The DA is concerned that the Northern Cape Department of Agriculture is underplaying the effects of the current drought. In fact, we fear that they are purposefully singing their own praises regarding government’s management of the drought conditions in the province so loudly so as to block out the cries for help of farmers who find themselves in severe financial distress.
Yesterday, during the provincial Agriculture Department’s 3rd Quarter Performance Report presentation at the legislature, the department shrugged off the drought as being just a “seasonal drought” which they further predicted would not have a major impact on the targets of the department going forward.
The department said the impact of the previous drought of 2013/2014 was by far worse and further indicated that they were only aware of about 45 animal deaths in contrast to thousands of animal deaths during the previous drought. This they attributed to their effective early warning systems and greater awareness created amongst farmers, which apparently resulted in greater compliance with the department’s instruction for farmers to reduce their stock to 60%.
The department pointed out that due to the mode of irrigated farming in the province, minimal losses to crops had been experienced. They also said that they were not aware of any farmers who had to close their farming enterprises as a result of the drought.
The DA appreciates the fact that the department does have a Disaster Management Strategy in place and that they do appear to have improved their handling of droughts.
What the department, however, is choosing to ignore is the financial anguish of farmers who now face an uncertain future.
The department seems to pay no thought to the fact that, despite scattered rainfall, the drought has not yet been broken. They pay scant regard to the fact that grazing land will take years to recover and that animals still need feed. They also disregard the fact that breeding stocks will also take time to rebuild themselves back up.
The obvious physical impact of the drought, by way of the smell of rotting animal corpses, may not be what it was in 2013/2014, but the long terms implications are by far worse.
Agricultural unions have estimated that famers in the Northern Cape alone, will need up to R3 billion in the next two to three years to help them recover.
In contrast, from November until now, the provincial department has availed only R23 million in drought relief. Furthermore, the disaster management grant for the Northern Cape for the next three year period reflects a zero balance.
The DA has long been calling for the drought to be declared a national disaster. Both provincial and national government are however purposefully turning a blind eye to the drought because they don’t have money to mitigate the effects of the drought. From past financial management of disasters in the Northern Cape, which saw a rollover of R7 million from the drought relief scheme due to unspent drought funds and also the temporary suspension of R64 million from the flood relief scheme for work that has taken five years and counting to complete –they clearly also do not have the competency.
We can only hope that the current visit by the National Disaster Management Centre to the province this week will paint a more honest picture of the impact of the drought before it is too late for the agriculture sector in the Northern Cape.
DA Northern Cape Provincial Spokesperson of Agriculture
082 380 2128
Shelley De Witt
082 847 1387