The African Farmers Association of South Africa (Afasa) has urged government to intervene in support of farmers in drought-stricken provinces, citing North West, Limpopo, the Western Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape and the Eastern Cape as the hardest hit.
In its preliminary report, Afasa said the past few weeks have seen KwaZulu-Natal accounting for more than R12 million in livestock losses, with one farmer losing 80 breeding cows, eight bulls and 40 calves.
Calling on the government to declare drought as a national disaster, Afasa warned that drought was so severe and spreading beyond the seven provinces, affecting all farmers, horticulture, livestock and agriculture.
Agricultural economist Wandile Sihlobo said while the call for intervention, especially in assisting farmers with livestock feed, was convincing, he pinned his hopes on more rainfall between November and January – in line with the Weather Service forecast.
“There is a case to be made for the department of agriculture to intervene by providing livestock feed in what I call hotspot areas affected by drought,” said Sihlobo.
“But, given the fact that dam levels this week were just above 50% average, there is hope for above normal rainfalls between November and January.”
According to Afasa chairperson, Neo Masithela, drought was spreading countrywide and could not be viewed as “a looming disaster” because South Africa was “already living in a disaster”.
Drought impact, he said, led to farmers recording high numbers of livestock losses.
“Every day we receive reports of farmers losing their livestock, crops, with boreholes drying out and dam water levels declining,” said Masithela.
Amid lack of a significant rainfall, the country was looking at a possibility of “water shedding” should consumers fail to stick to restrictions.
The department of water affairs recently warned of lower dam levels in every province, with the Katse Dam in the Lesotho Highlands – the country’s key back-up – down to 13.6% compared to 49% this time last year.