Thursday, June 13, 2024

Launch of a Credit Facility for Artisanal fishers to improve livelihoods and strengthen stewardship for sustainable fisheries

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Press Release – Belize City, Belize – February 12, 2024 – In an effort to promote sustainable fishing and stronger stewardship of Belize’s rich marine environment, the Government of Belize and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) joined forces with the Development Finance Corporation of Belize (DFC), and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to establish a pilot program to support licensed artisanal fishers through loans tailored to their needs.
An initial pilot will be implemented for fishers in Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve. This program expected to be rolled out nationally as part of the upcoming Resilient Bold Belize (RBB) initiative in 2025. The ultimate conservation impact of the artisanal fisher loan program is to ensure compliance with fisheries laws and regulations in Belize for long-term sustainable fisheries.
Most fishers in Belize have limited access to the formal financial system and sometimes resort to informal lenders for their financial needs, which reduces their economic growth possibilities. This new loan program will support licensed small-scale fishers who wish to switch to more sustainable gears, invest in better motors or replacements, new boats, and other capital needs to facilitate diversification into nontraditional fisheries. The program was co-designed with fisher communities to ensure it meets their needs and the requirements are realistic.
“The Fisheries Sector is one of the key economic drivers within Belize’s Blue Economy and it is essential that we have facilities like this fisher loan program to provide the much-needed access to finances to improve fisherfolk livelihood activities and their continued collective contribution to our national economy, while at the same time promoting the sustainable use of Belize’s fisheries resources” – Beverly Wade, Director Blue Bond and Finance Permanence Unit, Office of the Prime Minister.
Osmany Salas, WWF Lead of the RBB initiative, expressed that “besides providing access to loans, this program aims to improve capacities for fishers individually and collectively and also meet their needs and aspirations. At an individual scale, the purpose is to empower fishers to make better financial decisions, be more financially resilient and see the connections between their business model and ocean sustainability”.
At a collective level, the purpose is to support fisher associations to improve their current management and governance capacity to fully participate in the improvement of fisheries management.
“This initiative exemplifies our commitment to fostering economic growth while prioritizing environmental sustainability. Together, we can empower artisanal fishers, drive business innovation, and ensure the long-term prosperity of our fisheries” stated Mr. Henry Anderson, CEO of Belize’s Development Finance Corporation.
“With loan packages ranging from BZ$3,000 to BZ$150,000, we are dedicated to uplifting livelihoods, strengthening stewardship for sustainable fisheries, and bolstering the fishing industry’s business landscape,” Mr. Anderson complimented.
Loan packages offer favorable variables, with interest rates from 8.5% to 12% for periods of 12 months to 7 years. DFC is offering a lower rate for women fishers ranging from 8% to 11% to encourage their participation.
In addition to any financial conditions, full adherence to the fisheries regulations are requirements of the loan program. Loan recipients will also undergo training in financial management, sustainable fishing practices, and fisheries regulations to ensure strong environmental and financial stewardship.
Ralna Lamb Lewis, WCS Belize Assistant Country Director – Marine added that at the core of the loan program is supporting fishers transitioning to responsible fishing practices. While the program offers financing not traditionally available to fisherfolks, it also provides guidelines and measures to track fishing practices in order to assess impact on fishers’ behavior while at sea. A program such as this serves to benefit fishers in the short-term by providing access to competitive financing, while also securing their livelihoods for the long-term through incentivizing behaviors of those who fish with the future in mind.

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