EC Farmers face Financial Ruin

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems
01 February 2010

LAST week’s rains may have brought some relief for drought-stricken Eastern Cape farmers, but many are facing financial ruin if more does not fall soon.

Caught in one of the worst droughts in living memory, some farmers on the Sunshine Coast and Albany areas have even sold off cattle while others have been forced to truck in water in a desperate attempt to survive.

And while farmers stare down possible financial ruin, several towns in the district have imposed water restrictions as supplies reach dangerously low levels.

According to Agri-Eastern Cape president Kerneels Pietersen the “hardest hit” areas in the province run from Peddie through Grahamstown, Alexandria, Nanaga and Paterson to the Langkloof.

“In some areas this is the worst drought in 70 years,” he said.

“Many farmers are facing financial ruin. We have had tens of thousands of applications from all over the province for drought relief.”

Although more than R126million was requested from central government to help thousands of Eastern Cape farmers survive only R20m disaster relief was approved.

According to rainfall data, last year produced the lowest annual average in the Ndlambe area in almost 50 years.

Alexandria dairy farmer Paul Klopper said most farmers were already so deep in debt “even the bank manager was having sleepless nights”.

“If we do not have proper rains soon many farmers will go bankrupt. It will be an economic disaster for the province.”

Klopper said he was convinced dwindling rainfall in recent years was a result of global warming and that farmers would have to rethink how they did their business to survive.

“We have to adapt our farming methods to the changing weather conditions and also think about planting different crops instead of what we did before.”

Hardest hit by the prolonged drought are livestock farmers who have watched helplessly as dams and boreholes run dry.

They have also had to truck in feed as grazing rapidly disappeared.

With 580 cows to milk every day, Southwell farmer Colin Stirk said he was relieved that after three frustrating attempts he had finally managed to sink a borehole that produced much-needed water.

“We have been trucking in water just to survive. My family has farmed here more than 100 years and this is the worst drought since 1948.”

Veteran farmer Neville Bradfield said although the recent rains were welcomed, they did little to relieve the drought.

“We only got 16mm and although it has created an artificial green (grass) top it will all be gone in a week if we do not get more rain.

Water restrictions have been imposed in Ndlambe and Makana and fines of R200 or more will be handed out to people who break the one hour a day, two days a week watering times.

In Alexandria and Kenton-on-Sea, water supplies are being shut off at night to prevent taps running dry during the day.

Source: Daily Dispatch

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