National government have made R35 million available for drought relief funding that, while welcomed, is woefully inadequate to meet the needs of farmers who have been severely impacted by the worst drought on record.
This is in response to the application submitted in November last year, where the province asked for R643 million in drought assistance from National Treasury, and comes at a time when Provincial Treasury has already projected a decline of 4.4% in agricultural related activities for the province this year.
The allocation was revealed by the Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC) as well as National Treasury during a Finance and Provincial Expenditure Portfolio Committee meeting last week.
Now, more than ever, the Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform, needs to step in and assist both commercial and emerging farmers in the province if we are to save the tens of thousands of jobs that are on the line in this sector.
I will personally be reviewing the Department’s budget, to identify non-core expenditure that can be diverted to augment the national drought relief funding we have been given, which I will present to the portfolio committee ahead of the upcoming adjustments budget.
I have written to Rural Development and Agrarian Reform MEC, Nomakhosazana Meth, and have requested that the Department allocate a sizeable portion of this funding to the Sarah Baartman District.
While the drought has eased in some areas, many regions, especially on the western side of the province, are still battling, with the Sarah Baartman District Municipality the worst affected region.
Farmers, especially in the Willowmore and Steytlerville districts, as well as certain areas in the Aberdeen area, are buckling under the drought and are still in desperate need of assistance.
Gamtoos Valley farmers are also in a dire situation, with their annual water allocation from the Kouga dam slashed by 80%.
The last round of relief from provincial government was not nearly sufficient, both in terms of fodder and drought mitigating infrastructure investment, and many farmers have lost livestock as a result.
It is clear that the drought we have experienced for the past six years, will not be abating any time soon. This debilitating drought is one of the greatest threats to the people and economy of the Eastern Cape.
The prolonged drought has the potential to financially destroy hundreds of farmers, both emerging and commercial. These farmers are looking to the provincial government to support them in their time of need, just as they have supported the economy of the Eastern Cape for decades.