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NGO Background: Siyaloba Training Academy

Betsy Ings, the founder and MD of Tradelane Training & Project Management and Siyaloba Training Academy, speaks exclusively to u|Chief.

How did you start your NPO?

Women are known for their resilience and continual nagging, and in my case, it paid off when we received a generous donation of R 50 000 in 1999 from Siyaloba Fishing (Pty) Ltd. A friend shared my concern about the lack of formality and structure within the employment of fishers in the small scale-commercial sector and found a receptive audience in Mr Malcolm Stanley.

“My hubby decided to leave the corporate world and become a fisherman. It was a great shock to me and I struggled with the drop in self and community esteem as I went from an accountant’s wife to a fisherman’s wife (not so cool).” – Betsy Ings

Why did you start your NGO/NPO?

My hubby decided to leave the corporate world and become a fisherman. It was a great shock to me and I struggled with the drop in self and community esteem as I went from an accountant’s wife to a fisherman’s wife (not so cool).

Daily I was present in the fishing industry as my husband’s shore skipper. He left for 21-28 days at sea and, after nine amazing years of surf launches, feast and famine, I noted that our fishers were on a slow boat to nowhere.

Government’s implementing arm – then the Department of Environmental Affairs – had strict regulations around licenses, dictating what type of fish you are allowed to catch, when and where, but there were no regulations protecting the fishermen on the boats. The common practice was to collect your fishers from the sidewalk or fishing communities, selecting the ones you thought looked like seasoned fishers. We had no formal arrangements with our fishers and they were taken on a loose arrangement that we would pay them per kilogram for their catches.

  • 45 Fishers in Port Elizabeth area lost their lives in 1999 that gave me extra motivation to speak on their behalf.
  • In South Africa in 2008, 17 fishers lost their lives and in 2012 9 fishers lost their lives in operational incidents.

We continued to work with SAMSA and the various fishing industries to create a safe working environment with great vertical employment progression opportunities for all fishers.

“The Department of Environmental Affairs had strict regulations around licenses  and what type of fish you are allowed to catch… but there were no regulations protecting the fishermen on the boats.” – Betsy Ings

What were the challenges in terms of starting it up?

Credibility was my biggest challenge as no-one wanted to listen to a stay-at-home mom/shore manager. The boat owners were sceptical about my motives, the fishers feared losing their only source of income and government had bigger fish to fry. I quickly learnt to engage like-minded souls and found them in the most unusual places. The late Dr Dullah Omar, who was then our Minister of Transport, and an incredible support, the gentlemen at our local SAMSA office were sympathetic and our advocacy focus aligned with their mandate.

SAMSA started safety roadshows and we were invited along to mobilise the initiative to lobby government and in 2004 legislation was passed: “All seafarers shall have completed approved training and meet the standards of competence specified in the Code before being employed on a ship to which these regulations apply.”

“45 Fishers in Port Elizabeth area lost their lives in 1999 that gave me extra motivation to speak on their behalf.” – Betsy Ings

What have been the successes that give you the most pride?

After 17 years, the team scooped Silver in the Best Community Project category at the prestigious National Skills Development Awards, through which the National Skills Authority celebrates excellence. (Second only to Bidvest – what an achievement!).

Watching the beneficiaries embracing the opportunities, we have fishers’ daughters employed as facilitators, consultants, receptionists and assessors.

We are part of the solution, we have trained and empowered with our valuable partners and stakeholder along the South African coastline more than 35 000 fishers and community members.

“The accident and mortality rate on vessels have dropped by more than 50%.” – Betsy Ings

Through our advocacy, it became mandatory for all fishers engaging in commercial activities to be trained in basic safety and survival.

We engaged with partners and raised more than R72-million for the upliftment of fishers, their families and communities, from Port Nolloth up to Port St Johns.

The accident and mortality rate on vessels have dropped by more than 50%.

Fishers now have formal portable qualifications and standards allowing them to work across South Africa in various sectors – and they can even engage with global opportunities.

Winning the BWASA National Social Entrepreneur Award.

“Credibility was my biggest challenge as no-one wanted to listen to a stay-at-home mom/shore manager. I quickly learnt to engage like-minded souls and found them in the most unusual places.” – Betsy Ings

What are your future goals and aims for your NGO?

Operation Phakisa has flung wide an expansive net with which to haul in an exciting catch of economic potential. Through targeted skills development aligned to the blue ocean economy, Siyaloba Training Academy is working to develop a vibrant, economically active rural and coastal population and is inviting partners in the private and public sector to join its journey of hope.

Siyaloba’s aim is to unlock opportunities in the maritime, fishing, tourism and transport sectors.

We wish to expand Siyaloba’s for-profit offering to create increased sustainability for our mission; opportunities for the communities we serve and stability and permanent jobs for the amazing project staff drawn from the various training sites.

Our five-year strategy is to take our training to rural coastal communities in need of training solutions to allow them to become economically active and engage meaningfully with government strategies and blue ocean economy opportunities available.

“We are part of the solution, we have trained and empowered with our valuable partners and stakeholder along the South African coastline more than 35 000 fishers and community members.” – Betsy Ings

Siyaloba will take the academy’s successful training model to 15 coastal communities that are greatly affected by poverty linked to limited skills development opportunities. Fifteen permanent skills development hubs will be created along the coastline line from East London to Arniston Bay.

Handing over the baton to a young, vibrant leadership team has been one of my greatest desires and watching our new managing director Karen and her team taking Siyaloba to new heights and impacting lives in ways I thought not possible has given me a sense of great achievement.

Ms Graça Machel lives by the moto: “If you wish to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” This is embodied by the Siyaloba team and their relationship with all their partners and stakeholders.

“If you wish to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” – Ms Graça Machel’s life motto.

What are the staffing challenges in your niche/area?

We really struggle to secure and retain maritime staff. The industry requires mariners with experience and they are paid a high wage against the important positions they hold onboard the vessel. We are unable to compete with the salaries and we have to meet SAMSA and SAQA’s high standards for our trainers and mentors.

“We are part of the solution, we have trained and empowered with our valuable partners and stakeholder along the South African coastline more than 35 000 fishers and community members.” – Betsy Ings

http://tradelane.co.za/

More on Betsy Ings and Siyaloba Training Academy

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THE BIGGER PICTURE: SIYALOBA TRAINING ACADEMY