While we are approaching the 10 years anniversary for the Equality Court ruling that determined that a policy had to be developed to recognize the human rights of South African small-scale fishing communities, we are still waiting for the SSF policy to be implemented.

However, in the past few months it has also become more and more clear that even when SSF policy will be implemented, the basket of many fishers will be too empty to secure sustainable livelihoods.

While MDT and CLSA continue to advocate and fight for the rightful implementation of the SSF policy, it is important for the fishing communities and households to think strategically what other “gears” can be used to sustain their livelihoods.

Indeed, each of our communities is resourceful, with skills, talents and assets. Sometimes, these possibilities to diversify and develop alternative livelihoods remain unexplored. The Hook will introduce some of the best practices in our communities. This week, we will focus on the case of Buffelsjagbaai, a small fishing community on the South Coast of the Western Cape. Here, people have always lived from the sea.

In 2012, the local municipality initiated a programme aiming to support and create livelihood opportunities for local people, especially women. Three cooperatives were set up and the municipality provided business training. Around 30 people are now involved in   the cooperatives, that are quite successful, says Sarah Niemand, the chairperson of the local Coastal Links branch, who is personally involved in running the cooperatives.

“We produce different products: jams, pickled fish, arts and crafts, abalone soup. We also fillet, pack and sell silver fish” Sarah explained. The cooperatives then sell their products locally, but also in Bredasdorp, Gaansbai, Grabauw, where they take the products to shops. “We also participate in festivals: recently we have been to the Stellenbosh Cheese and Wine Festival and the Hermanus Cheese and Wine Festival. The people that buy our products are local people, living in the Western Cape, but also tourists”.

The plan for the future is to expand the livelihoods opportunities linked to the cooperatives, Sarah said: “The people from the local Checkers suggested that we start using sour figs to produce not only jam, but also atchar. They would be interested in selling it and this is a big opportunity”.

When asked what advise she has for people in other fishing communities that want to start building on alternative livelihood opportunities, Sarah answered: “I would tell them that the Ocean is not our only resource. Indeed, looking at other opportunities to sustain our income will also help us harvesting the marine resources in a more sustainable way”.

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