The latest bout of loadshedding is another devastating blow to Eastern Cape farmers, who are dependent on Eskom electricity supply to pump water for their irrigation needs.
Some Eastern Cape farmers have already had their water allocations severely cut by the Department of Water Affairs, while others have also had to ration their own water supplies, due to the unprecedented drought conditions that have prevailed across the province for years.
Farmers ordinarily are allocated specific times that they are allowed to draw water. If this period falls during loadshedding, they cannot use their electric water pumps or irrigation systems, and that water allocation is lost.
Even if they do have access to electricity, loadshedding of irrigation scheme pump stations further away, could result in no water available to access.
This, in turn, disrupts irrigation cycles, watering of livestock and other farming activities, which places significant strain on the province’s food security.
Eskom must be forced to look at methods that could potentially minimise the impact of loadshedding on agricultural operations. Every effort must be made to ensure that loadshedding on the agricultural industry is kept to the minimum.
The Democratic Alliance will demand that the Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform, engages with both Eskom as well as organised agriculture to endeavour to find ways to reduce the negative impact that loadshedding has on farmers, at the next Portfolio Committee meeting.
The aforesaid could include, amongst others, discontinuing loadshedding in drought-stricken districts, where this practice is currently leading to the loss of precious water resources.
Agriculture remains one of our most important economic drivers in the Eastern Cape. The government must do everything in its ability to ensure that it provides our farmers with an enabling environment so that they can prosper and deliver on their mandate of providing food security to our growing nation.