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Farmers tell of hardships

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Agri-Northern Cape president Nicol Jansen pointed out that the R30 million that was allocated for drought relief in the Province was not sufficient.

FARMERS have abandoned their farms and livestock and been forced to retrench workers due to the ravaging effects of the drought in the Northern Cape.

Farmers informed the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, about their hardships, where the ongoing drought is taking its toll, during her visit to the city yesterday.

Agri-Northern Cape president Nicol Jansen pointed out that the R30 million that was allocated for drought relief in the Province was not sufficient.

“We need to find more permanent solutions to deal with natural disasters. The drought has badly affected animals as well as humans,” said Jansen.

He indicated that limited rainfall had provided some relief to isolated areas of the Province and on a few individual farms, although the Karoo remained drought stricken.

“Fortunate areas received between 20 to 30 millimetres of rain while the average rainfall should be 180 millimetres. This is not near enough rain to carry us through a bad winter. Half of the growing and rainfall season is over and there is not enough time to grow more crops. The Land Bank is not sufficient and we will require assistance from national government.”

Jansen added that the Province was not in a legal position to apply for drought relief, where the deadline will expire in the next few weeks. “The declaration of the Northern Cape as being a disaster area has not yet been published in the government gazette.”

He pointed out that R688 million was only enough to feed 30 units of livestock for three months.

Head of Agri-SA disaster management centre and Agri-SA Northern Cape deputy president Willem Symington stated that the drought was threatening the sustainability of the national breeding herd.

“Commercial farmers are being forced to leave their farms and their workers in droves because they cannot keep up with the costs. This will in turn threaten job and food security and contribute towards rising food prices. The local economies of farming towns have collapsed along with the farming industry. More unemployed people will be dependent on social grants.”

He pointed out that 90 percent of a farmer’s income goes towards providing fodder for the livestock.

“Farmers are relying on credit to purchase fodder and financial institutions are no longer offering farmers credit facilities if they are in arrears. It is an upward struggle to get assistance.”

Symington added that he would also have to give up farming, as he had depleted his available savings.

“I had to take out a mortgage on my farm that is bigger than when I bought it.”

African Farmers Association of South Africa (Afasa) Northern Cape chairperson Thami Sebusi stated that beneficiaries of the R30 million drought relief fund only received coupons of between R100 to R300.

“That is not even enough to buy one bale of lucerne, which will last them a maximum of two weeks. Who really benefited from the R30 million?”

Nelson Hantise from the Rainbow Farmers Agricultural Union in the John Taolo Gaetsewe District questioned what had become of the Agri-Park, that was supposed to benefit rural farmers.

“We were told that the project was funded to the value of R45 million per year. Up until today, we don’t know what happened to it. The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development needs to deal with corrupt officials. I am not saying they are all corrupt but there are those who are 100 percent corrupt. They need to bring in people to investigate my statements, then they will see that there is a lot of corruption in the department. It is not good for farmers.”

Simone Sell from Raisin South Africa added that they, along with other companies, had pledged to donate funds to assist drought-stricken farmers in the Northern Cape.

“We were also willing to donate a percentage of the funds raised. We were also prepared to put in money for maize planting in December and then reclaim our share from the department but the funding never arrived on time. As a result the maize planting could not go ahead.”

Jafhta Ndlovu, a landowner, added that he was struggling to keep his 300 cattle alive as he only had access to water from three boreholes on his farm.