Government Launches Artisanal Fishing Loan Program to Boost Livelihoods
Over eighteen hundred Belizean fishers will now have access to low-interest loans to improve their livelihoods and bolster responsible fishing practices. Today, through a partnership with the Blue Bond and Finance Permanence Unit and Development Finance Corporation (DFC), the government launched the “Artisanal Fishing Loan Pilot Program.” The project seeks to provide small-scale anglers with affordable loans and training on sustainable fisheries management and financial resilience. The endeavor also seeks to increase fishery exports and furthers to the country’s Resilient Bold Belize, a Project Finance for Permanence expected to raise over one hundred and sixty million dollars. DFC’s CEO, Henry Anderson, spoke about the project’s benefits and how it will be executed.
Henry Anderson, Chief Executive Officer, DFC: “What we’re doing we have developed like four loans right. The fishes can access money to buy boats, buy engines that’s a capital loan. They can get money to maintain the boats, the engines and their gear. They can get money to maintain their gear like the fishing pots and stuff. They can get working capital at the beginning of the season. You need to mobilize and get ready. In some cases, some fishers hire other people. They need to buy food and everything. So we could do that. Or we could do revolving line of credits for those who are more established and they have a program that they go year after year we could do that. As was mentioned here, we have loan rates ranging from 8.5% to 12%. They’re variable. And we especially look at women to get more women and young people involved. And so we work to lend them at the lower end of the scale. Also, women are actually better payers, so they are less risk. And so we are able to provide loans for women at around 8.5%. It’s a function of size and what they’re getting and what you find for certain things, they can just do a promissory note where they sign and say they will pay back and then if you’re buying a boat then we hold the boat. So it’s accessible. We will make available the program to any fisher but we’re piloting it and the important part here, DFC is Belize’s development finance institution. We’re not trying to let’s say compete with the commercial bank. So these are the things we do. This is an opportunity to improve the livelihood of the fisher folk, but at the same time ensure that they are protecting where they fish and that allows for business to continue for a long time. Belize as a country has been a leader in what we do in terms of climate change and leading the way with the Blue Bond, with the conservation for many years Belize has been leading the way with that. So this is just another opportunity to just as the Blue Bond was innovative, the Project Finance for Permanence project which will come out of all of this is the first in the blue economy where you’re getting different types of funding, putting it together to protect this area, let’s say for 30 or 40 years. This is what this will do.”
Throughout the project, fishers will be engaged in training sessions geared at improving fishing techniques, data gathering, and diversification. Clyde Martinez, Hopkins Fishermen Cooperative, spoke about the expected benefits and some concerns expressed by fishers.
Clyde Martinez, Hopkins Fishermen Cooperative: “For me, after hearing different comments to me it’s a good opportunity for us that we could be able to not be afraid to challenge. One of the things that affects the fishers is that they really don’t understand, they need more explanation because they think that because it’s a loan and then when they hear the percentage, 8 and 12, they think that it’s still high, they’re still afraid of it. But if you compare it to the bank system you don’t get the opportunity to rate to pay if you have a time frame where you are not able to pay. In the discussion we had earlier with the DFC and Hopkins they told us that they have a time frame that you will be able to tell them, okay there might be like fisheries there are period like between July and September where you don’t catch as much fish as you want to and sometimes you might not be able to pay back the loan the loan that you would want to pay like if you’re paying up 200 you might not be able to make that money then. But if you are able, they said that you can walk in, inform them, and do that. Now, one of the things that I had thought, especially for us fishermen, had thought that getting a grant would have been better and that’s what most persons would have liked to. But getting a grant, not everybody will be able to get it. If you have 10 of us want a grant maybe three or five might be the person that gets it. And when that grant comes, it’s like it’s gone that person get and nobody else will be able to get anything else unless you find another grant where you are able to take care of the other persons. But with this loan it becomes a revolving fund. You who get now can always come back if you want more because of paying your loan you could also borrow another and then the way Mr. Anderson has put it is that you could pay it on a lower interest rate.”
Today, the fishers, government, and non-government representatives met to discuss the concerns and possible solutions that will satisfy all parties. ////