The positive impact of fishing co-operatives to the livelihoods of fishers in Doring Bay and Lamberts Bay were shared between fishers from the Eastern Cape and Western Cape, who met in Lamberts Bay in an Exchange Programme this week.
The exchange visit saw 14 Coastal Links South Africa (CLSA) members from the Western and Eastern Cape exchanging knowledge on how fishing cooperatives in Lamberts Bay and Doring Bay were set up, how they function and their activities.
The goal of the visit is for the Eastern Cape CLSA members to learn from the members of the cooperatives in these two communities.
The Small-Scale Fisheries policy requires Small-Scale Fishing communities to form co-operatives to which rights will be allocated.
In some communities of the Western Cape, fishers had previously formed fishing cooperatives, and it is hoped that the fishers from the Eastern Cape will learn from the experiences of fishing co-operatives in the Western Cape.
The Lamberts Bay community currently has two fishing cooperatives, Fish Tails and Coastal Fellas, which are both primary co-operatives.
Coastal Fellas focus on fishing and harvesting fishing resources and Fish Tails focuses on post-harvest activities.
The Lamberts Bay fishers formed their co-operatives in 2011 and have been able to self-sustain their co-operatives through fisher contributions and teamwork.
David Shoshola, one of the founding members of Coastal Fella explained to the group how the co-operative is currently operating.
Shoshola said that they received CIS Grant (Co-operative Incentive Scheme) from the government for infrastructure but never received training to properly manage the co-operative.
“In the beginning we had to sink or swim but we chose to swim, we did not receive any training, but we made sure to be pro-active to make the co-op sustainable,” said Shoshola.
He said that there are many challenges in forming co-operatives because each member has their own ideas.
“We began the co-op with nine people but now we have five people due to internal issues,” explained Shoshola, “however, we did not let this deter us, because we had a goal to achieve and we had to focus in making a living for us and our families”.
Alfonso Smith introduced Fish Tails, and said they are involved in post-harvest processes. “We buy the fish from Coastal Fellas, clean it and sell it,” Smith said.
“We never received any financial support through the CIS Grant like Coastal Fellas got, on the harbour we hire shacks from the Harbour at R60 per day, in which we can process up to 1000 fish, through which we generate an income,” said Smith.
Smith said that they currently sell their fish immediately after cleaning it because they do not have the means to transport the fish, or having freezing facilities to keep it for a while.
He further said that finance is currently a challenge as a co-operative they need to buy infrastructure to properly process and store the marine products.
Eastern Cape members were interested in how Coastal Fellas resolved challenges and how they create jobs for other members of the communities.
To this another co-operative member, Ernest Titus said besides employing fishers who are rights holders, they also have skippers, fish cleaners and fish processors.
“The cooperatives have spin-off effects, because these two co-ops employ people who will clean our fish and market it for us to other stakeholders,” Titus explained.
George Lenee, another co-operative member said challenges will always be there, but because they have developed internal processes, they are able to resolve their issues by referring to their co-operative’s constitution.
Masifundise’s Michelle Joshua said that it was vital for the Eastern Cape fishers not only to listen to the other fishers but to also think about how they form co-operatives in their own communities.
“Eastern Cape Fishers need to be aware that the policy will eventually be implemented and it is vital that fishers are pro-active,” Joshua said
“You need to leave Cape Town with enough knowledge to prepare yourself and your communities to form successful cooperatives”.
Lulamile Ponono, Masifundise field worker in the Eastern Cape said that this was vital information as previous co-operatives in the province have failed.
“It is important for us to have enough information so that we can form our co-ops on a new footing that will not be tainted by failed co-ops that were not formed with the intention of developing fishing communities”.
The visit began on Tuesday and will end on Friday afternoon.