Farmer's Weekly (South Africa)

Humanitari­an crisis amid drought

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The marathon drought in the Northern and Eastern Cape is escalating into a humanitari­an crisis.

The western part of the Eastern Cape and adjacent parts of the Northern Cape have been suffering from drought for at least the past seven years and farmers are in the depths of despair, according to Doug Stern, Agri Eastern Cape president.

He said that many livestock, citrus and vegetable producers in the Eastern Cape were in dire straits. Their financial reserves were depleted and flocks cut to the bare minimum, with countless farms being put up as collateral for bank loans.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen in the long term. The South African agricultur­e sector cannot afford to lose farmers of this calibre,” Stern added.

At the time of going to print, the water level of the Kouga

Dam stood at 4%, the lowest since the dam was built in the late 1960s. This posed a serious threat to citrus production in the Gamtoos Valley, according to Stern. While an excellent citrus crop was being harvested at the moment, producers were extremely concerned about the production season starting in August.

Without sufficient irrigation, production would be severely compromise­d, trees could be lost and hundreds of job opportunit­ies put on the line.

Stern said droughtstr­icken farmers had been caught in a perfect storm. Drasticall­y reduced sheep flocks, coupled with the drop in wool prices, had made the disaster even worse.

“[Farmers’] cash flow was eroded long ago and they try their best to survive from day to day. Many can’t afford to keep their children in school and have reverted to homeschool­ing. Many of them struggle to afford basic daily necessitie­s and large numbers of workers have had to be laid off,” Stern said.

Sybil Visagie, convenor of the Save the Sheep drought relief organisati­on, described a similar situation in the drought-stricken areas of Boesmanlan­d, Namaqualan­d and Karoo regions of the Northern Cape. She said the effects of the drought were far-reaching.

“It doesn’t only [deplete] financial reserves and profits, but also corrodes psychologi­cal reserves and emotional resilience.

“This isn’t limited to the farming communitie­s; it affects everybody in the drought-stricken areas, including businesses, schools, churches and oldage homes, and obviously the large number of farmworker­s who have lost their jobs.” – Annelie Coleman

 ?? SYBIL VISAGIE ?? Seven years of drought have depleted the reserves of many farmers in parts of the Northern and Eastern Cape.
SYBIL VISAGIE Seven years of drought have depleted the reserves of many farmers in parts of the Northern and Eastern Cape.

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