Improving traditional fisheries in South Africa

In an effort to develop a sustainable small-scale fisheries sector, CDI engaged with local actors to gather important data, create awareness and ensure commitment, as a starting point for the development of a fish value chain.

How to improve the income of traditional fishers in South Africa in such a way that not only the livelihood of the fishing communities but also the resilience of the marine environment will be secured?

Fishing for livelihood  

On the request of the Netherlands Embassy a pilot project was started by Centre for Development Innovation (CDI), Wageningen UR to find innovative ways for small scale fisheries development as a livelihood for the impoverished population living along the west coast of South Africa. In view of the complexity of the situation the project followed a participatory process approach to provoke better understanding and communication between three main players: the fishing communities, the politicians and the fish traders.

To this end first focus was on strengthening of the fishers:

  • to develop a comprehensive knowledge base on their fishing activities as a starting point for communication with the government on the future of the small scale fisheries sector;
  • to develop a fair and profitable fish value chain for domestic marketing.

The knowledge base

The interactive development of the knowledge base created awareness and commitment among fishers to report and monitor their fishing activities and its impact on the marine ecosystem, to assess their catch per unit effort, to appraise the economic and ecological viability of their fishing activities and to have a better understanding of the economics of marketing. The collection and analysis of the ecological data provided a lot of exclusive information, which will form the basis for impact monitoring. Information collected and discussed on the costs and benefits of fishing activities revealed the scope and constraints for improved performance of the sector. In depth field studies gave more insight in the social and cultural aspects of the fishing communities.

Golden Triangle

The lack of suitable fisheries infrastructure and access to markets, form a major obstacle for the development of the small scale fisheries sector. To facilitate the transition from the current poor conditions to more sustainable fisheries development, government authorities had to be involved in the process. Meetings and discussions with government staff for Marine and Coastal Management on the knowledge base, resulted in better understanding on the proposed utilization of coastal marine resources, on the economics of small scale fisheries, the need for development of the value chain for domestic marketing and the scope for a (market led) ecosystem approach for improved marine governance. Opportunities were explored for improved marketing of local species. Based on the outcome, it is expected that conditions are favourable for modest but effective investments for improved landing, processing  and storage of local fish species as a starting point for development of a fish value chain for domestic marketing. In this way the project will contribute to increased food security and private sector development in the region.