Meet­ing to dis­cuss drought sit­u­a­tion

Diamond Fields Advertiser - - NEWS - PATSY BEANGSTROM NEWS ED­I­TOR

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.”

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