Toward the end of January 2024, raging fires spread through areas in the Overstrand in the Western Cape. Fishing communities that have been affected by these fires include Kleinmond, Pearly Beach, Hermanus and Buffeljagsbaai.

The Buffeljags fire started on 29 January near Pearly beach and scorched more than 7500 hectares of vegetation. Sarah Niemand, Coastal links leader and fisher woman from Buffeljagsbaai, detailed how they were affected by the fire:

“While the fire was spreading, school children were sent home as well as the abalone farmworkers. Delivery trucks could not enter into the community due to the smoke that hindered visibility for vehicles. We were sitting without electricity and poor network for a few days due to the pole line being burnt away. People were struggling to keep their food fresh due to having no power.”

This is not the first time the communities in this region suffer under increasingly harsh weather disasters. In September last year, the Western Cape faced its worst storm yet, with a warning level of 9. The downpour led to overflowing rivers, widespread infrastructure damage, electricity outages, and flooding in Greater Cape Town and surrounding regions like Overberg, Overstrand, and Winelands.

The reality of climate change is increasingly evident in coastal communities, posing a growing threat to the livelihoods of small-scale fishers. This climate crisis not only affects fisheries but also undermines food production and security within these communities.

The small-scale fisheries sector significantly contributes to job creation and local food systems in rural coastal communities. However, small-scale fishers have major concerns beyond the impacts of the climate crisis. False solutions to the crisis like blue finance initiatives, which prioritize financializing biodiversity and conservation, along with oil and gas developments as energy crisis fixes, pose additional threats to the livelihoods of small-scale fishers.

The South African government must prioritize the needs and livelihoods of local communities when implementing climate solutions, ensuring their right to a healthy environment and food security is protected.


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