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Salesforce Customer Partners with Nonprofit to Empower Fishers with Smartphone App

By Sue Claussen May 3, 2016

AbalobiDr. Serge Raemaekers, Small-scale Fisheries Researcher at the University of Cape Town South Africa has a mission to support social justice and poverty alleviation in the small-scale fisheries chain by transforming the way we protect our marine resources, produce knowledge, and build resilience in the face of climate change. He runs the Abalobi project to address this mission. Abalobi (meaning fisher in isiXhosa, an African language) is an open source app, currently in development, designed to cover all aspects of small-scale fisheries governance from ‘hook to cook’ in South Africa. Through participatory research and capacity development, the project aims to promote responsible fisheries governance. The Abalobi project has used the Salesforce platform and pro bono volunteer help to converge databases and improve on scale.

To get started, Dr. Serge Raemaekers applied for pro bono support from the Pro Bono Program hoping that a volunteer could assist him and Andrew Cawood, Business Analyst at Techairos Consulting with finding the right solution. He never imagined a Salesforce customer would answer the call.

Bill Parks, CIO of Sonus Networks and his team (Carla Mcgrade, Kim Millien and Madhu Poreddy) had been looking for ways that they could give back – and the Abalobi project fit the bill. Bill said “When my team heard that we would be working on such a worthwhile project with Serge and such a dedicated group, we happily went all in with our expertise and years of business process acumen. The Sonus team feels this project has global implications in not only helping to monitor and understand the world’s fisheries, but to bring scientists, governments and the fishers themselves into a collaborative forum where they all have an equal voice over a shared concern.”

Abalobi project partnership

It’s not every day that one of our Salesforce customers reaches out and requests to take on a pro bono project to help one of our nonprofit customers located on the opposite side of the world. Bill and the Sonus Networks team quickly swarmed on Serge’s pro bono request, kicking off the success of this unique partnership.

It became clear that the ideal solution would be a mobile application using Salesforce functionality. Fisherman will then be able to log their fisher operations in Salesforce using their smart phones, and when they receive internet connectivity again, the records will automatically sync with Salesforce. The winning functionality would also have a specialized reporting hierarchy of data as well as Dashboard capabilities for monitoring observations.


Small-scale fisheries play an especially important role in food security, poverty eradication, equitable development and sustainable resource utilisation. In 2012, a new Policy for the Small-scale Fisheries Sector in South Africa was gazetted and implementation begins in 2016. This new policy environment, set to impact 50,000-100,000 households involved in the small-scale fisheries sector along the South African coast, provides an exciting opportunity to engineer innovative information and communication systems. Through the development of an integrated small-scale fisheries information management system and mobile app, the Abalobi project aims to enable these communities to be incorporated into information and resource networks: from fishery monitoring and maritime safety, to local development and market opportunities. The Sonus Network pro bono support is helping to make that possible.

Serge said, “The Sonus team are not only “Salesforce gurus,” but are passionate about developing platforms that can assist and empower marginalised communities. They have gone the extra mile and helped us conceptualise the next version of our platform. They are now part of the ‘Abalobi’ team.”

Abalobi project

Sonus Networks continues to be actively engaged and the pro bono project has had support from Salesforce employees, including Tony Bone and Brian Cline, who are excited to bring their expertise to light to help make a difference in fishers lives.

For more information on how you can support this critical project which helps to enable local fisherman to retain traditional fishing methods and help feed their families as they have done in the past, please visit

Learn More about Pro Bono at