As the weather gets warmer, the fish starts jumping out of the water at the Vanderkloof Dam, at the border between Northern Cape and Free State. This is a sign that fish is moving, and the kraal fishing season is starting.

Last week, the kraal fishers from the towns of Luckhoff, Keurtijeskloof and Petrusville met to work on a Code of Conduct for fishing at the kraals. Fishers agreed that putting in place a set of rules to manage the kraals is important in making the case that this traditional fishery is ecologically and socially viable and has to be recognized and legalized.

Indeed, in the past two years Masifundise and the local fishing communities advocated for the recognition the kraal fishery, that operated below the Vanderkloof Dam wall for more than 40 years, and on the Orange River for centuries. This led to the drafting of the Kraal Fishery Management Plan (KFMP), approved by the Advisory Group of the Vanderkloof Fisheries Project. Based on the KFMP, an application for fishing permits has been filed to the Northern Cape Department of Nature and Conservation.

The Code of Conduct is also seen as necessary to increase safety for the fishers. Getting to the kraals is quite difficult, as there isn’t a paved path. Fishers have to move from a rock to the other in the dark, and it is easy to fall.

“Safety must be our first priority at all times. All the safety measures that we are mentioning in the Conduct are related to things that happened to me before” said Hermanus Greef, a fisher from Keurtijeskloof who has been fishing for 30 years.

The Code of Conduct is a result of the inputs made by the fishers in their community meetings and in the regional meeting, through a participatory process that aims to create rules that are broadly understood and shared by the communities. It based on the idea that communities are able to manage the resource themselves, using their knowledge of the lake, of the natural resource and of the fishing technique.

“Working together on the Code of Conduct is a key starting point to achieve our dream to progress”, said Elmara Olivier, a fisherwoman from Keurtijeskloof.

The fishers see the code of conduct as a living document, that together with their Constitution will guide the fulfilling of their vision for their communities.

Although the kraal fishers at the Vanderkloof Dam are still facing many economic, social and political challenges, they are prepared to face them in unity.

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