Drought causing severe crisis conditions in rural areas

 

The drought is affecting many areas of South Africa including this farm 30km outside Beaufort West. Agri SA says 30,000 jobs have been lost in the agriculture sector since January last year. File photo.
Image: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMESAgri SA conducted a survey in December 2018 among its members to accurately assess the impact of the drought on farming and job creation.

“Food security is a hard-won privilege and can easily be lost due to the persistent drought,” said Christo van der Rheede, Agri SA deputy executive director.

He added that Agri SA will rally all stakeholders to support farmers and farm workers in drought-afflicted areas.

“Rising food prices, malnutrition and food-inequality will be our future if nothing is done. Commodity organisations are very concerned about the impact on commodity prices and how that will translate to farmers and consumers,” he said.

“The economic impact is severe, but we need to think of the human cost as well – people are losing their jobs and farms are closing down at a time when we need to strengthen food security and create more employment. More than half of the farmers are suffering from depression and anxiety, among others, due to the challenging reality caused by the drought.”

Country-wide the survey pointed out that 31 000 jobs have been lost along with R7 billion since January 2018 and that 70% of survey respondents struggle financially. It indicated that Over 50% of respondents reported the need to retrench farm workers and said that the continuing drought has had a devastating impact on crops. They also pointed to an increased risk of veld fires due to the arid conditions of pastures.

An outlook for the Eastern Cape for the first quarter of the year is not comforting and estimates more problems over this period.

The report states that the drought status for the area is severe, the rainfall status is very low as is the runoff status. It also points out that dam levels are low and the groundwater status is moderately low. Overall it states that the drought status is critical in the province.

Rheede said that food and water scarcity pose a severe risk to socio-political stability in the country. A collective effort is required to prevent a national disaster.

In the next two weeks, emergency meetings will be held on how to best assist farmers and farm workers in drought-stricken areas. Agri SA is already in discussions with various role players, including government, financial institutions and agribusinesses.

Agri SA will also continue to support farmers on the ground.

“The drought is a colossal crisis. South Africans, who are enjoying the affordable food and drink that is produced by our farmers, need to wake up and realise that food security and affordable food are at risk,” said Omri van Zyl, Agri SA executive director.

“Since the end of 2015 Agri SA’s Drought Disaster Fund has spent more than R18 million to help our farmers, farm workers and communities. We again call on the public to help.”

Agri SA is thankful for the support from the public and other organisations that seek to help farmers. However, the public must ensure that when making a donation, that the organisation is credible and that the funds can be traced.

For enquiries, contact Christo van der Rheede, Agri SA deputy executive director on 083-380-3492 or email christo@agrisa.co.za.  Alternatively, contact Nicol Jansen, Agri Northern Cape President on 082-948-2629 or nicoljansen@telkomsa.net.

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