During the 2016 spring semester, University of Rhode Island President David M. Dooley visited Ghana for six days to observe the progress and oversee production of two large ventures that the university has become involved in.

The two projects include collaborations with the Coastal Resources Center (CRC) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

“We received roughly 25 million for two major projects that span five years,” Dooley said. “We currently have URI staff and professors that are being housed in Ghana until the completion of the projects.”

The first project underway is the Sustainable Fisheries Management Project, in which URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography is working closely to build and preserve fisheries and protect the coastal and offshore habitats that the fishing industry disturbs. The second project is the Analytical Support Services and Evaluations for Sustainable Systems, which measures the success of the USAID projects being pursued throughout West Africa by producing outcome-based assessments.

During the visit, Dooley, along with Dr. Joseph Quainoo, toured the ongoing projects and met with the partnering universities and nonprofit organizations that the university will be working alongside as they lead the two USAID-funded projects. Their goal is to provide resources for more sustainability in the major fisheries in Ghana.

“The fishing industry is very important because fish is the primary source of protein for 60 to 65 percent of the population in Ghana,” Dooley said.

As a part of his visit, Dooley met with communities, fishing centers, and a local women’s collective to improve not only the resourcefulness and impact of fishing, but also their quality of life.

He learned about the local fishing practices, which entails that men fish all night in their wooden boats, then sell the fish to the women known as “fish mongers,” who then prepare it to be sold again.

“We met with a local women’s collective of fish mongers to open a dialog and enlist them as allies in preserving the fisheries and ecosystems,” Dooley said. “We have initiatives to help not only with bettering the ecosystem but empowering the women to promote their own interests, better their education and help to improve the quality of their daily lives.”

As a result of overfishing to accommodate population increases and a greater demand, Dooley explained that “the annual catch rate declined dramatically and the government wants to help preserve the fisheries and create sustainable food for a 100 years through smart fishing practices and initiatives.”

It is very important that only mature fish are being caught and that the fish being brought in are not in the process of spawning, all of which are techniques that are being taught to the fishers in Ghana to ensure for more sustainable fishing practices. The Graduate School of Oceanography is partnering with local universities to educate teams on taking measurements to determine the age, sex, and reproductive cycles of the fish, as well as collecting data on how many fish are being caught.

In addition to preserving the environment for the fish, URI is providing the women with more sustainable cooking processes to ensure the preservation of the surrounding coastal forests. Testing the water quality for sustainable shellfish, awareness of heavy metals interrupting reproductive cycles and sharing methods developed by URI’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences are some of the initiatives that URI is sharing with the fishing communities.

Dooley said the projects were both very inspiring, especially with the faculty being so deeply invested and working directly with the people.

“I really took away from the visit how much of a global impact URI is making through this sustainability project,” Dooley said. “We are really making a profound difference in people’s’ lives, and our student body should proud of the work we are doing. URI is a very positive force in the world.”

Dooley hopes to get students involved in the projects in the near future, so as the efforts continue to progress.

“We are developing trips for URI students to go to Ghana during the J Term to experience a sense of participating first hand in the culture, environment, and this hopefully long-term collaboration between the two countries,” Dooley said.