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University of Cape Town: ABALOBI – Small-Scale Fisheries

The ABALOBI initiative is an open, transdisciplinary and social learning endeavor, bringing together various stakeholders, with traditional fishers taking center stage. It is a participatory action project with a strong community development interface. ABALOBI, as a free mobile app and program, is aimed at social justice and poverty alleviation in the small-scale fisheries chain, user-generated and trusted small-scale fisheries data, transformation in the way we produce knowledge, stewardship of our marine resources, and resilience building in the face of Climate Change. This project aims to scale the ABALOBI FISHER app, and improve on internal monitoring, control and surveillance.

The concept of ABALOBI was born out of brainstorming sessions between the University of Cape Town researchers, the national Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing (DAFF), and several small-scale fisher community representatives, following discussions about how the new Small-scale Fisheries Policy would be rolled out. These core stakeholders have been part of the initial iterative design phases of the ABALOBI mobile platform, with further development and refinement to be initiated through a bottom-up process.

​The aim is to provide a free platform that will encourage sound monitoring, transparency and traceability of small-scale fisheries related data, and promote the empowerment of small-scale fishers to partake in governance of the sector. In November 2015, after a successful pilot period in several sites along the coast, the Minister of Fisheries endorsed the platform as the official catch management system for the implementation of the Policy. More importantly to date, close to 100 fishers, catch monitors and several cooperatives actively use the app in their daily fisheries operations. The Small-Scale Fisheries Policy is being implemented in 2016. ABALOBI is the main tool to assist fishers as they walk with Government in its implementation, develop collaborations in the management of fisheries, and explore a more empowered role in the value chain. There are close to 150 000 small-scale fishers and fishing households in South Africa, all of whom are currently being registered under the Small-scale Fishing Policy implementation programe. Fishers are to organize in cooperatives, engage in cooperative management of marine resources with the fisheries authority, and explore an empowered role in the value chain.

As ABALOBI takes shape as a non-profit social enterprise with strong research links to the University of Cape Town, this grant, spread over a 8 month period, will assist the ABALOBI team to:

1) further co-develop the ABALOBI FISHER APP (daily logbook with basic analytics and data fishers can share with stakeholders),

2) assist existing fishers with the grassroots expansion towards more users,

3) provide the hosting, data management and analysis capacity to assist fishers and the fisheries authority with the use of the ABALOBI ICTs, and

4) build in specific Monitor, Control and Surveillance features in data dashboards that will allow fishers, their cooperatives and management to pick up and document illegal and unregulated activities more easily.

Results will be measured in terms of number of active users, participation in fishery co-management meetings and incorporation of new or improved fisheries input and output controls based on trusted, co-produced data. Ultimately ABALOBI helps fishers to be the stewards of our marine resources as they engage with their own as well as collective catch trends in a easy, straightforward, collaborative package.

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