t cut trees in the forest, like this one you see, which is prohibited, but we cannot impose it on our people because they use it as an alternative livelihood.” Kamara, a youth of the Fanti Town community, argued.

Robertsport, the capital of Grand Cape Mount County, Western Liberia, is about 10 miles (16km) to neighboring Sierra Leone. The city is particularly inhabited by members of the Fante, Vai, Fula, Kissi, Mande, and Kpelle tribes. Editing by Jonathan Browne

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