Five Coastal Links South Africa (CLSA) members from the Western Cape and Northern Cape engaged in a Community Exchange Programme with fishers from KwaZulu/Natal (KZN) recently, in what Rovina Marthinus, CLSA member from Arniston describes as an uplifting experience.
Marthinus, Norton Dowries from Langebaan, Florina Albertyn from Hawston, Elroy Adams from Port Nolloth and Rhiaan Coetzee from Doring Bay, all went on the exchange together with Hahn Goliath and Sithembiso Gwaza from Masifundise.
The purpose of the exchange, according to Marthinus, is to allow for communities to learn from each other, and to see what they can take from each other to implement in their communities to improve the lives of fishers and their communities.
“We visited them, to see how they fish and how they live, they and fishers from the Eastern Cape previously visited our communities also,” said Marthinus.
The community they visited was Kosi Bay in Northern KZN on the border between South Africa and Mozambique.
“We observed their living conditions and the techniques they use in fishing, we fish from the boats and use hand-lines, whereas they use traps, the fish kraal, poles, the trees, grass and spears to fish.”
Marthinus said that they also use trapping methods to fish in Arniston, but that their fish kraals, known as ‘vywers’, which they inherited from their ancestors, are made from stone.
She said she can understand why their methods are different, because of a difference in environment, whereas in Arniston, their fishing grounds are more surrounded by sand and rocks, but in Kosi Bay, the fishing grounds are surrounded by greenery like grass and trees and other plant-life.
Just like in Arniston, Marthinus said that fish traps are constructed in such a way that the under-size fish that they target are able to escape from the fish traps.
“A big learning experience for me was how close-knit the community is, how they preserve their cultures and traditions, and how they pass their traditions, culture techniques and fishing skills from generation to generation.”
“They have managed to protect their fishing grounds and also managed to expand their fishing grounds.”
Marthinus says that the way the community functions will stand them in good stead if they should decide to form co-operatives under the new small-scale fishing policy.
“The people really know how to work together, when meetings are called, everybody attends, they sit on the ground, and they will hold their meetings, outside, under the tree, and they do not have a great need for meeting halls.”
The community lives far from big towns, and people have to walk long distances to get to the nearest shops, with some of the roads only going up to certain places, from where you have to travel by foot if you wish to reach your destination.
Marthinus says the community also lives close to nature, and many engage in farming activities and raising livestock.
They also live in a marine protected area (MPA) which places a lot of restrictions on how much fish they can catch and that they can only catch fish for the pot and not for resale.
“They are successful in fishing and farming.”
Marthinus says that how they fish, how they live and how the community functions, with people co-operating with each other for the common good of the community, are some of the things she and her fellow exchange members will take home with them.
Marthinus feels that if communities can function like the fishers from Kosi Bay, that there co-operatives will function well, and that she will definitely take this to her fishing community.
On the other hand, she says, that the visiting delegates could help the Kosi Bay fishers with how to market their fish, since they are allowed to sell their fish, and that the fishers from Kosi By will need such help, because presently, they cannot sell their fish.