Meeting to discuss drought situation
A MEETING will be held today with all relevant stakeholders to discuss the drought situation in the Northern Cape following warnings that it is spreading and that around five million hectares of grazing land in the Province is affected.
Henk van Wyk, president of Agri Northern Cape, said yesterday that although this was not the worst drought he had experienced, the impact was far greater because of the lack of government support.
“We remember the drought at the end of 1970, up to 1984, but then we received good support from the government. Currently there does not appear to be much concern for food security in the country.”
Van Wyk further stated that the lack of rain had initially been limited to the greater Namaqualand region, which includes municipal districts such as Hantam and Kareeberg, but was now also evident in Brandvlei and Kenhardt.
“My estimation is that as much as five million hectares, containing about 780 000 sheep, even after the drastic reduction in sheep numbers, are affected,” he said.
“In Loeriesfontein, some farmers took truck-loads of stock to the abattoirs to be slaughtered because they could not see a way forward.”
Van Wyk said that while the long-term annual rainfall on his farm in Calvinia was about 400mm, so far this year only 67mm had been recorded. Last year less than 50 percent of the annual average fell.
The area between Pofadder and Springbok received just 12mm between October 2016 and September 2017.
The dam that provides water to Calvinia has been completely dry since November last year. “We have been receiving water from Vredendal but they are also experiencing the effects of the drought. The town is supplied with water from boreholes but this is not drinkable and we will have to look at other alternatives - possibly trucking water from Upington, but this is a costly exercise.”
According to Van Wyk, were it not for support from other farmers, agribusinesses and South Africans in general, the effect of the drought would have been far worse, “but despite the generosity from them the situation cannot continue as is”.
He added that the R25 million drought-relief aid provided by the government, saw affected farmers receiving only 50 bags of pellets each.
“This wasn’t enough feed to last farmers for a week. At the time, there were also allegations that R7 million of this money went missing and despite assurances that we would be kept informed regarding the progress of the investigation, we have heard nothing further about the matter.
“We need support from the state that would allow us to continue farming sustainably and profitably in the long term,” he said.
Following a video of a desperate Karoo farmer pleading for help, which went viral, sponsors have been coming forward with assistance.
According to a report, one organisation, the Caring Daisies, has rallied 26 trucks of feed and mealies as well as R65 000 worth of diesel for the drought-stricken Northern Cape and Karoo. The feed will be distributed amongst farms in the area as part of drought relief efforts.
Another organisation, the GMA Fund, has offered R35 000 towards the cost of diesel to fill up the trucks transporting the feed to farmers in the area.
Department of Agriculture spokesperson, Ali Diteme, said yesterday that a lot was happening behind the scenes.
“Three weeks ago the MEC signed off a letter responding to a request from Agri Northern Cape to provide transport for fodder that had been donated from other provinces.” Diteme said the MEC had also requested further assistance from the national Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform as well as the Minister of Agriculture. “These letters have already gone out and we are expecting a positive response. They are aware that the situation is dire.”
He said all stakeholders, including Agri Northern Cape, were due to come together in Calvinia today to discuss the drought situation.
“We will be looking at ways of working together to mitigate the impact of the drought and there will also be inputs from national and provincial disaster management.”
Diteme stated that the department had also assisted in having the Namaqua area declared a disaster district.
“Behind the scenes serious action is being taken to ensure that the Province does not get to a very bad state.”