EC Drought Summit needed, as rains have little effect on dam levels

Issued by Retief Odendaal, MPL
Shadow MEC for Rural Development and Agrarian Reform

Despite the recent rains, there has been little improvement in the dam levels across the Eastern Cape, and the provincial government seems to have no long term plans in place to address the challenges that the ongoing drought has brought.

Farmers are buckling under the immense pressure of an ongoing drought that has seen the national Department of Water Affairs slash water extraction rates for agricultural use. Across the province, dam levels are lower than a year ago, and the combined provincial dam levels are currently at 48,8%.

So severe is the drought that the DWA has stepped in to cart water to those in need, and still our provincial government is silent on the issue.

The recent gazetting of a new state of natural disaster in the Sarah Baartman District Municipality is testament to the ongoing drought conditions that have been prevalent in this area for more than five years.

Municipalities are also severely affected by the drought, with residents taps running dry for days on end, across the province.

I will therefore be writing to the Premier, Oscar Mabuyane, to urgently convene a special Drought Summit, where all relevant local and provincial government entities are represented, along with representatives from the agricultural sector and other experts.

The aim of this summit should be to devise a long term strategy for the province to address the very real threat of climate change and water scarcity, with the aim of providing the necessary support to the agricultural sector of our economy, as well as to ensuring water availability to the province’s residents.

We also need to relook at securing urgent funding for the struggling farmers in the Sarah Baartman District Municipality, to purchase fodder and for the drilling of additional boreholes. This funding should be prioritised in the forthcoming adjustments budget.

This debilitating drought is one of the greatest threats to the people and economy of the Eastern Cape and a concerted coordinated effort is needed to address the ongoing challenges it poses.

Our farmers, both commercial and emerging, 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.

Note to Editors: You can download a soundclip in English from Retief Odendaal, MPL.