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Daily Dispatch article

First harvest for the T’kei mussel project

Click Here to open the Dispatch article in a new window. MUSSEL HARVEST: AmaMpondo women gather seafood at Lwandile on the Wild Coast. Picture: Pauline Ingle

By MALUNGELO BOOI
Mthatha Bureau - 2008/05/05

AN AQUA-CULTURE project started seven years ago in Transkei has delivered its first harvest – with 60 local people each carrying off five litres of the nutritious seafood to feed their families.

The main aim at the moment is food security, said a spokesperson for the Coffee Bay Mussel Rehabilitation Project. But in the long run the organisers hope there could be tourism spin-offs similar to the Knysna Oyster Festival.

The mussel project was initiated by Walter Sisulu University (WSU) lecturer Dr Gugu Calvo-Ugarteburu to combat the depletion of marine life along the coastline.

With help from the national Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT), the project’s main focus was to protect and grow mussels on the rocks.

There would have been earlier harvests but people illegally swooped on the mussel beds. “They came and harvested our mussels illegally,” said Calvo-Ugarteburu. “ Then project members would have to re-grow mussels again.

“I am very happy, though. Finally I can see the fruits of our hard work after many years of challenges.”

She dreamed up the project after seeing women collecting small mussels with virtually nothing inside them. “So we encouraged people not to harvest the smaller mussels. Instead, we encouraged them to re- grow them on the rocks,” she said.

Calvo-Ugarteburu said the success of the project was due to the support residents had given to it. A community committee was formed to look after the project.

Training was done to educate residents on the importance of preserving natural resources for future generations.

Some community members were also trained as environmental officers, rock drillers and agriculture officers. “People in this area totally depend on marine life; therefore, we had to teach them to how harvest mussels properly and also not to harvest the smaller ones,” said Calvo-Ugarteburu.

Local resident Katheni Matafileni said that, at first, most people in Coffee Bay never thought mussels could be grown. “I thought it was a natural thing, but I have since changed my mind.”

Nokuphumla Mabophe, who works as a mussel project monitor, said the village had undergone a change since the project was introduced. “Some of us work in the project; we are getting paid and that has changed our lives.”

The project is the first of its kind in the Eastern Cape. And because of its success, Funeka Dlulane, provincial manager of the DEAT, said they were seriously considering introducing another one in the province.

She said the department had spent R4million on the project. “Most people in coastal areas, especially in the Wild Coast, are very poor and depend on marine life and would benefit immensely from a project like this,” said Dlulane.

The project will be featured on European and American television channels before the end of the year as part of a series on poverty and food security in South Africa. -

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