Fishing project, Scarborough
South of Cape Town, every morning as the sun rises, seven small boats, each with five men on board head out to sea. In a few hours, if conditions are good, they will return with a catch that will earn each one of them R75 – a good wage in these parts and enough to feed a family.
These fishermen are part of a remarkable group that decided to examine their own poverty and do something about ending it. They are members of the Scarborough Fishermen’s Company which also operates Witsand Foundation, a non-profit company formed under Section 21 of South Africa’s Company’s Act.
The idea of setting up the company and the foundation, securing firm contracts at a good price with a major exporter company and running the whole enterprise on a not-for-profit basis came from the fisherman themselves. What they needed to transform their idea into reality was the help of someone who knew how to go about it - someone aware of the legal aspects and with the ability to buy the boats, the motors, the safety equipment and the nets. This is where BP Southern Africa stepped in, specifically Peter Petersen and Feryal Domingo who run BP’s Enterprise Development Programme in the Western Cape.
Most of the fishermen come from Ocean View and Masisphumulele. Both places are low-income townships. Ocean View is home to people removed from places like Simon’s Town by apartheid’s Group Areas Act. Masisphumelele is a relatively new informal settlement which houses mainly Africans who have moved to the area over the last 10 years. For the people of Ocean View, fishing is a way of life, and catching crayfish or kreef - for which gourmands the world over will pay good money - is how they traditionally feed their families.
BP’s contribution to this community-based job creation enterprise is not simply money. Although BP did inject funds to buy seven boats equipped with their own road trailers, outboard motors, fishing and safety equipment and pay for skippers’ courses, perhaps the most valuable contribution has been advice, expertise and facilitation. When Alan Hendricks approached BP with the idea of setting up a fishing co-operative, BP that suggested bringing in attorneys with experience in the informal sector. The BP team’s experience with community work was also applied to the original idea as well, filtering it for practability and sustainability.
The result is 120 fishermen, who previously led a hand-to-mouth existence, now living with a regular income and the chance to improve their skills. Each of the 120 men (all of whom support an average of five others in their families) are guaranteed a weekly wage of R300 by the company in which they are all shareholders. They all have what are known as subsistence permits issued by Marine Coastal Management which allow each man to catch four crayfish a day. A unique feature of this arrangement is that each man donates the value of one of his crayfish to the Foundation each day. This money goes into a fund that is earmarked for additional skills training and off-season support for the fishermen and their families.
Seven board members run the Scarborough Fishersmen’s Company. They keep the books, organise regular weekly payments to the captains and crew, organize boat and rig maintenance and, in the six months off-season when catching crayfish is illegal, organize alternative work such as line-fishing. When sufficient savings have been accrued the company will also be able to make additional payments to families in the off-season.
On a good day, the seven boats, which each have seven crayfish nets, can easily bring in the maximum each boat is allowed to catch according to the Subsistence Fishing License ie four regulation-sized crayfish for each man on board. Once the catch is ashore, weighed and checked for size by fishing inspectors, the crayfish are held in seawater tanks to be sold every three days to Premier Fishing who guarantee a price of R90 a kilo (usually four crayfish). The money is paid directly into the Scarborough Fishermen’s bank account from which the men draw a weekly wage. Hence, the fishermen receive a regular wage of R75 per day during the season, with the skippers (who also have to fuel the boats and buy the bait) receiving R120 per day.
Sustainability is assured as long as the crayfish reproduce as fast as they are harvested and as long as they are in demand. Chairman of the company, Alan Hendricks, and his board of directors are well aware of the dangers of over fishing. There are plans in the pipeline to branch out into direct export, crayfish farming and, to complement the existing skills of the men, there possibility of training in welding, and boat and net repair.