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Best known for its glittering blue sea and bustling harbour, the picturesque west coast town of Saldanha Bay is home to a thriving fishing industry but, like any other town, it faces pressing social challenges, including drug and alcohol addiction, poverty and unemployment. Sea Harvest, which recently announced that it has acquired a new freezer trawler following its successful JSE listing in March this year, has restated its commitment to local area development to help address these challenges.
According to the most recent Socio-Economic Profile of Saldanha Bay Municipality, compiled by the Western Cape Government*, there were over 800 drug related crimes committed in 2015. In addition, almost ten percent of babies are born to teenage mothers, contributing to high drop-out rates amongst learners in secondary school. The report notes with concern that over 4000 households in the area earn less than R400 a month, far below the breadline.
Seafood company, Sea Harvest, which catches and processes Cape Hake, is the single largest employer in Saldanha Bay. The company’s contribution to the local Municipality, in terms of Gross Value Add, totalled R405 million in 2014**. “About nine percent of all employment in Saldanha Bay is as a result of Sea Harvest, be it direct or indirect employment. Over 2800 employees work on our vessels and in our factory at the harbour, so we have a tremendous sense of responsibility to invest in the people of this town who work with us. We want to give back to the community in which we operate and to ensure that their quality of life improves,” says Terence Brown, Sea Harvest Operations Director and Chairman of the Board of the Sea Harvest Foundation.
“Each employee is a breadwinner and considering the high rate of unemployment here, we constantly look for ways to create work, whether on board our vessels, in the factory or indirectly, through the 170 local suppliers we engage with. While it’s important to run a successful JSE-listed business that delivers value to shareholders, job creation is vital to how we operate,” says Brown.
“Education is foundational for development and another priority area for Sea Harvest. At the Foundation Phase, we are building extra classrooms to increase capacity for Diazville Primary School’s Grade R class,” says Brown. Between 2010 and 2015 almost 300 bursaries were awarded to local students. This year, a total of R297 000 was awarded to 31 young people from the West Coast region who will attend tertiary institutions to study courses which vary from law, tourism, consumer science and navigation to commerce, biochemistry and engineering. “Of course, not every bursary recipient will end up working at Sea Harvest, although some certainly will. In fact, we are more interested in seeing many of them working here in Saldanha in the future, as skilled professionals, providing key services to the community,” says Brown.
“Work experience makes a person more employable which means an increase in earning power and economic mobility. We have a role to play in providing such opportunities for graduates through our internship programme, as well as for artisans to obtain trade qualifications through our apprenticeship programme.” Sea Harvest also provides Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) learnerships and through its partnership with the West Coast School for Special Educational Needs, workplace exposure is given to students.
To further develop businesses in the area, the fishing company have partnered with the West Coast Business Development Centre (WCBDC), which is chaired by Sea Harvest’s Head of Procurement, Valarie Coetzee. Technical and financial support is provided to WCBDC which helps grow small and medium enterprises in the region.
Brown explains that tackling social challenges starts with addressing individual health and wellbeing. “Through our employee wellness programme, we have introduced support groups that have helped our staff manage challenging situations at home.” The Family Enrichment Programme and Substance Abuse Support Groups are run by Social Workers from the Department of Social Development. Sea Harvest covers the rental costs for an office in the centre of Saldanha which is used by Social Workers who assist the community. “Through our collaboration with the Department of Social Development, we have been able to begin to tackle the challenges of teenage pregnancy, foetal alcohol syndrome and addictions,” says Brown.
“To promote a healthy, active lifestyle amongst youngsters who might otherwise be tempted to turn to drugs and alcohol, we partner with 24 low-income school sports teams which receive sports kits and financial donations,” says Brown. Fresh fish donations to the Siyabonga Care Village, Sandveld Hospice and other organisations form another part of Sea Harvest’s ongoing Corporate Social Investment (CSI) activities.
“Last year, we were able to channel almost a million Rand into developing Saldanha Bay, through the initiatives of the Sea Harvest Foundation. We look forward to continuing with these projects which will result in true, long-term socio-economic benefits for all,” concludes Brown.
For more information about Sea Harvest, visit www.seaharvest.co.za.