Clearing a Garden Route lake of an alien fish species was a good idea. Providing the fish to feed nearby disadvantaged communities made it a great idea and now a trailer-mounted freezer will exponentially increase its impact.
During the first Covid lockdown in April 2020, an innovative collaboration began between the Gift of the Givers, Cape Nature and Invasive Fish Species Management.
It addressed the problem of invasive carp fish that had long plagued Garden Route fresh-water lakes. It simultaneously tackled another problem that the Covid pandemic had exacerbated amongst disadvantaged communities in the area: hunger.
The project began at the Groenvlei Lake near Sedgefield, where estimates put the volume of invasive carp at 180 tonnes and growing.
It soon proved successful, gradually restoring the ecological balance in the lake, while the harvested fish were distributed to soup kitchens, feeding schemes and disadvantaged families in the area.
The impact is significant. Each catch feeds a minimum of 400 and an average of 800 people per day. To date the project has provided over 110 000 meals.
Naturally, the partners wanted to build on this success and expand the project, rejuvenating all three lakes in the Sedgefield area and feeding more communities. But, as is so often the case, between good and brilliant ideas, there was a catch.
Department of Health regulations require that table-fresh fish must be stored between 1oC and 9oC. Although the project had acquired two chest freezers, the temperature regulation limits the number of fish that can be stored, but more importantly how far they can be transported from source before the temperature exceeds the upper limit.
That’s when Gift of the Givers approached Ali Sayed, an Oceana social impact officer, who was doing training for small-scale fishers along the Garden Route.
“A trailer-mounted freezer would allow us to transport more fish, further, more often substantially expanding the extent, reach and benefits of the project. Oceana was the obvious partner, it’s committed to food security, is active in the region and knows a bit about the logistics of getting fish to consumers,” explains Gift of the Givers founder Dr. Imtiaz Sooliman.
Zodwa Velleman, who heads Corporate and Regulatory Affairs at Oceana, says the decision was an easy one.
“Our brand promise is to positively impact lives and food security is integral to what we do as a business and our social investment partnerships, through which we provide some 4,45 million meals annually. We always like our involvement to have a multiplier effect on the work our partners do and providing a mobile freezer to this project certainly achieves that.
“If you’re travelling along a Garden-Route road and you come across a fridge-freezer being towed behind a Gift of the Givers bakkie, consider it testament to an effective collaboration between government, an NGO and a JSE-listed company, but perhaps more importantly, how a good idea became a brilliant idea.”