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Drought Relief for Eastern Cape Farmers – The Saga

24 October 2019
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It’s no secret that the recent drought has been one of the most severe the province has seen in a long time and doesn’t look like it will be getting better anytime soon. With summer only a few weeks away, those looking to work the land in preparation for the maize ploughing season have to look for alternative ways to ensure they have enough water supply for their crops. The effects of this drought, of course, go beyond ploughing the land, livestock and food security are also affected.

As the leading livestock province in terms of numbers of sheep and cattle and producers of a quarter of South Africa’s milk, one would expect measures to be in place to assist farmers in this recently announced state of disaster, but it seems that is not the case.

The saga continues.

In a bid to see what assistance is there for farmers in this state of disaster at Agri EC, we spoke to different stakeholders in municipalities across the province. In each of our conversations, we received different answers on how farmers can get the support they need. However, one thing was consistent through all our discussions, and that is there is no sufficient budget to deal with the situation as it is. This then leaves one wondering how other provinces are dealing with the drought as it is not isolated only to the Eastern Cape.

In our quest to find out what the plan is in other provinces, and this is what we came up with:

  • In the Western Cape, the government has committed over R140-million to drought relief, with R50-million being available immediately.
  • In the Northern Cape committed R50-million and further assistance with boreholes and fodder.

The question is now how much is reserved by our provincial government?

When speaking to an employee from the Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development who preferred to remain anonymous we were informed the department has set aside just under R3-million in drought relief funds and has budgeted for another R3.2-million in the upcoming mid-term budget.

This is a far cry to what our counterparts are receiving, and it raises yet another question. How are their provincial governments pulling it off? Or could it be that our provincial government is failing the farmers and people of the province? As the face of government in the province, Premier Oscar Mabuyane only recently declared the drought as a state of disaster. One would argue that this call was a little too late, especially with the known fact the province has been grappling with the drought for the past five years. If organisations like the Gift of the Givers can spend more than R3-million on boreholes, fodder and bottled water just in the Graaff-Reinet area while also assisting in the Makhanda district where could the government be lacking to do the same? After all, it is their duty to serve the people of the province.

The next question that arises is how much of the said funding has been used, and how? In a recent interview with the Maverick Citizen, the premier’s spokesperson let it be known that the money has been utilised as follows:

  • 113 water tanks delivered in March;
  • 235 water troughs with fittings delivered to 35 farmers;
  • 256 tons of lucerne and 173 tons of grass and hay delivered to 14 farmers; and
  • 4,100 bags of whole maize given to 69 commercial farmers.

This is far from what is needed; however, one can’t take away that something has been done. So, as a farmer, what are your options?
Ideally, the first point of call would be to seek help from the government, now seeing that is not much to go on the best bet seems to be to make that difficult call to the insurance company and seek to claim for your drought insurance.

With that being said, we’d love to hear from you what your views are on the matter. Do leave a comment in our comments section.