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David @ Tokyo

Perspective from Japan on whaling and whale meat, a spot of gourmet news, and monthly updates of whale meat stockpile statistics



Fisheries ODA in Honduras

UPDATE 2007/02/03 - I started this article translation late last year, and have finally gotten around to finishing off the second half of it today.

Japan's National Research Institute of Fisheries Science (NRIFS), Fisheries Research Agency has an article describing a Fisheries ODA "mini-project" in Honduras in during 1990's. My best-effort translation is as follows, below:

Honduras small scale fishing promotion and fisheries related official development assistance (ODA) - Yukio Tasaka

The country of Honduras lies in the middle of the narrow strip of land that connects the Northern and Southern American continents, facing the Caribbean Sea. It is not a country that we are used to hearing about frequently, but as of recently a large number of Japanese technical experts reside in the country in relation to a variety of official development assistance projects. Amongst them, since 1991 a new fisheries project that challenges the concept of Japan's fisheries related official development assistance (ODA) policy is underway. "Model Peska", as that undertaking is called, is a small scale project focused solely on the Trujillo region in the central northern area of Honduras. Amongst the Japanese it is called a "Mini project". However, the tide of fisherman systematization that took root there is currently spreading throughout the rest of the country, and is changing the whole fisheries industry of Honduras. As a specialist in distribution and distribution facilities for fisheries, I received the opportunity to lead the operation in 1995 in relation to Honduras' northern coastal small scale fisheries promotion and planning study. Here, while introducing the "Mini project" in Honduras, I will describe the order of business of our country's Fisheries ODA.

1. The mini-project and the budding of the fishermen's movement

The fishing industry of Honduras, which accounts for approximately 14% of the total value of exports, is valued as a source of protein for Hondurans. At the same time, there are also promotion targets in terms of food security and acquiring foreign exchange. However, while production methods including gill nets, traps, and seines are used in some areas, most small scale fishermen employ hand line fishing methods from canoes without outboard motors. Due to the inefficient fishing method, undeveloped distribution systems and storage technology, fishing activity has stagnated, and the approximately 8,000 fishermen (mainly consisting of Garifuna and Miskito peoples) live in poverty. Also, fishing operations are unstructured, without even the concept of fishing rights. There is no attitude of putting a portion of the landings into savings and planning for the modernization of production methods. One cannot help but get the impression that the people are living just one day at a time.

What such fishermen as these ask of ODA is outboard motors, power-driven vessels, and landing facilities such as cold stores and ice makers.

This tendency is not limited to Honduras but common in developing nations, where there is a background of developed nations offering ODA in the form of material provisions. However, materials alone have often been provided without appropriate transfer to the recipient nation of the various skills incidental to the uptake of those materials. As such, one problem with existing ODA is that there are considerable numbers of cases where the material provisions have been abandoned due to breakdowns or situations where they could not be operated sufficiently. Honduras is no exception. While in the past power-driven vessels and freezing facilities have been provided by the EC, Taiwan, etc., the recipients were not able to master the use of these items, and they have been left to rust away on the foreshore (Photo 1). Even still, the fishermen expect the provision of materials as the means to escape from poverty, and a tendency to take the provision of these items for granted is evident. In response, for the "mini project" that started in the Trujillo region, the first step was to gain the trust of the locals by having technical specialists dispatched from Japan firstly integrate themselves into the fishermen's society. Next, the fishermen were taught about the merits of cooperating together in conducting fisheries activities, and the wives were taught to put to use items with no associated costs, for example by making souvenirs out of shells that they had been throwing away. Also, through the thorough teaching of skills to manage the freshness for marine products, there was even success in raising quality to levels such that American brokers came to recognise the products as fit for export to the USA (Photo 2). As a result of the project's execution, the sales price for the catch increased by almost double.
Another goal of the operation was to improve the everyday lives of the fishermen by promoting savings, and a compulsory savings scheme putting aside 15% of the money from the landings was created. As a result, the everyday lives of the fishermen improved significantly, and eventually with the fishermen's capital alone, fishing equipment storage facilities and a pier were constructed (Photo 3). Also, the Honduras Fisheries administration's Trujillo branch conducted training sessions (with around 4,000 participants), including bookkeeping and outboard motor skills. This made possible the repair of fishing gear and boats as well as sales management within the district, and along with the organization of fisheries, the groundwork for receiving technical assistance was complete.

2. Expansion to a nationwide movement, and Japan's role

The Mini-project did not plan to simply promote the fisheries industry. An additional characteristic of the project was that reform of the fishermen's society and improvement of gender issues were also in-scope. In fact, with the stabilisation of their livelihoods, the fishermen's expressions brightened, and set off positive effects in the fishing village community. Further, one might say that true technological transfer to the fishermen, which other nations had not been able to achieve, was made possible through the reform movement of the fishermen's society. After this, a fishermen's representative of the Trujillo region independently, and at his own expense, travelled across the country advocating the need for organization of fishing activity to other fishermen, which led a high level of interest from other region's fishermen in the Mini-project. This makes one realise what had been lacking in previous efforts to that attempted to transfer technological know-how to small scale fishermen.

It was in light of this heightening movement amongst fishermen that saw the Honduras government apply in 1993 to our country for grant assistance and development investigations with the aim of developing their fishing industry. Assistance commenced in 1994 based on this application, and it is this project that I am now participating in. The skeleton of the project consists of 3 components; (1) Development project based in 6 regions in the west of the country, (2) Development investigations in the lesser-developed eastern area of the country (the Gracias a Dios department) where the topography features many marshes and swamps, and (3) assisting the Honduras side with their master plan for all regions along the Caribbean sea coast. The aim is to expand the Mini-project that has taken root in the Trujillo region throughout all regions of Honduras, and make for the nationwide organization of fishermen, who are the recipients of technical support.

The assistance projects have seen us visiting regions that the Honduras government had selected as candidates for fishing industry development bases, and holding meetings with local fishermen. We exchanged opinions with the fishermen at these meetings covering (1) what is required by Honduras' fishing industry today, (2) what does "organization" entail, (3) topics regarding the form of fishing village societies, (4) distribution topics, (5) how the domestic market should be developed, and the role of the fishermen in this, and finally (6) that the organization of fishermen and fishing village development projects are those of the Honduras government, and that Japan's role is in supporting and assisting the Honduras government's direction (that Japan is not simply going to provide Honduras fishermen with material items). We have held as many as 10 such meetings, which have on occasion seen us continue discussions amongst the banana and palm trees to the sound of waves until past 10 pm in the evening. At the outset, some fishermen left the meetings the instant that they realised that the assistance would not see them provided with equipment, but many fishermen participated enthusiastically in the discussions. There was an occasion when a fishermen came pushing through to the entrance of the charter craft to voice his opinion to us. Also by coincidence, in the second year of the investigation project, I found myself inside the craft with a Miskito woman who had participated in a meeting one year earlier. She spoke passionately about her aspirations for the project and how, as a woman, she was participating in the activity.

There is tendency to overlook how to evaluate technical assistance in smaller nations. Certainly the Mini-project in Honduras, which started out as a meager activity in a single area, was never likely to become the subject of praise. However, the effort put into the reforms of the livelihoods of those fishermen was recompensed, and the movement is now being carried on by the Honduras fishermen.

The Honduras "Mini-project" will continue to live on inside me as the "Big project" that taught us what was lacking in past Fisheries ODA efforts, and what the role of assistance donors will be in future efforts,
(We hear a lot of allegations of "vote buying" at the IWC in relation to Japan's Fisheries ODA from western anti-sustainable use NGOs. Honduras has never been a member of the IWC.)

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