On Tuesday (22/10), the Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities, Minister David Maynier, authorised the release of R50 million in emergency drought relief in terms of section 25 of the Public Finance Management Act (Act 6 of 2000). This request was initiated by the Minister of Agriculture, Minister Ivan Meyer, and today, the Western Cape Provincial Cabinet approved the release of the emergency funding to assist farms experiencing severe drought in the 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.
On the impact of the drought to the Western Cape economy, Minister David Maynier, stated: “This drought will be felt for years to come, especially in the rural areas where agriculture is the main generator of the Western Cape economy. The socio-economic impact on farm workers and farming communities would be significant should the agricultural activity in the Western Cape collapse.
“The agricultural and agri-processing sectors are vital to the Western Cape economy contributing 36.1 per cent of exports from the province in 2018. Agriculture is also the fastest growing export sector in the Western Cape with 26.9% growth in the last year.
“It was therefore of vital importance that the decision to allocate additional funding to support the drought stricken farmers was urgently taken to ensure the agricultural sector continues to support economic growth and job creation in the Western Cape.”
Western Cape Minister of Agriculture, Dr Ivan Meyer, expressed his appreciation to Minister Maynier, and the Western Cape Cabinet, for approving the request for emergency interim funding.
Minister Meyer added: “We have also approached the national Department of Agriculture for an additional R147 million for further drought support. While the R50 million will bring immediate relief and fodder support to farmers in the worst effected parts of the Province, the Western Cape Department of Agriculture will also make a further R100 000 available to extend its current humanitarian support by providing pastoral and psychological support to farmers and farm workers.
“Currently, 125 households and 625 individuals in Kannaland are benefiting from food parcels until end of April 2019. We will also continue to engage and provide advice to farmers through our agricultural extension services. Six hundred and sixty agri workers in Kannaland, Matzikamma and other affected districts are also benefiting from our Extended Public Works Green Opportunities Programme.”
To determine the extent of the prevailing drought, a technical drought assessment was undertaken by the Department of Agriculture in February and March of this year.
The results of the assessment revealed that the Northern part of the West Coast District, the entire Central Karoo, and parts of the Eden, Cape Winelands and Overberg are still struggling with severe drought conditions and have been classified as extremely critical according to the scientific drought assessment analysis.
In many areas, no natural vegetation has survived the drought and planted pastures and fodder banks have long been exhausted.
Livestock farmers are amongst the hardest hit by the drought. Surplus marketable animals have been culled and farmers are confronted with selling breeding stock to survive.
While farmers are attempting to manage the existing risk, there is the fear that they will neither have the capital nor other resources required to rebuild their farms over the medium-term. As a result, job security and food security in these areas is under threat.
It is expected that it will take at least three years of average or above average rainfall to recover from the drought.