CO-OPERATIVES set up previously to access fishing rights will have to set up new cooperatives according to the Small-Scale Fisheries policy guidelines.

According to Hahn Goliath fieldworker for Masifundise, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), have indicated that all co-operatives that wish to access rights under Small-Scale Fisheries Policy (SFFP), must start new cooperatives, under guidelines set out by the department.

“The existing co-operatives were not designed according to the templates that have been drawn up by DAFF for the SFFP,” says Goliath.

Goliath says that it will be important to set up new co-operatives, since the constitutions of the new co-operatives from the SSFP, will be different to that of the existing co-operatives.

“These co-operatives were just general co-operatives that were set up by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and it was not set up in the context of the SSFP”.

Through Masifundise and Coastal Links SA, Goliath works with 13 primary co-operatives and one secondary co-operative in the communities of Doringbaai, Ebenhaezer and Papendorp, in the northern part of the West Coast.

The secondary co-operative, u’Kondleka, unites the 13 primary co-operative and represents 117 small-scale fishers from these three communities.

Together they put to use their Interim Relief permits to do business, which consist of 42 boats, a factory, holding facility and a freezing facility.

“Through the DTI, we managed to secure R300 000 for each co-operative. At first we wanted to start just one single co-operative, but was told that it would be better if we have more than one co-operative, in order to access more grants from the DTI, instead of just one R300 000,” says Goliath.

He says they eventually formed 13 co-operatives and managed to access 13 Co-operative Incentive Scheme (CIS) Grants from the DTI.

Goliath believes that it is better to have fewer structures to manage the activities of the group, and that is where the secondary co-operative is of great help.

These are grants, and they do not need to pay it back.  Goliath says, with that money they managed to buy 27 new boats and built their factory and holding and freezing facilities.

“Our members have Interim Relief (IR) permits which are renewed every year, and within that permits we have West Coast Rock Lobster, Cape Bream (Hotnotvis), Snoek, White Mussels and some other species, we have 42 boats, of which 27 are less than three years old.”

Putting all their resources together, Goliath says they make millions in a year, but that it is not enough to run a sustainable business, since most of the money they make goes into sustaining the fishing activities of the members and running the affairs of the co-operatives.

In describing their present co-operatives, Goliath believes that they are not very successful, but that they are also not a failure, but that their co-operatives are doing fairly well, under the circumstances.

“We started in 2009 as a pilot, and I can say that we have learnt a lot from running our co-operatives, which can be applied in the future.”

Goliath believes that they could have been more successful in their endeavours if they had more support.

He talks about getting legal recognition and support from the local municipality and the commercial fishing industry.

He says that the support that they got from the DTI was tremendous, but that the non-financial support was not as good, because it mainly based on agriculture, and not suited for the small scale fishing industry.

“Many of our members lack basic business skills, financial management and how to grow our business.”

Goliath says that most of the members of their co-operatives lack formal education, and that training in many areas of running a business would help them tremendously.

He also feels that mentorship from the private sector, where they can help the small-scale fishers in running their businesses can help them a great deal.

Important going into the future are a few hidden lessons according to Goliath, which include training and management of the co-operative, getting a sustainable allocation every year, and how to grow the co-operative into a sustainable business to become a commercial entity in the end.

“As co-operatives we create jobs, we generate wealth and bring economic stability and dignity back into our communities.”

Goliath says that there is nothing wrong with registering new co-operatives, since the present co-operatives they are managing do not meet many of the criteria that will come into play when the SSFP comes into effect.

He points especially to the fact that many of the existing co-operatives exclude women.

“Our co-operatives at the moment also do not include many of the post-harvest and pre-harvest activities, and that also exclude other small scale fisherfolk,” says Goliath.

Now Goliath believes that their co-operatives only cover the harvesters of fish, and not those people who sell them bait and those who sell their fish once they have caught it.

Goliath says that they will gladly change over to the new type of co-operatives that must be established for the SSFP.

There, however needs to be a discussion opened on what is going to happen to the existing co-operatives, and how it is going to relate to the newly established co-operatives, and how the transition is going to happen.

The big question though is, can the existing co-operatives be transformed into co-operatives that meet the criteria within the SSFP, and if not, what will happen to the existing co-operatives?

“We are open to change, and will gladly set up new co-operatives that will meet the criteria of the new SSFP, since it will include more fisherfolk into the system, as opposed to what we have at the moment,” says Goliath.

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