The Western Cape government has made R50m in emergency drought relief available to farmers in drought-stricken areas of the province, much to the relief of Agri Western Cape.
“These funds will be allocated specifically to provide two months of fodder support for farmers in the drought-stricken Central Karoo District, Matzikamma and Little Karoo areas,” said Finance MEC David Maynier after the provincial cabinet approved it.
“The socio-economic impact on farmworkers and farming communities would be significant should the agricultural activity in the Western Cape collapse,” he added.
Without help, the agricultural and agri-processing sectors, which provide jobs and contributed to 36.1% of exports from the province in 2018, would collapse.
Western Cape Agriculture MEC Dr Ivan Meyer said the provincial government had also asked the national agriculture department for another R147m for further drought support.
The Western Cape has, in the meantime, set aside R100,000 for counselling and pastoral support to struggling farmers affected by the drought.
It is also giving 125 households and 625 individuals in Kannaland food parcels, while 666 agricultural workers in Kannaland, Matzikamma and other affected districts are also benefiting from the extended public works green opportunities programme.
A technical drought assessment by the Department of Agriculture in February and March this year showed that the northern part of the West Coast District, entire Central Karoo, and parts of the Eden, Cape Winelands and Overberg were classified as “extremely critical” in a drought assessment analysis.
“In many areas, no natural vegetation has survived the drought and planted pasture and fodder banks have long been exhausted,” said Meyer.
Farmers have already culled animals due to the drought.
They are also worried that they will not have the capital or resources to recover from the drought as the regions will need at least three years of average or above average rain to recover.
Jannie Strydom, Agri Western Cape’s CEO, said: “We are grateful for all their assistance and support over the past five years and appreciate that our provincial government understands and values the role of agriculture in the economy of the province.”
Agri Western Cape would render as much humanitarian help as possible even though its own drought relief fund is almost depleted as the crisis started to hit in 2015.
“Many producers in various sectors are facing cash flow constraints as farm revenues diminish and operating costs remain high. This is resulting in a humanitarian crisis in the affected areas and we are thankful for every contribution to our drought relief fund,” Strydom said.