KNYSNSA - A unique partnership in the Garden Route has provided hunger relief during these challenging economic times in South Africa, while simultaneously solving an ecological challenge in the area.

Invasive carp have been increasing in numbers in the Groenvlei Lake, a freshwater lake near Sedgefield. While local fishermen had been permitted to fish in the lake during the lockdown period to remove the oily fish native to Asia and Europe from the area, there was not sufficient demand to create ecological balance in the lake.

With the growing need for food in the community due to the impact of COVID-19 infections, the fish have now become a valuable source of protein. Disaster relief organisation Gift of the Givers, in partnership with the Knysna Municipality, have entered into an innovative partnership to distribute the fish to the needy in the greater Knysna area.

However, transporting the fish to communities was a challenge, as the fish needed to be kept at very low temperatures in accordance with the conditions stipulated by the Department of Health. Isuzu Motors South Africa, through its truck dealership, Isuzu Truck Centre Cape Town, offered a refrigerated Isuzu truck to Gift of the Givers for this purpose.

“We could not have done this without our partners, including Isuzu who provided a critical element in terms of the logistics of transporting and keeping the fish at the correct temperature in a refrigerated truck,” said Mario Ferreira, Gift of the Givers Regional Head in the Southern Cape.

Depending on the catch, the team delivers fish daily with the refrigerated truck, explained Ferreira. “We would not be able to reach so many residents if it was not for the support received from Isuzu. According to one of the beneficiaries one fish had fed a family of 13 people,” he said.

The fish is also donated to two soup kitchens in the area that provide meals to more than 250 people per day.

Dr Michele Gratz, Knysna Acting Municipal Manager, said the Knysna Municipal Food Parcel Database was used to ensure fair and equitable distribution of the fish.

“We are extremely grateful that Gift of the Givers has recognised the nutritional value of the carp and, in partnership with Isuzu, are offering cold storage for the fresh fish, which they will be adding to the food parcels which will be delivered to those in need within Greater Knysna. Garden Route District Municipality Health Inspectors were consulted when finalising the cold chain management process of the fish once caught,” said Gratz.

Cape Nature, the custodians of Groenvlei, was another critical link in the unique partnership. Dr. Ernst Baard, CapeNature Executive Director, said the Groenvlei carp management project achieves three goals simultaneously. “That is, invasive alien species control, eco-system rehabilitation and social responsibility, in a time of need. With CapeNature removing carp from the vlei and allowing the eco-system to return to normal and the Knysna municipality and non-government partners using the fish to supply members of local communities with much-needed nutrition, we have a win-win situation under the current circumstances,’ said Baard.