Karoo farmers hit by water crisis receive R8.3m in drought support

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The department of agriculture in the Western Cape province has disbursed R 8.3 million in drought support to 586 farmers in the central Karoo region this month, it said on Monday.

The province's minister of economic opportunities Beverley Schäfer visited three farms in Laingsburg last Friday to meet farmers currently in the fourth year of a crippling drought.

The agriculture department has provided support to small scale and commercial farmers in the form of vouchers for fodder. After a veld assessment in October, it made the decision to increase support from once every second month, to monthly in the extremely critical areas including the central Karoo.

In November and December, the department issued nearly R8 million a month to 563 and 569 central Karoo farmers respectively.

"The farmers I met with had various ideas for ways in which farmers in the region could be supported and assisted and we will be investigating how best to do this," Schäfer said.

"I saw first-hand how the grasses and plants which ordinarily provide grazing for sheep have died out. Farmers are reliant on the fodder support which they receive from the department, as well as donations. Despite drastically reducing their herd sizes, they told me it’s just not enough."

Lukas Botes of Elim farm said he had spent hundreds of thousands of rand on feed in 2017. While donations of roughage were being made by farmers across the country, recipients were battling to pay the transport costs to get it to the area.

“If it wasn’t for the help of the government and other farmers who have given us roughage for free, I don’t know. We wouldn’t be here,” Botes said.

Maryke Gouws of Antjieskraal farm said rivers in the area last had water five years ago. While there was water underground, users had to sink their boreholes deeper. It had been about a year since her sheep had been able to graze in the veld, she said.

The third farmer visited by Schäfer, Chrisjan van der Vyver, said hungry baboons unable to find food were starting to kill his sheep.

"Farmers have been hard hit by this disaster and our objective as a department has been to provide some stability and certainty at a time when there is very little," Schäfer said.

African News Agency (ANA)