On 25 October Masifundise virtually premiered their second inland fisheries report and documentary. The report and video explored the challenges that women in small-scale inland fishing communities face as a result of the lack of recognition for their livelihood activities as well as the shortcomings of existing governance frameworks in supporting these livelihoods.

Inland fishing has been an important livelihood activity for many people living close to freshwater bodies such as rivers and dams in South Africa. The sector, however, has long been marginalized and undermined despite it being a valuable socio-cultural and economic contributor to rural livelihoods and playing an important role in ensuring food and nutrition at the local level.

Freshwater bodies have remained the only natural resource whose management has not gone through a reform post-1994, leaving small-scale inland fishers to operate in a legislative vacuum. Until recently, a clear policy and legislative framework on inland fisheries was absent. Historically, this resulted in fragmented governance and regulation, varying from one province to another.

In February 2022 the National Freshwater (Inland) Wild Capture Fisheries Policy was gazetted in South Africa. This formally recognised inland small-scale fishing as a livelihood activity, source of food security, and contributor to the economy. It also recognised the potential of the sector to be further developed to enhance the socio-economic benefits that can be derived from it. However, as it stands, the policy is yet to be implemented and resembles more of a guiding framework than a complete policy document.

“One of the points of concern is that although the inland fishing policy builds on some of the key principles of international Small-scale Fishing Guidelines and the national Small-scale Fisheries Policy, principles of gender equality and equity are largely absent from it,” said Yvette Le Fleur, Research Officer at Masifundise.

It is in light of the absence of any clear references made to gender in the newly gazetted National Freshwater (Inland) Wild Capture Fisheries Policy that Masifundise’s research report and documentary aimed to bring forward the voices of women in inland fishing communities, to better understand their history and role in the sector. This is to ensure that during the implementation of the policy, the role of women within inland fisheries is adequately recognised, and gender equality and equity are taken into consideration indecision-making, management and capacity-building.

Download the report here

Watch the documentary here: