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14 November 2019

Drought in Eastern Cape crippling small-scale farmers

The water-scarce conditions in the Eastern Cape aren't only a threat to farmers, but are also compromising the country's food security.

Most small-scale farmers have halted production due to the drought in the Eastern Cape province. The farmers mostly depend on rainwater, surface water and sometimes underground water accessed through boreholes.

Plenty of water woes

Kholiswa Bandezi of Masakhiwe Agricultural Co-Operative that makes jam in Plangeni Village, Flagstaff, says they have halted production due to the unavailability of water.

“Masakhiwe Co-Operative produces jam; we have been trained to do so. We also plant crops for reselling to local retail shops. However, we have stopped producing since there is no water. Our local municipality helped us with a borehole but we can't use it due to lack of electricity.”

Kholiswa says they then purchased water tanks to collect water, but rainfall is scarce this year.

Michael Nceleni, a wool grower and a livestock farmer says they are considering engaging the MEC for the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to address the crisis experienced by farmers.

“As wool growers and livestock farmers, we're planning to write a letter to the MEC to find alternative measures to address the crisis. Livestock farming requires enough water; we have been depending on rainfall for water but this year is very dry,” Nceleni said.

Farmers need to buy water

Nceleni says water has become a commercialised resource, as farmers they have opted to buy water which costs them R200 for 15 litres. Boreholes were promised by the government, but he says it hasn't happened as yet, so they're considering engaging the MEC.

Addressing farmers in Lusikisiki last week, MEC for the Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform, Nomakhosazana Meth, says water tanks and boreholes will be provided to farmers in need.

“An amount of R2 million was spent [to buy] rainwater tanks and troughs, which will be distributed to farmers in need. Boreholes will also be sunk.”

According to a study conducted in February by Zachary Donnenfeld, senior researcher of African Futures and Innovations at the Institute for Security Studies, the future of South Africa’s water sector is uncertain. "Nobody can be sure how much rain will fall over the coming decade. But what is clear is that the country is living beyond its water resources."

– Health-e News

Image credit: iStock

 
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