Seven boreholes within an area of 5,8194 million hectares. This is the extent of the drought aid assistance that the Eastern Cape Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform will spend on farmers in the drought-plagued Sarah Baartman District.
This is a slap in the face of farmers in the Sarah Baartman district who have been battling prolonged drought conditions for six years. This will also have a devastating impact on jobs in the region.
The Department revealed on Wednesday that they are planning to spend R25 million of the R35 million received in drought aid assistance from National Government on the development of only 64 boreholes in the province. The remaining R10 million will be used for the implementation of a fodder relief programme.
These 64 boreholes will cost, on average, R390,000.00 each and will include the infrastructure needed to operate the boreholes. There are serious concerns, however, that the Department is paying hugely inflated prices for boreholes which could in most instances be procured by the private sector for a fraction of this price.
More concerning, however, is the fact that whilst the Sarah Baartman District Municipality is currently the only district municipality that has been declared a drought disaster area in the Eastern Cape, the lion’s share of drought relief will be directed to other districts in the province.
This, while boreholes in areas such as Aberdeen and Willowmore have started to run dry, whilst farmers in the Gamtoos Valley, which is also part of the Sarah Baartman District, were dealt a devastating blow when their water allocation from the Kouga Dam was slashed by 80% for the new water year.
The Democratic Alliance has been furnished with proof that some 65 commercial farmers in this district have made application to the Department for assistance with the drilling of boreholes, with even more applications likely to follow soon.
Against this backdrop, the news that the Department is planning to drill only seven boreholes in this vast district will be a devastating blow to these desperate farmers.
Last week I visited the embattled farming communities of Aberdeen, Willowmore and Steytlerville. My oversight inspection of the Sarah Baartman District continued this week, as I visited farmers and their representatives in the Jansenville and Klipplaat communities.
I will be adding my additional findings to a detailed report, which has been submitted to the Standing Portfolio Committee for Rural Development and Agrarian Reform.
The Department has no choice but to urgently avail further drought aid to embattled farmers on the Western side of the province.
This additional relief could be made available through budget cuts and redirecting existing funding.
Given the fact that the Department will be unable to spend its entire budget for the financial year at hand amidst the Covid-19 constraints, failure to effect such budget cuts and provide much-needed drought assistance, in the form of water and feed for livestock, would be criminal.