DROUGHT RELIEF ON THE WAY
Good news is on the horizon for farmers who have been so hard hit by the ongoing drought in the province.
The Democratic Alliance has received numerous calls from people who are desperate to find out whether any government relief is on the way. The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) has assured me that they are currently sorting out application data and the target date to start with the roll-out of aid is the end of this month.
DARD applied during March 2009, in anticipation of the effect of the drought, for funding of R101 million.
All allocations for disaster assistance are submitted the National Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries: Directorate Agricultural Disaster risk Management. This directorate in turn applies for such financial assistance from National Treasury. Notably, the Provincial Department does not budget for disasters as it is done through the above channel. The conditions under which assistance is provided is thus also determined on a National basis and not by the Province itself.
According to DARD, as a result of the applications made, an announcement was made by the National Directorate that the Eastern Cape Province is allocated an amount of R 26,9 million for fodder and the transport thereof. This amount is for the 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 financial years.
DARD has informed me that the reduction in the allocation has the implication that the Provincial Department has to prioritize the drought stricken areas from what it originally requested. In collaboration with its stakeholders, Agri-EC and NAFU, the Department is now busy analyzing the extent of dryness of the province. As the current rainfall data is not representative enough and also erratic of nature, the DARD is making use of satellite imaging to determine the current drought areas as compared to the 10 year averages. This done with the view to determine those areas that have received the least rain since October 2008.
I have been informed that while the cut off date of farmers was extended with a month from end of October to the end of November 2009, the process of analyzing drought stricken areas is completed. The application data is being sorted into logical format. In its current state, the total value of the applications exceeds R 36 m. The aim of this exercise is to attempt to help as many applicants as possible with the available funds. Should the amount of the applications exceed the available amount of R 26,9 m, some areas which are the least affected will be left out of the first round of assistance. Those areas with the least rainfall will then be communicated to the applicants after which the framework of assistance leading to fodder acquisition will be implemented immediately. The target date is end of January 2010.
The assistance scheme provides that eligible farmers are assisted in the form of fodder and the transport thereof. In terms of the conditions of the scheme farmers are required to make a certain own contribution varying from 30% for commercial farmers to 10% for subsistence farmers.
Veliswa Mvenya, MPL, Bhisho
DA spokesperson on Agriculture