North West, KZN farmers battle drought
TWO OF South Africa’s drought stricken provinces, the North West and KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) have a mixed outlook on the prospects for farming after the recent rains.
North West farmers said the continued rainfall in the province in the past few days might offer some relief to their livestock. Some farmers had good rains in December in large parts of the province.
Agri North West deputy chairman, Daan van der Merwe, said the dam in Groot Marico rose by 13 percent in December. If the rains continued the dam level was expected to rise by 20 percent going into the new year.
Clifford Nkokou, an emerging livestock farmer in the North West, said his area Ganyesa recorded very few rains during last month.
“It is raining a bit today, but we only experienced two or three light showers during last month,” he said.
Nkokou added that he lost five herds of cattle in 2016 as drought took its toll in the country.
“As a farmer you must foresee the problems before they occur. You must have a plan when drought comes, because you have to make a decision whether to sell or hold on to your stock,” said Nkokou.
“My experience has taught me that it takes no less than three years to rebuild the stock after getting rid of it,” he said.
Nkokou said he decided to hold on to his stock and he hoped to rebuild his herd this year as the drought was expected to give way.
However, there were positive rains in some areas of the province. “Taung and Vryburg have experienced better rains compared to us. I am not sure about the amount of days of rain, but it was positive for the farmers,” he concluded.
The situation in KZN remained dire, as rivers and dams in the Mhlathuze area on the north coast have run dry.
The municipality said water levels in the main dam that supplied water to most parts of Umhlathuze now stood at less than 20 percent.
Mandla Buthelezi, the chairman of the National African Farmers’ Union (Nafu) in KZN, said the lack of rain had caused a lot of stress to the farmers.
“We have a contract to supply King Cetshwayo food producers’ market in Ngwelezane with vegetables, but the scorching heat in December reversed the earlier gains made during the year.
“We have entered into an agreement with the government that they will source 30 percent of vegetables from small farmers, but now the rains stayed away in December, making it difficult for farmers to continue producing as the land became very dry.”
Buthelezi added that the government wanted to promote small farmers by sourcing vegetables to feed schools, hospitals and other social programmes from them.
“The contract is worth about R11.2 billion a year and it will be bad if the farmers lose out completely, as this would have made a big contribution in their lives.”