Up-and-com­ing farmer takes a blow

CityPress - - News - POLOKO TAU poloko.tau@city­press.co.za

Dust bil­lows from the parched ground as a cow breathes heav­ily into her graz­ing field.

She and other cat­tle with pro­trud­ing ribs have their noses in the dust, scratch­ing for leftovers of scorched grass as they move slowly through rows of de­hy­drated maize stems. Shar­ing his cows’ pain is Mos­alashup­ing Kgomo, who stands help­lessly watch­ing his ema­ci­ated an­i­mals, a shadow of their for­mer healthy selves.

Kgomo (54) has a R2.2 mil­lion headache – a loan from the Om­nia agri­cul­tural bank he is strug­gling to ser­vice af­ter the drought de­stroyed a large por­tion his harvest. He ploughed 650 hectares of maize and sun­flow­ers last year. Kgomo, a for­mer coun­cil­lor at the Ngaka Modiri Molema Dis­trict Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, re­signed from pol­i­tics seven years ago to pur­sue his pas­sion. He be­gan farm­ing on his fam­ily’s land in Kopela vil­lage, out­side the farm­ing town of De­lareyville.

“I started with min­i­mal equip­ment and ail­ing trac­tors, but I worked hard and the harvest gods favoured me all those years. Three years ago, I bought an 800ha farm and con­tin­ued to do well, in­vest­ing in ad­vanced ma­chin­ery with ev­ery good harvest,” Kgomo said.

“The last harvest was good and I even sold 130 tons of maize to the World Food Pro­gramme, which is some­thing I am proud of, know­ing I con­trib­uted to Africa’s food se­cu­rity. I have be­come a suc­cess­ful farmer through hard work, ded­i­ca­tion and not re­ly­ing on grants and hand-outs – and I am de­ter­mined to con­tinue do­ing this as a sus­tain­able busi­ness.” But his con­fi­dence has been dented. “The drought has dealt us a re­ally bad blow. I went big in the last sea­son us­ing a R2.2 mil­lion loan – and now I am stand­ing here with a big debt prob­lem.”

On his farm in the drought-rav­aged Marema agri­cul­tural area, Kgomo walks be­tween rows of maize stems no higher than his knee.

Small sun­flower heads hang from stunted stems, bear­ing wit­ness to a drought that has erased the hopes of thou­sands of farm­ers who are to­tally de­pen­dent on rain.

“There was min­i­mal rain last year and we were hit hard. I used more than R200 000 on diesel alone, while other costs went to fer­tilis­ers and chem­i­cals, as well as other lo­gis­tics through­out the ground prepa­ra­tion and ac­tual plant­ing,” he said.

“Af­ter all the money and ef­fort ... there is noth­ing much I can show for more than R2 mil­lion.”

It is un­clear how Kgomo will be able to plant for the new sea­son un­less gov­ern­ment comes to his aid.

“We have debts to ser­vice and have just en­tered a fresh plant­ing sea­son, which also re­quires money,” he said. But he is re­fus­ing to give up. “I may be forced to take a gam­ble and use my sav­ings and cash in my in­vest­ments to en­sure this sea­son does not pass with­out any plant­ing. Right now, we can only pray for more rain,” he said.

The North West gov­ern­ment did not re­spond to queries about the drought’s im­pact on its farm­ers, but the SABC re­ported that farm­ers stood to lose more than R4.8 bil­lion. The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment has set aside more than R160 mil­lion to deal with the drought and said in a re­cent state­ment it had re­ceived about 20 000 as­sess­ment forms from farm­ers, and a re­port would soon be fi­nalised and a pro­posal sent to Na­tional Trea­sury.

But un­less re­lief comes soon, it may be too late for farm­ers, some of whom would have not sown any­thing by the time the plant­ing sea­son ends. KwaZulu-Natal: eThek­wini, iLembe, Ugu, uThukela, uMkhanyakude, Harry Gwala, Umziny­athi, uM­gun­gundlovu, Zu­l­u­land and uThun­gulu

Free State:

Mantsopa, Nke­toana, Set­soto, Masilonyana, Tokol­ogo, Dihlabeng, Mo­qhaka, Mo­hokare, Maluti-A-Phofung, Ma­fube and Letse­meng

WA­TER-SOURCE LEV­ELS

KwaZulu-Natal: Hazelmere Dam –

Hard­ing Dam –

Klip River –

Hluh­luwe Dam –

Lake Merth­ley –

Ulundi Wa­ter Treat­ment Works –

Lake Hla­bane –

Lake Mzingazi Dam –

Lake Nsezi –

Goed­ertrouw Dam –

Amatikulu River –

Mel­moth Dam –

Balele Dam –

Free State:

Rust­fontein Dam –

Wel­dam –

Alle­man­skraal Dam –

Tier­poort Dam –

Kalk­fontein Dam –

Groothoek –

Kop­pies –

Dried up

North West:

Dried up

Dried up

SLIM PICK­INGS Mos­alashup­ing Kgomo’s ema­ci­ated cat­tle scratch des­per­ately in the soil on his North West farm to find any­thing to sus­tain them

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