Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on Abalobi initiative

14 Mar 2016

The Abalobi initiative receives a prestigious seed grant from the Technology Innovation Agency

In 2015, Dr Serge Raemaekers from the University of Cape Town, Mr Abongile Ngqongwa from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), and Mr Nico Waldeck launched the ‘Abalobi’ initiative in South Africa (http://abalobi.info/). The Abalobi mobile app is to become an integrated catch management system for fishers and fishery stakeholders, from ‘hook to cook’. The Abalobi initiative is an open, transdisciplinary and social learning endeavour, bringing together various stakeholders, with traditional fishers taking centre stage as they direct the design and uptake of the app. It is a participatory action research project with a strong community development interface. Abalobi, as a free mobile app and programme, is aimed at social justice and poverty alleviation in the small-scale fisheries chain, transformation in the way we produce knowledge, stewardship of our marine resources, and resilience building in the face of Climate Change. Since 2015 the Abalobi team has grown to include important stakeholders driven to address the small-scale fishers’ challenges.

Many of Abalobi’s team members, including the small-scale fishers of South Africa, were integrally involved in the design of South Africa's new Small-Scale Fisheries Policy, which emanated from a Constitutional Court Order and international human and fishing rights obligations. Abalobi brings them together as an extension of their research, advocacy and policy work, and launches the team into implementation and co-operative governance. In November 2015, after a successful pilot period on several sites along the coast, the Minister of DAFF endorsed the platform to become the official catch management system for the implementation of the Policy. To date, close to 100 fishers, catch monitors and several cooperative members actively use the app in their daily fisheries operations.

As a partnership between DAFF, UCT, the fisher communities and several fisher NGO’s the consortium is actively looking for ways to expand its reach and further develop the platform to integrate Safety-at Sea functionalities, and opportunities to link fisher groups with new or different marketing opportunities. The Abalobi team has now received a seed grant from South Africa’s Technology Innovation Agency (www.tia.org.za), to expand and further develop Module 3 and 4.

These modules are concerned with empowering fishers and their cooperative structures with tools to address traceability questions, efficient accounting and to develop arm’s length relations with various seafood retailers concerned with sustainability and fair trading arrangements. At present fishers have limited market opportunities or they have to sell seafood products through middlemen and larger distributors. This often traps the fishers in a system of servitude as they are indebted to unscrupulous marketers. The new Small-scale Fisheries Policy aims to address these specific challenges or needs by establishing fisher cooperatives and a small-scale fishers’ label.

Through Module 3 and 4, the Abalobi project aims to co-develop a market interface platform for seafood retailers (incl. consumers) and small-scale fishers in South Africa. This follows on from demands and ideas emanating from the initial pilot phases of Abalobi. The market interface will take shape as a mobile app integrated in the Abalobi platform with live ‘catch on demand’ maps and data. The product will allow fishers to develop arms-length relations with retailers such as seafood restaurants who want to offer a fresh and traceable catch to their patrons. It will also allow small-scale fisheries cooperatives to market their products more effectively.

DAFF is proud to be key role player in the Abalobi partnership and wishes to congratulate the team with this important achievement.

Our website www.abalobi.co.za and Facebook page provides more detail and insights from the pilot sites as well as fisher’ impressions thus far. Please do not hesitate to contact Mr. Abongile Ngqongwa (AbongileN@daff.gov.za) or Dr. Serge Raemaekers (serge.reamekers@uct.ac.za) for further questions and a demo.

Enquiries:
Bomikazi Molapo
E-mail: BomikaziM@daff.gov.za

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