Mara’s fishing helps with her son’s education

Mara Bezuidenhoudt’s income from fishing in the Northern Cape’s Vanderkloof Dam has helped to support her only son during his university studies.

Speaking to The Hook in her modest home in Petrusville, she proudly shows us pictures of Dillon, who is currently studying Linguistics in Bloemfontein.

Mara’s family came to Petrusville many decades back. Her father was a brick-maker and her mother regularly fished in the dam. This exposed the young Mara to the fisheries world.

Like many people, she ended up working as a domestic worker and in between fished to supplement her meagre income.

She had a huge struggle to get a bursary for Dillon when he completed his schooling, but was eventually successful.

“An organisation called Helpmekaar supported me, standing surety for a bank loan. Later, Dillon got a good bursary and he is now in his third year,” she said.

“With the money I make from the catches, I have been able to assist him with transport, clothing and book costs,” she said.

“I pray for him every day, that God must protect him,” she said, as she glances at his picture.

Mara and her husband Gershwin hope that the planned projects by Government and Rhodes University will succeed as it will help to put food on the table for poor communities.

“When I catch fish, I speak to God,” said Mara. “I say; God the fish belongs to you. I wait for my fish. While I wait, God blesses me,” she said, closing her eyes.

Fishers in several communities around the Vanderkloof Dam in the Northern Cape are getting organised so that they can stake their claim for food security.

In a region with widespread poverty and chronic job shortages, fishing is a critical source of income that can mean the difference between survival and destitution.

In April this year, Masifundise took its first small steps into the world of fresh water fisheries when a two person delegation embarked on a visit to Vanderkloof Dam outside Orania.

South Africa has thousands of dams and rivers.

Wipekedia states:

“In South Africa we depend mostly on rivers, dams and underground water for our water supply. The country does not get a lot of rain, less than 500mm a year. In fact, South Africa is one of the 30 driest countries in the world. To make sure that we have enough water to drink, to grow food and for industries, the government builds dams to store water. These dams make sure that communities do not run out of water in times of drought. About half of South Africa’s annual rainfall is stored in dams.

Dams can also prevent flooding when there is an over-abundance of water. We have more than 500 government dams in South Africa, with a total capacity of 37 000 million cubic metres (about 15-million Olympic-sized swimming pools).”

The two met with a range of stakeholders discussing a government proposal that explores the potential of fishing in the dam for livelihoods and poverty alleviation.

The government’s announcement of an experimentation project has stirred some controversy with a powerful lobby of recreational fishers claiming that the fish resource was under threat.

The proponents of the project, the government and other stakeholders, say that from their observations, there is fish in abundance.

However, there has been no recent scientific research done and so claims of abundance or scarcity are largely anectodal.

In a separate matter, small-scale fishers are being blocked from kraal fishing near the dam wall, because it is located in a security zone. Fishers have been arrested inside and outside the zone for either trespassing or fishing illegally.

The kraal fishing, which entails building a safe area surrounded by rocks, is an ancient Khoisan method. Mealies are placed in the space and when the water rises, the fish head there to feed. When the sluice gates close, the water rapidly drops and the fish are trapped in the kraal.

Masifundise went on a second visit to the area in May and met with many community members. Masifundise supports the rights of small-scale fishers to sustainable livelihoods.


DAFF kicks off public consultations on fishing allocations

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries started their community consultation process yesterday about the Draft Fisheries Sector Specific policies, draft application forms and applicable fees.

The meeting was mainly attended commercial fishers and just a few small-scale fishers were present in the meeting. The meeting was held in Sea Point.

A Coastal Links member from Hout Bay, Beatrice Yon attended the meeting briefly. “We did not stay for long, we felt like the meeting was more for commercial fishers and we as small-scale felt inadequate,” she told The Hook.

On the 25 of June, the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries released information regarding the public consultation process.

Masifundise and Coastal Links have encouraged small-scale fishers to participate in the consultation process.

Masifundise is highly concerned about the distribution of the WCRL to commercial fishers. This is due to the fact that once commercial fishers are given rights, this will have direct impact on the number of rights given to small-scale fishers.

“We have encouraged our communities, especially those in the West Coast to make comments on the policy” said Michelle Joshua “because once rights are issued, there is no turning back and as an organisation we cannot allow our fishers to lose out once again,” she continued.

The consultation meetings began on Tuesday, July 7 and will end on Tuesday, August 4, 2015.

Read DAFF media release here:


Christian Adams reflects on Smallholders to Markets conference

Christian Adams, the national chairperson of Coastal Links South Africa (CLSA) attended a conference in Italy two weeks back, with the theme Connecting Smallholders to Markets.

The gathering was the Civil Society Mechanism (CSM) of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN).

The forum brought together a wide range of concerned stakeholders to discuss issues, challenges and ways to improve the access of smallholders to markets.

In this interview with The Hook, he reflects on the event.

Why did you take part in the event?

Let me try and give you some understanding of how we as Coastal Links South Africa (CLSA) fit into the picture. CLSA and Masifundise are members of the World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP).

MDT is a member of the WFFP.

WFFP is a member of the International Planning Committee (IPC) of the CSM. The CSM forms part of the CFS (Committee on World Food Security). The CFS in turn forms part of the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) of the United Nations.

Now the CFS also has a CC (Central Committee) and this consists of a board of twelve members, they look at the work that the CFS must undertake. On this committee of 12, the CSM has four seats. Masifundise Director Naseegh Jaffer occupies one of them.

How did you find the experience of attending such a meeting?

For me the experience was at first very intimidating and it took some time to settle in. The fact that the majority of the people whom I met at first, comes from Civil Society and are like-minded assisted a lot in settling in. It was also helpful to know that quite a number of them knew Naseegh and this was a good place to start at. The travelling was exhausting but not having any meetings after arrival helped in getting ready for the next day.

Take us through a normal day of the discussions?

A day was filled with meetings which started at 9:30am in the morning, lasted through lunch and culminated with final preparation discussion rounding the day off at 1about 9:30pm.

Tell us about the presentations on markets and small-holders and which ones stood out for you?

On Day 3, Shi Yan, a Chinese farmer, activist and on top of it all an Academic Doctor in her field of expertise presented the case of how young Chinese farmers are driven to the cities because of the policies implemented by government and how it has a negative impact on the amount of youth now entering into farming.

She also demonstrated as to how they as a movement are countering this by creating alternative markets through social media. By pooling their resources they can also deliver produce to the cities and how with community supported agriculture, they are supplying 600 families directly, without a middleman or marketer.

This discussion of linking smallholders to markets was further supported by Mamadou Geita from Mali who presented a case study to show that with the necessary infrastructure and support it was possible for smallholders to supply such a demanding market.

What main point relating to small holders and markets was really highlighted by the attendees?

During the afternoon sessions we dealt with questions from the floor as well as from other panelists. The cases that we presented through our answers were well received and further strengthened our case that we do not need assistance in linking us to markets but rather that we need assistance in strengthening our current structures.

The point that came out strongly was that, we will not find a one-size-fits-all approach as a solution but rather a framework within which we must operate in order to find the best local solution for the challenges that remain.

Did the discussion reach any final decisions related to the issue of markets and small-holders?

The one thing that was agreed upon was that we’d need further interrogation into the marketing matter and that we must see this meeting as a departure point in finding our solution that would best fit a local situation.

Read more on the event here:


DAFF reports on Small-Scale Fishing Licences

“The Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries said the Small-Scale Fisheries Policy (SSFP) aims to expand the number and strength of small fisheries in coastal areas”. The department said this while reporting to the National Council of Province’s Land and Mineral Resources committee on 28 June.

“SSFP initiatives include increasing the number of fishing licenses to small, traditional fisheries. One challenge to this initiative involves fairly allocating Department resources between small communities and the commercial fishing sector”

Read More here:


Sand Mining in coastal communities: The case of Xolobeni

The coastal community of Xolobeni in the Eastern Cape has been faced with conflict emanating from a sand mining dispute, reports the Daily Maverick.

“The mining of Xolobeni has been the source of controversy since 2008, when it emerged that the Australian company had been granted rights to strip-mine a 22km stretch of the Wild Coast, despite concerns over the initial consultation process and environmental concerns”. (Tourism Update, 2015)

In this area the conflict is amongst the residents, business and government because of a Perth-based mining entrepreneur who opened up a mining venture. Mineral Sand project owned by Mark Victor Caruso, extracts Ilmenite at the ochre red dune dunes that can be seen in the Xolobeni area. Wikipedia describes Ilmenite as follows:

“Ilmenite is the titanium-iron oxide mineral with the idealised formula FeTiO. 3. It is a weakly magnetic black or steel-gray solid. From the commercial perspective, ilmenite is the most important ore of titanium.”

“The windswept dunes contain some nine million tons of Ilmenite, source of the space-age mineral titanium” writes John Clarke for the Maverick

Read More about the conflict: and

Here: for the update on the story.

Next week, we will get to see how Sand mining affects the ecosystem.

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