Small-scale fishers at the Van der Kloof Dam will soon receive the keys to Kraal one, ending a long struggle during which they had to crawl through holes in the fence just to feed themselves and earn a meagre income.
This positive step forward was reported by Michelle Joshua, the Masifundise Development Trust staff member who is responsible for working with the Northern Cape Inland fishers.
She spent a week engaging with stakeholders around the Experimental Fishery Management Plan, (EFMP) that has been set up by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Northern Cape and to finalise the recognition of kraal fishing, a method of fishing that can be traced back over 200 years along the Orange River.
Masifundise works with Rhodes University, who the government contracted to manage the project. Masifundise’s role is to organise and empower communities so that they can meaningfully participate in the experimentation project.
Joshua said that things are starting to look up for the fishers from Keurtjieskloof, Petrusville in the Northern Cape and Luckhoff in the Free State, who daily fish at the Van der Kloof dam.
‘Many meetings were held with the fishing communities, local government, stakeholders and representatives from the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS),” she said.
“DWS conducted a Risk Assessment workshop on the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHS Act) to ensure that fishers accessing Kraal 1 were aware of the security risks and the fishers are currently working through an Indemnity Agreement binding them to by laws that govern entering the premises of DWS.
“Lots of safety and risk issues were raised, but the most important was the switching on of the lights at the dam at night, especially since fishers were currently (until the Risks Assessment is finalised) accessing the dam at their own risk,” said Joshua.
“This issue was first raised in December 2015. Last week, we were informed that a contractor has already been appointed to fix the lights, but that the DG needed to authorise the payment to repair the lights. The lights were apparently damaged by lightning in 2015.”
“Fishers reported previously that since it is very dark, a female fisher nearly stepped on a Cape cobra one night.”
Joshua said that at this risk assessment workshop, “DWS also indicated that the fishers needed to wear safety gear like boots and life jackets when they go to the kraals for them to be compliant”.
“The fishers raised the question about who would pay the safety gear, DWS said that the fishers must buy it themselves.”
Joshua said that the fishers explained that they do not have the finance to buy safety gear, and DWS responded that they will not be prohibited from fishing, but it would remain at their own risk.
Joshua said that a comprehensive set of safety protocols will be drawn up and agreed between the fishers, DWS and the EFMP, once the fishers have been taken through a complete set of risk assessment workshops.
“The leaders of the different fishing communities will then sign the set of safety protocols, which will allow them complete access to the dam.”
Joshua also reported that after a long debate, in which the SSF argued that they have the right to decide on the logo that describes them best, the SSF fisher’s logo was adopted as the VDK Dam project logo.
“Talks to use Abalobi as the tool to collect data for both the kraal fishing and the experiment project are underway, and will be finalised in the next few weeks. We are very excited about this possibility as it would be a first for inland fisheries worldwide and will also help the fishers in marketing their fish, not to mention all the capacity building opportunities it will afford the fishers.”
Abalobi is a cell phone app that assists small-scale fishers with management, monitoring and planning.
A critical challenge facing the project remains the issuing of the permit for both the kraal and the experiment project. The finalisation of this has been with Department of Environment Northern Cape (ENC) for a number of months now. Last week, DENC reported that there was no legislation to support the issuing of these permits. The fishers reminded them of the reason for this project, and the dire need of the communities waiting to benefit from it. Fishers also struggled to understand how after two years of starting this process, legislation now pops up as an issue. They called for Departments within the AG to have the ‘will’ to think outside of the box on this issue. The fishers reminded the AG that their rights to food, and human dignity was protected by the SA Constitution, the highest form of legislature in SA. Through the chair, DENC was challenged to meet with the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and DAFF towards seeking a way around this issue.