Hamburg, Eastern Cape, South Africa

The Keiskamma River and the Hamburg community
Wild beach in Hamburg
The Hamburg community at the first DLIST meeting
The Keiskamma art project shop in Hamburg

Hamburg is located in the Amatole District Municipality on the Eastern Cape coast, approximately 35 km south west of East London. The town was established in 1857, comprising of a mixture between the British descendents, German settlers and isiXhosa people. Currently, the town is home to approximately 3000 inhabitants, most of which are highly dependent on natural resources.

The larger part of the Hamburg community engages in a primarily subsistence lifestyle through herding cattle and small-scale agriculture. There is a trend among the younger generation, whereby, specifically males are migrating to larger urban centres in search of employment opportunities to improve their lives. HIV is also highly prevalent in the community, exacerbating the hardships for many families. A small part of the population is made up by wealthier holiday makers and retirees, enjoying the beautiful scenery around the beach and river mouth.

One of the most noticeable natural features in the region is the Keiskamma River Estuary, which is ecologically important as a biodiversity hotspot. There is however a high demand for natural resources in the area which impacts on the estuary, and ultimately peoples’ livelihood. The majority of the local population practices fishing and gathering of other living marine resources in the intertidal zone, including Abalone poaching. During the holiday season there is a large influx of tourists who either come stay in holiday houses or camp on the banks of the river. The predominant past-time is fishing along the river - and Hamburg has a reputation for producing some large trophies. Recently small-scale tourist activities started where tourists can interact with the local community.

Hamburg is a real gem. One hopes that making Hamburg a demonstration site may help to unlock its potential for all the inhabitants, many of whom are poor and finding it difficult to make ends meet. The question is how to do this? Undoubtedly the effective protection of the natural resources will play a crucial role in realising the economic potential of this beautiful area. An acceptable way of involving local community members in the management of the conservation and development must be found before this will happen. Harvesting of marine products may have to be controlled differently in order to draw tourists to the area. This aspect needs to be analysed more robustly in order to determine what all of the elements are that have to be addressed.

Just released: New Hamburg Local Economic Development plan