North West, KZN farm­ers bat­tle drought

The Star Early Edition - - BUSINESS REPORT - Sandile Mchunu

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.”

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