Karoo drought takes its toll on agriculture

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The seven-year-long drought in the Karoo is continuing to take its toll on agriculture. Besides dams and boreholes drying up, farmers say banks and co-operatives can no longer extend loans to them.

Many have laid-off workers until the situation improves. They are only being kept afloat by donations from the public.

They can no longer afford diesel, animal feed, or medical aid. Their savings and pension funds have also been depleted.

Beaufort West farmer Peet Olivier says: “We are struggling, everyone expected good rainfall this season, but the season is nearly over. I don’t think we are going to get more rain.”

The department of Agriculture in the Western Cape has also done what it can to assist by spending millions on building new infrastructure and sourcing feed for livestock. Agrculture MEC, Dr Ivan Meyer.

“In spite of the good rains we had in the western cape, large parts of the western cape are still caught in the worst drought in a hundred years, specifically in the area of the west coast, around Matzikamma, the central Karoo and the Klein Karoo.  I have now instructed to have an urgent meeting with all the relevant roleplayers in order to discuss solutions to this problem of water security.”

Until solutions are found, donations are needed to keep the sector going. Since August 2017, Gift of the Givers has supplied fodder and paid transport costs running into millions of rands. This week, they delivered food parcels to 200 farmers and their workers.

“The only hope for these farmers now is donations from various organisations and the continuous support. Farmers can’t afford to put petrol in their vehicles to take their children to school. Farmers can’t even make loans anymore, as they have reached their limit.”

Water tankers

Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has handed over 20 water tankers worth R26 million to the Amatola District in the Eastern Cape.

This is part of efforts to bring relief to drought-stricken municipalities in the province as well as those that have ageing water infrastructure.

Relief fund

Last year it was reported that drought-stricken Northern Cape farmers are still waiting for their share of a R36 million drought relief fund.

The money returned to Treasury with thousands of job losses recorded in the sector.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) said the funds have been available since March, but officials failed to distribute them.

“Everything is in place for provinces to react quickly. Remember we have legislation in place, the disaster management act of 2003, which is giving all the duties and responsibilities from national level through to provincial level but it appears to me that there are not inter-governmental relations between other departments and that is the biggest hiccup,” says the DA’s Reinette Liebenberg.

Meanwhile, at least 20 000 cattle have died due to drought since August 2020 at KwaMnqwashu, in the Umkhanyakude district, in KwaZulu-Natal.

KZN farmers appeal for drought relief and government intervention in Jozini:

More than 500 farmers have been affected, according to reports by the provincial Agriculture and Environmental Affairs Department.

Small and emerging farmers in the area have called for help as some of them have, respectively, lost more than 30 cattle as a result of the drought.