South Africa: The Story Behind Your Fishy Meal

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana has encouraged South Africans to support the ABALOBI app that tells the story behind the fish on their plates.

"We are already in the era of the 4th Industrial Revolution, where technology has taken over to make life easier. A patron can order a seafood meal in a well-established restaurant and be able to track who caught the fish, how was it caught, when was it caught and be able to link directly with the fisher who caught the fish on your plate through a simple QR [quick response] code scan that comes with your meal. That is what we mean by storied fish.

"One can even send a text message to the fisher or fisher family and connect with them. This is about recognising small-scale fishers, who have a sincere connection with the ocean and its life. This innovation creates consciousness about how 'socially fair' and 'ecologically responsible' go hand-in-hand in the context of small-scale fisheries, and our efforts to achieve sustainability," the Minister said on Tuesday at a departmental briefing.

ABALOBI, 'small-scale fisher' in isiXhosa, is the name given to the mobile app suite by small-scale fishers involved in the co-development process.

ABALOBI aims to enable small-scale fishing communities to be incorporated into information and resource networks, which include fishery monitoring, maritime safety, local development and market opportunities.

Spearheaded by a registered Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) known as ABALOBI NPO, the ABALOBI initiative seeks to empower small-scale fishing communities to use information and communication technologies (ICTs) to engage in a range of activities that enable them to participate fully, equitably and effectively in small-scale fisheries governance.

The initiative, which was announced during the 2015 World Fisheries Day celebrations, consists of a series of mobile applications. It aims to ensure equitable beneficiation through participation in a fully traceable, fair and inclusive value chain that secures equitable and sustainable seafood from 'hook to cook', like seafood with social and ecological story.

The concept of ABALOBI was born out of brainstorming sessions between the University of Cape Town researchers, the national Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and several small-scale fisher community representatives.

This followed discussions on the implementation of the Small-Scale Fisheries Policy and United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries.

Zokwana said the ABALOBI app initiative is directly in line with the current establishment of the small-scale fisheries sector, with about 11 000 fishers from the four coastal provinces of the country, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Western Cape.

ABALOBI has seen over 200 fishers in five fishing communities in the Western Cape participating in pilot sites.

Currently, Zokwana said, there are over 120 top restaurants sourcing a diversity of fish directly from small-scale fishers through the ABALOBI MARKETPLACE app, and this "has significantly cut out middlemen and significantly increased a fairer price for fish sold by small-scale fishers".

He said the department will soon be signing yet another strategic partnership agreement with ABALOBI to roll out ABALOBI throughout the small-scale fishing sector.

"We will continue to drive transformation and diversification within the sector, bringing those who were previously disadvantaged as critical players," Zokwana said.

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