Vodacom funds a mobile app for small-scale fishing

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Vodacom in partnership with the University of Cape Town (UCT) recently launched a free smart-phone app to help small-scale fishers monitor their catches. By Staff Writer

Abalobi Bentlanzi – a isiXhosa phrase loosely translated “fishers” – is meant to provide traditional fishers with access to useful data about their catches.

Funding for the app and smart devices for the fishers was made possible by Vodacom Sustainability and the app was developed by academics at UCT and a unit in the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in conjunction with the fishers.

Executive Head for Vodacom Sustainability, Suraya Hamdulay says: “In keeping with our commitment to ensure that we use our technology to change lives, this partnership with UCT is a perfect demonstration of the transformative power of technology. To be able to digitise catch records for subsistence fishermen and empower them through taking ownership of their catch data was an opportunity that Vodacom could not pass up.”

Hamdulay says through this initiative, Vodacom was able to help ensure that the fishermen were firstly given phones and secondly help fund the development of the App that would be life changing to these fishermen.”

Historically, the government refused to acknowledge the existence of the small-scale fisheries sector, with dire implications for about 30,000 traditional fishers along SA’s bountiful coastline. Living marine resources are allocated through permits, but traditionally, only three groups were recognised: commercial, recreational and subsistence fishers.

Traditional or artisanal fishers straddle commercial and subsistence fishing: they make their living from marine resources, but are not big business. Because of this, they were not allocated fishing rights.

A 2007 Equality Court judgment found that both the apartheid-era and democratic governments had marginalised these fishers, and ordered the government to include them in its rights allocations. It has taken nine years for the government to begin rolling out its small-scale fisheries policy.

Traditional or artisanal fishers straddle commercial and subsistence fishing: they make their living from marine resources, but are not big business. Because of this, they were not allocated fishing rights.

A 2007 Equality Court judgment found that both the apartheid-era and democratic governments had marginalised these fishers, and ordered the government to include them in its rights allocations. It has taken nine years for the government to begin rolling out its small-scale fisheries policy.

The importance of small-scale fisheries “cannot be overemphasised”, says the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. “While no definitive statistics exist, it is thought that the sector employs 50 [million] of the world’s 51-million fishers — mostly from developing countries — producing nearly half of world fish production and supplying most of the fish consumed in the developing world,” it says.

Abalobi will be the information management system for the small-scale fisheries industry, says Craig Smith, director of the small-scale fisheries management unit in the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

“Abalobi has been successfully piloted in five communities as a catch-data monitoring app,” Smith says.

In addition, the unit used an extension of the app to verify the number of active traditional fishers.

“The fishers have also given some useful input to make it even more attractive to their needs, which in turn has caused the popularity of the app to go [up],” he says.

With the data collected, fishers can prove that they make their living from the sea, says Nico Waldeck, a traditional fisher who recently joined the Abalobi project team.

Other projects where Vodacom has married elements of sustainability and community upliftment for the greater social good include Vodacom’s “community power”.

This is a true example of creating shared value. Here, Vodacom has developed an innovative solution that sees the symbiotic relationship between the deployment of solar power and community involvement. The roof of a school is used as a large surface for solar deployment that powers both Vodacom’s base station as well as the school premises. Through “community power” not only is this rural community connected to mobile communications, but the school has electricity for the first time in 20 years.

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