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Drought Relief Funds May Prove Inadequate

07 May 2018
Drought Relief Funds May Prove Inadequate

The drought is still a severe problem, and drought relief funds will need to be bolstered

When it comes to water, it’s the basic need to sustain all life. We all need it to survive, and once it runs out, it can put society in a tough economic position and create many social woes.

Budget problems

The people of the Northern, Western and Eastern Cape are in for a bumpy ride as these areas have been included as a national disaster area. There are disaster relief funds; however, this may not be enough for the agriculture sector.

Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister, Zweli Mkhize stated that an additional R6 billion for the year 2018/2019 had been put aside for reasons other than the issue regarding the drought.

According to Mkhize, disaster relief grants for the municipalities and provinces have been included in the budget.

Effects on employment

Mkhize said that the government was concerned about possible job losses in vulnerable farming communities due to the terrible drought.

"We are therefore exploring strengthening existing government programmes, including the option of partially mitigating losses by temporarily increasing personnel intake in the Working for Water programme", said Mkhize.

Water restrictions

Although this seems like a possible solution, water experts are having second thoughts about this particular approach.

According to Professor Anthony Turton, the relief is appreciated, but it will not solve the drought problem at hand because it fails to recognise that South Africa is a water constrained economic society.

"The inability to recognise this simple fact is a symptom of state failure because the core responsibility of any state is to cushion the citizens and protect the economy from crises," said Turton.

Prof Mike Muller state that it’s crucial that we comprehend that the national drought was more about bad water management and less about the actual drought.

"In many places, municipal water supply failures are the result of poor management and maintenance."

Muller believes that the supply failures from Cape Town to Nelson Mandela Bay, Giyani and beyond have not been caused by terrible weather, but by poor management.

Department of Water and Sanitation

Muller said, “local issues have increased because of the failure of the National Department of Water and Sanitation regarding the monitoring service provision and issuing timely warnings of impending problems.”

"Since the department stopped providing reports through monitoring programmes like the Blue Drop, citizens have had little information about the state of their systems and only discover that there are problems when taps run dry.”

"More money spent in these circumstances will only serve to hide the problems temporarily rather than fix them.”

Department of Water and Sanitation spokesman, Sputnik Ratau stated that the relief funds would be issued to the provinces and municipalities after the claims had been substantiated.

The drought effects on agriculture

Reports from The Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy describe that the Western Cape farming income has decreased by around R5.9bn from the year 2017.

Card Opperman, CEO of AgriSA Western Cape said, “when considering the cost of fixing the infrastructure which had fallen over due to the drought and the catch up with backlogs, even the complete R6 billion disaster fund would not be enough.”

“As it is, we are not expecting drought relief for anything other than feeding livestock, although the province’s agriculture department has asked the government for R100 million relief for dryland farming and an additional R250 million to help with the recovery of municipal infrastructure.”

Opperman said, “For the relief in the very short term, farmers in the Western Cape are grateful, but in the longer term much more money will be needed”.

The Western Cape farmers were fortunate enough to have lobbied correctly to gain relief from the national government.

“Conditions in the Northern and Eastern Cape were similarly dire, but they have governance problems that will interfere with the distribution of relief funds,” stated Opperman.

It has been estimated that Cape Town will need funds of up to R12.7 billion for the next five years to address the water shortage and infrastructure problems correctly.