A call to action – Our response to COVID-19
STATEMENT – 22 MARCH 2020
We’ve spent a full week strategising and developing short-, medium- and long-term measures to adapt to a world flung into uncertainty in the context of COVID-19. How will we evolve?
Importantly: We consider the health and safety of our team to be paramount. We fully support government-and organisational-led actions to curb the pandemic, including intensified safety measures and social distancing to #flattenthecurve.
ABALOBI is a South African and global social enterprise that seeks to drive change in small-scale fishing communities through the joint development of ‘tech for good’. We recognise the severe impact that COVID-19 is likely to have on the safety, livelihoods and food security of such communities characterised by poor socioeconomic resilience. How do we safeguard these already vulnerable communities? Read on for how you can help us take action.
In the immediate weeks and months, we will continue operations as best possible with key adaptations. Our core programme operations are entirely cloud-based, and our staff are experienced in working remotely (e.g. at home) to co-ordinate organisational activities. We do have significant on-the-ground activities, including community engagement and MARKETPLACE operations, which we have had to modify to minimise physical interaction.
Read further about how these changes may affect our international partnerships, tech buildout, MARKETPLACE and community engagement.
What about our international partnerships? Focus on tech and co-design.
Travel may be off the cards for now, but that doesn’t mean international partnerships must stagnate. Following an increasing number of requests in recent months for international rollout and partnerships, we will dedicate additional time to: fine-tuning, building-out and customising our software platform for international application; and engaging online with potential, new and existing partners around the globe.
Please reach out for a Zoom, Skype or Google Meet, a demonstration of our tech, or a deeper dive into the inner workings of our platform and how we plan to offer its use to fisher groups and Community-Supported Fisheries across the globe in the year ahead.
Co-design doesn’t stop here. We continue to strive towards customised versions of the ABALOBI platform with interested parties, to fast-track and support the many Community-Supported Fisheries across the globe to keep their fisheries and supply chains fluid in these uncertain times.
The future of ethical sourcing and food security starts with hyper-local – engage with us to explore and drive this further.
What about our MARKETPLACE?
The ABALOBI MARKETPLACE component of our programme – as a Restaurant-Supported Fishery in South Africa and pilot programme in the Seychelles under local name ‘Lansiv’ – has taken a significant knock with the impact of COVID-19 on the restaurant industry. We are deeply concerned about the financial and general well-being of our restaurant partners, and are actively seeking opportunities to support them wherever possible as they transition to home-delivery and other models in order to keep their operations afloat.
Our primary challenge ahead remains the resilience of the fishing communities with whom we work, and putting in place alternative market channels for the fisher families supported by the programme. Livelihoods, food security and health are at stake. More in the ‘help local, support local’ section below.
Health and safety in our MARKETPLACE
Our existing hygiene control measures and protocols in our cold chains are compliant and more stringent than those recommended for restricting COVID-19 transmission. We have proceeded to reinforce health, safety and hygiene standards even further ‘from hook to cook’ with clearly defined quality control measures. Our supply chains are short, with minimal handling and efficient co-operation to verify the implementation of measures taken. All roleplayers are receiving additional training and products to fortify these hygiene standards.
Surfaces and tools are disinfected with 70% alcohol-based solutions at regular intervals. Masks, hairnets, gloves and other protective gear are worn at all times. Delivery drivers use gloves and hand sanitiser before and after each delivery, disinfect delivery coolerbox handles, and maintain distance when deliveries are handed over. We have moved away from signing proof-of-delivery notes on drivers’ phones; instead the driver will upload a dated photograph of the recipient with the order into our accounting system for reference. Please respect these safety measures.
Help local, support local
Small, local producers and businesses need support now more than ever. This is particularly true for small-scale fishers and the establishments that support them. Enabling fishers to earn a fair and decent price for their catch, allows these same fishers the opportunity to afford to keep fish home for food and to bolster food security in their communities. How can restaurants and the public help?
We are calling for existing and new partners to connect with us:
- Registered restaurants including those pivoting into home-delivery models: Let’s work together with the fishers to channel local, traceable and ethically caught fish to the public. Let us know your required weekly volumes, as we are executing a different model to the existing ‘Catch of the Day’ announcements.
- Not already registered? We are fast-tracking new registrations to ABALOBI MARKETPLACE particularly for restaurants struggling with supply chains affected by COVID-19 (see the call to action below to join ABALOBI MARKETPLACE).
- Fish delivered to the public via a community-supported fishery: We recognise the increased demand for food deliveries to the public in these times. We are exploring home deliveries of local, ethically sourced Fish With A Story to members of the public in the Cape Town region and are actively engaging with like-minded partners to join forces. We will enable the supply of fresh, whole fish that has been handled minimally from boat to plate and will reach the buyer in prime condition. Our short supply chains and stringent cold chain protocols result in delivery of the freshest fish available, within 24-48 hours of being caught. At-sea practices of the fishers, where they ensure that their catch is iced and where relevant placed in an ice slurry, means that the fresh fish they supply has a longer shelf life and is more nutritious. (Purchasing whole fish needn’t be daunting – we will supply instructions on how to fillet whole fish, and how to use the entire fish for soups and other dishes that freeze well, to ensure no wastage.)
UPDATE APRIL 2020: On 27 MARCH 2020 following the national lockdown, we were approved as a CIPC-registered essential services provider and commenced #stayathome deliveries via a Community-Supported Fishery (CSF) model. Read this article for more and link to the FAQs regarding our CSF.
Safeguarding fisher communities – food security and health
We recognise the severe impact that COVID-19 is likely to have on the safety, livelihoods and food security of vulnerable fishing communities characterised by poor socioeconomic resilience. How can you help? Read on.
We are re-purposing some of the ABALOBI cold chain and logistics capabilities to support the exchange of fish between and within fisher communities along the Western Cape coastline:
- Food security across communities:The fishing communities are actively trying to support each other to secure access to sources of nutritious fish according to seasonal and regional flow (e.g. fishers in Lambertsbaai will send snoek to the South coast communities when the snoek run starts, while Struisbaai fishers are planning to send yellowtail or silvers to various West coast communities, depending on species availability)
- Food security within communities: Within their own communities, fisher groups are exploring the establishment of Community-Supported Fisheries, with the intention of providing quality protein to households in need, care centres for the elderly, and to the many children who now do not receive Government- or NGO-subsidised meals at school as a result of school closures.
- Call for donations: Please consider donating to the public benefit arm of ABALOBI in order for us to subsidise the above initiatives – all funds raised will go directly towards these community-based activities with audited financials available. See the call to action below.
We are in constant communication with our partner fishers regarding their immediate safety, planned fishing activity and emergency plans in place at local level. Our community-based staff are playing an invaluable role, and we recognise that they are often consulted for broader support and guidance, particularly in times such as these. They have raised the need for broader communication regarding the COVID-19 pandemic in their communities; as such, they have been equipped with the appropriate information materials from the Western Cape Government Department of Health for dissemination at every community engagement opportunity.
We are grateful for the support of our funders and partners, who are accommodating our changing needs at this unprecedented time.
Stay safe. Take action. Adapt where you can. Explore new partnerships. And support small community-based businesses.
Serge Raemaekers, on behalf of the ABALOBI family