Research & Innovation 2015-16 - Page 114

Smartphone app empowers
small-scale fishers
Small-scale fishers have a low carbon footprint and play an important
role in the food security, economy and culture of coastal villages; yet they
remain a marginalised group in South Africa – lacking rights, a say in the
management of their resources, and empowerment in the market chain.
Dr Serge Raemaekers is working with fishers and government to develop
a smartphone application that will empower the fishers, and possibly
completely change the power dynamics in their sector.
If you take a look at the menu of your average restaurant
in just about any coastal town, you’ll find more or less
the same variety of fish: hake from an industrial fishery,
calamari imported from places such as Argentina,
Mozambican or Asian prawns; and then linefish, possibly
caught by small-scale fishers, but sourced through a
series of middlemen. What you generally won’t find,
according to Raemakers, a lecturer/researcher in
the Department of Environmental and Geographical
Sciences, is high-quality, fresh linefish, sourced directly
from local small-scale fishers.
This disempowerment and marginalisation suffered
by small-scale fishers began long before the apartheid
days, says Raemaekers, and has continued into the
democratic dispensation, as post-1994 deliberation
regarding fisheries was strongly dominated by industry
and organised labour. Both groups resisted the
redistribution of resources to traditional, small-scale
fishers – who at that time were not well organised – and
the post-1994 fisheries policies reflected this bias.
In 2004, a group of small-scale fishers turned to the
Equality Court to fight for their right to earn a living
through fishing. The fishers were successful in the court
battle; and in 2007, government embarked on a fiveyear participatory process, which culminated in the
development of a small-scale fisheries policy focused as
much on human rights and socioeconomic development
as on fish stocks and sustainability. “This policy is a
radical paradigm shift,” says Raemaekers, who served
on the government-established national task team
responsible for drafting the new small-scale fisheries
policy. “The development of the policy was an intensive

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