Most of SA a ‘state of disaster’
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Des van Rooyen this week declared a state of disaster in eight provinces because of the ongoing drought in the country.
Gauteng was the only province that was not included as a disaster zone.
Earlier this month, Parliament passed a motion that the drought should be declared a national disaster.
However, this week, instead of declaring a national state of disaster, Van Rooyen led a meeting of the interministerial task team on drought, after which eight provinces technically became “states of disaster”.
“The drought conditions experienced in most parts of the country are a result of natural phenomena characterised by below-normal rainfall, and increased maximum temperatures and heat waves,” Van Rooyen said.
Omri van Zyl, executive director of AgriSA, said funding from provincial coffers would help commercial and small farmers get through the winter and on to the next planting season.
“This is critical for South Africa’s food supply and food security,” said Van Zyl.
It would take at least 12 to 18 months for the agricultural sector to recover from the drought, he added.
The recovery phase was now vitally important, he said.
There was also a concern that some farmers had reached their debt limit and wouldn’t be able to plant in the next season, said Van Zyl.
“We want to keep our producers in production to ensure food security,” he added.
Annette Steyn, the DA MP who proposed the national disaster motion, said it could help that concessions were made for farmers who could not secure further loans because they already had too much debt.
She also suggested that money should be given to the Land Bank and that work should be done with cooperatives, rather than through the provincial departments of agriculture, to distribute drought aid effectively.
Although Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan indicated that the question of aid for farmers would be looked at again in the adjustment budget in October, Steyn said farmers could not wait until then.
AgriSA suggested that its infrastructure should be used to distribute drought aid because it already knew where the need was greatest, which farmers had feed for sale, what prices to pay for it and how to transport it the best way.
AgriSA had on its own already raised R18 million through donations for drought relief and unlocked R60 million using its infrastructure, said Van Zyl.
“You don’t have to shoot out the lights with funding. With R1 billion, or even R500 million, you can go a long way.”