Small-Scale Fishers at Vanderkloof Dam in the Northern Cape were in high spirits on Thursday August 18 as they went into the Advisory Group Meeting of the Experimental Fisheries Management Project (EFMP) at the dam, after the Access ID Cards for fishers were officially handed over to the fishers earlier in the day.

Michelle Joshua, Masifundise Development Trust representative on the EFMP explained: “On Thursday morning the Kraal fishers met at the dam for the official handing over of their access ID cards, giving them legal access to the kraals in the dam and along the river. This was an historic moment for them and left them in high spirits”.

The EFMP is an experimental project that will run for two years, aimed at solving the food insecurity that the communities of Keurtjieskloof, Phillipstown and Petrusville experience. It will look at developing a small-scale fisheries industry with these three communities linked to the Vanderkloof Dam.

Through the workings of the project it was discovered that the three communities, and the community of Luckhoff in the Free State have been running their own informal fishing industry for many decades, and conducted a fishery through a fish kraal, which dated back hundreds of years, that was practised by the forebears of the people of these communities, all along the Orange River.

The handing over of the ID Access cards was to allow the fishers access to one of the fishing kraals, Kraal 1, which is located within the security zone in the Vanderkloof Dam.

Masifundise has been involved in the EFMP at the invitation of the Rural Fisheries Project of Rhodes University, which has been contracted by the Northern Cape government, Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD).

“Masifundise started working on the project since March 2015, to help with building the capacity of the leadership of the three communities who live alongside the Van der Kloof Dam,” said Joshua.

On a recent trip to Vanderkloof, Joshua said that the Abalobi Project was introduced to the fishing communities and Nico Waldeck explained the importance of data collection and how it will benefit the small scale fishers.

Some of the positive things that came out of this trip were that about 109 fishers from the communities of Petrusville, Keurtjieskloof, Petrusville and Luckhoff have joined Coastal Links South Africa and filled in membership forms.

“Approximately 39 members in Luckhoff, 30 in Keurtjieskloof and 36 in Petrusville also were issued with the Access ID Cards to the Kraal 1”.

Joshua said that signing up members and the issuing of the Access ID Cards will be ongoing until all the small scale fishers are signed up, since they do not want anybody to be left out of the process.

“The fishers of Luckhoff discussed the possibility of them using kraals along the Orange River, closer to where they live, because they have to travel 36 km to the VDK dam. They indicated that they have a relatively good relationship with one farmer adjacent to one of the kraals and that fishing there may bring down their travel costs as well as offer some relief to the kraals at the dam, and soon they will be engaging with the farmer and the DWS about this possibility”.

The leadership of three fishing communities held a workshop on Wednesday August 17, and discussed the following;

  • the importance of being organised and agreed that they needed to work on a code of

conduct for the small-scale fishers of Vanderkloof.

  • the current status of the kraal fishery, the experiment fishery project, and plan of action should DENC decide not to issue the long awaited permits.
  • the vacancies available through the Experiment Project (eight positions) and (one position)

through Rhodes University and Masifundise. It was agreed that the positions will be advertised via posters in VDK, Petrusville and Phillipstown.

  • the agenda for the Advisory Group meeting and preparation for it.
  • the letter from SACRAA and the fisher’s response. The fishers decided to prepare a response that would be read out by one of the fishers at the meeting.

“At the subsequent advisory Group Meeting on Thursday August 18, it was announced by DENC (Department of the Environment and Nature Conservation- Northern Cape) that the permit for the kraal and experiment fishery project will be issued within a month.”

Joshua said that they however experienced some resistance from the Free State -Department of Nature Conservation and the SACRAA (South African Casting and Recreational Anglers Association) representative who continued to allude that the environment is more important than people.

Another highlight of the meeting was when Clarence Oliphant, from Keurtjieskloof in Vanderkloof read out a speech on behalf of the fishing communities.

“The room was dead silent, and remained in that fashion for a good few seconds after which Petronella Demas from Petrusville shared her story and dependence on fishing, and on behalf of the fishing communities, Clarence thanked DENC for their work and decision to issue the permit and also all the other departments for helping us in getting this far.”

Finally, it was decided that Rhodes University will appoint a Community Development Officer to work alongside the Fishery Officer on the project.

For now it seems after many years of hard work, and difficult times the fishing communities experienced, the light at the end of the tunnel seems to become visible.

The next meeting of the Advisory Group in Vanderkloof is on October 4, 2016.

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