IN 2012, six co-operatives were formed in Lamberts Bay, benefitting small-scale fishers who held Interim Relief permits.
The government through its Co-operative Incentive Scheme (CIS), which is a programme of the DTI, awarded up to R300 000 to each co-operative to get off the ground.
David Shoshola, an Interim Relief rights holder and five other fellow small-scale fishers joined forces together and formed Coastal Fellas Fishing Co-operative, a primary co-operative.
“We are all small-scale fishers who are Interim Relief rights holders, except for one member, uncle Ernest Titus, who is a near-shore rights holder, but, he is still a small-scale fisher, and he is able to add value tour the co-operative,” says Shoshola.
Whether the co-operatives of Lamberts Bay are a success or not, still has to be measured, Shoshola believes, because it is something that he just cannot say off the cuff.
He can however point to some positive and negative aspects of the co-operatives, and is quick to point out that there is hope for the future.
For instance, he says there is one co-operative that did not get any funding through the CIS, because none of its members were Interim Relief permit holders, and the service providers who helped them at the time were only concerned with setting co-operatives with people linked to Interim Relief permits.
“Fish Tail Co-operative is a co-operative that consists of non-interim relief permit holders whose main business activity is in post-harvesting activities.”
Shoshola says that he is very encouraged by the spirit of the members of Fish Tail Co-operative, since they have taken the little resources they had and pulled it together to build a meaningful enterprise that helps them to put food on their tables.
“They are a group of men and women who play an important role for us as fishers since they buy the fish we catch and sell it on to old age homes, local fish and chips shops and other businesses.”
Shoshola says the activities of Fish Tail ensures much of the wealth created by their fishing activities remains in the community, and more people in the community are able to benefit and profit from the fish they catch.
“Because of Fish Tail, the langanas are not able to buy all the fish we catch every day, since a considerable amount of the fish we catch, get sold locally.”
Besides buying and selling the fish caught by local fishers, Fish Tail also sells bait to local fishers, and Shoshola says that although their bait is a bit more more expensive than the traditional bait sellers, the fishers still buy their bait since they are from the community, and Fish Tail also help them to sell their fish.
“In actual fact all the fishers here in Lamberts Bay buy their bait.”
Shoshola says that all the fishers on Interim Relief were with the process in 2012, and that they all worked well together to get their co-operatives off the ground.
“We formed six co-operatives, each with six people in a co-operative, we got R300 000 from the government, with which we bought two boats for each co-operative.”
The other money that was over from the co-operative funding they used for operational costs.
Shoshola says that once the money came in and the boats were bought the co-operatives started to experience problems.
In the beginning he says that most of the problems did not come from the members of the co-operatives, but from people in the community who started spreading stories that the leaders of the co-operatives were stealing and misusing the money and resources of the co-operatives.
But, as far as Coastal Fellas was concerned, Shoshola says they were upfront from the beginning and made the rules on how the co-operative was going to be managed and how the resources will be shared and distributed.
“We have decided that right from the beginning we are going to work for ourselves, and that we are not going to bind ourselves to any marketers.”
Shoshola says that although they also sell their rock lobster to marketers, they are however not bound to the marketers, and should they one day be able to sell their rock lobster by themselves, they would not be bound by contracts they entered into with the marketers.
“As fishers, we are proud people and as members of Coastal Links (CLSA) we realise that we have to work for the future and that we need to do things properly from the start.”
When they got their boats, Shoshola says they decided that each member will pay the catching costs they would have paid should they have worked on someone else’s boat.
The money for the catching costs goes directly into the account of Coastal Fellas.
“The other fishers all have their catching costs paid by the marketers, making them indebted to the marketers, and together with other money they take from the marketers, by the time they catch their rock lobster, they are so heavily indebted that they almost get nothing for what they catch.”
In one season, Good Fellas made good business, and was able to buy a vehicle which they could use to transport their boats and get it to launching sites and back home.
The co-operative also managed to make enough money to start saving for the future, and build its asset base.
Shoshola says that some of the members in the co-operative found it difficult to go out to sea due to health problems, one of them being his sister, who also had IR permits.
“We asked them to look at starting other businesses, while the other members of the co-operative will concentrate on catching the fish and the rock lobster.”
Shoshola says that in order for the co-operatives to become successful, the members in the co-operative need to have a change in mind set, they have to realise that they need to start doing things differently.
However, everything is not completely healthy with the co-operatives, and Shoshola says that there are many challenges facing them.
“For instance, most of the co-operatives are not functioning properly, and many are bound to marketers, and some of the boats are not going out to sea, and it seems as if some of it has become white elephants.”
And, even Coastal Fellas is having its fair share of challenges, with some members in the co-operative not seeing the future of the co-operative in the same light as the rest of the members.
Shoshola says that some of the differences are created by other people in the community who spread false rumours.