Following the devastating floods in different parts of the country, Free State Agriculture (FSA) has called for greater transparency in the allocation of disaster relief funds. This, amid reports that 40% of farmers in the north-eastern part of the Free State are expecting a failed harvest due to recent rain damage.
FSA commercial manager Dr Jack Armour said they welcomed the national flood disaster classification issued by government on Thursday 20 January 2022. However, he believed that transparency in the allocation of funds is now critical given the history of corruption in previous disaster allocations.
“FSA makes an urgent plea to reallocate funds to the Free State department of roads, for urgent intervention to our roads that are being further decimated by the floods. If the department of police, roads and transport had properly maintained our roads over the past five to 15 years, the extent of the damage to roads and adjacent lands in flooded waterways and gullies would not have been as bad,” he said.
Zolani Sinxo: Let’s kick off by explaining the importance of the disaster relief fund.
Dr Jack Armour: The disaster fund is a government budget for natural disasters which affect every citizen in South Africa. Under the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs the national and provincial disaster management centres are manned and ready to manage disasters that affect human life and livelihoods.
Disaster funding is there to provide emergency basic needs, and to cover investments that are not insurable, public infrastructure, and to prevent any further damage to infrastructure, especially public infrastructure.
In the disaster assessment forms, farmers list their category as subsistence, smallholder or commercial based on area planted or livestock owned. Based on this classification, the funds made available are proportionally divided with more going to those most dependent on the crop for own consumption and livelihood.
What’s behind FSA’s call for greater transparency with regards to disaster relief funds?
In the past, drought disaster funds were used to purchase animal feed. This was done through tenders and/or preferred suppliers who loaded the prices and their commissions reducing the volume of assistance that could get to the farmer on the ground.
Furthermore, because the classification of disaster enables a shifting of unused funds and resources within and in-between state departments to prioritise disaster actions, this could mean crippling essential services such as supplying animal vaccines, grading roads, or opening up loopholes for corruption or misappropriation of funds.
Things aren’t looking great in parts of the Free State after recent floods…
Rural roads are in a shambles. Valuable topsoil has washed away. Many farmers are not able to complete plantings, nor can they get into lands to add chemicals (insecticides and herbicides) and fertilisers have washed away.
Weeds are competing with crops for remaining nutrients reducing potential yield and many crops are waterlogged, severely stressing growth. The extent of these losses will only be known by the end of February when thorough assessments have been completed and the first crop yield estimate is released by the crop estimates committee. The real reduction in yield will only be known at final harvest.
Is there help from various stakeholders and organised agriculture to assist affected farmers?
We are in discussions with insurance companies and financiers and agri-businesses who said they would look at how they can assist their clients on a case-by-case basis depending on merit.
Why has FSA called for the reallocation of funds to the Free State department of roads?
This way the enabling environment will be able to be addressed for the benefit of all those living in the affected rural areas. The reason in many cases for the flood damage was the badly maintained roads infrastructure.
How do you see the road ahead?
One of the solutions will be macro draining planning. We are in discussions with big business and the department of agriculture [in the province]. They have been very helpful in drawing maps showing where drains can be safely placed and where waterways need to be built in the future. Regenerative farming practices need to be implemented more widely and where possible.
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