Turning the tide, fishers look at ways cooperatives can work for their communities…

When the small-scale fisheries policy (SSFP) comes into operation, fishers will be expected to manage their activities in business entities, as the policy will require fishers to form co-operatives.

The creation of fishing cooperatives through which the SSFP will be implemented requires those involved in the fishing co-operatives to be able to manage their entities.

The cooperatives will have business functions that require not only fishers to think business like, but also those who will be employed by the co-operatives to be fully equipped in business management skills.

There is a saying that fishers use that goes like “don’t mess with a fisher’s money” – a statement that alludes to the level of sensitivity that fishers has towards their money.

Fishers want to be at sea and not to be managing businesses, but at the same time wants their money to be managed properly.

The Hook envisages that co-operatives will eventually employ community members to manage cooperatives on behalf of the fishers.

The day to day functioning of the entity will depend on proper management by skilled individuals, who will help drive the fisheries co-operatives to be socially responsible and to become lucrative businesses.

How do fishers then prepare themselves to successfully operate co-operatives that will assist in sustaining their livelihoods, and also generate enough funds to become economically viable and eradicate food insecurity?

Fishers from Lambertsbay and Dooringbay  from the Western Cape and Mendwane, Pedi, and Colchester in the Eastern Cape seemed to have an idea of what is needed for fishers and fishing communities to run successful fishing cooperatives.

The fishers, 14 altogether, were in LambertsBay attending an exchange workshop focusing on cooperatives.

Skills sharing, business training, unity, youth empowerment was amongst the few ideas shares by the participants.

They mentioned that in order for any project to work in communities, there has to be a sense of unity, where all members of the community show commitment in the development of their communities.

“It is very important for community members to speak with one voice,” commented Masifundise’s Mr Lulamile Ponono, “Once we are able to unite, we can gather as a community to beat all odds”.

Garth Okhuys from Lambertsbay said there also has to be skills sharing; “… fishers and community members need to learn from each other and share skills, this will have a positive effect and will make things easy for communities to prosper”.

Lungisile Tshume from Pedi in the Eastern Cape said communities need to use the youth; “… we know the young ones are learning skills like computer training and finance in schools, let us use them during their school breaks to advance our fishing cooperatives”.

A word of caution and worry came from an Eastern Cape member who said communities must be weary of those community members who refuse to share information.

“We however have members of communities who do not want to share information and we must be careful, because these people can be enemies of progress”.

However, Michelle Joshua said it in this space where fishers really needed to evaluate their commitment to the cause, no matter the negative issues between neighbours, community members needed to remember that they are from a fishing community and they have a common cause and rights to fight for.

It was also pointed out that fishing communities should think about other opportunities in fishing communities that can positively develop and benefit the whole community.

Joshua said fishing communities have potential of contributing to tourism because they come from very beautiful communities. “There are a lot tourists who read about fishing towns and want to visit and experience the culture, members should think outside the box and think about what they can offer,” said Joshua.

Peter Owies, who is from Dooringbay, and also a tour guide said this was true; “… there are a lot of visitors who want to experience the fisher-family way of life, and because we only focus on fishing, we miss out on these opportunities that can bring income to many families”.

The exchange workshop started today and will end on Friday. Fisher folk from the Eastern Cape will visit the cooperatives in Dooringbay and will head home on Friday afternoon.

Christina Kopane from Mendwane, Eastern Cape said even though she had some idea of how to form a cooperative, the information she received today expanded her knowledge and will assist her to impart the knowledge to other community members.

Small-Scale Fishers in the Eastern Cape are currently fishing on a subsistence permit and cannot sell their catches. The Small-Scale Fishing policy will be a stepping stone for many communities to be able to sell their catches, and thus alleviating food insecurity and unemployment.

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