The recent drying up of the Impofu dam in the Eastern Cape has signalled even harder times for many of the urban and semi-urban farmers eking out a living in the affected areas. Despite very slight relief from rain last week, the Churchill and Loerie dams remain weeks or even days away from shutdown and farmers in the Nelson Mandela Bay and Kouga municipalities are bracing themselves for a rough time.
KwaNobuhle, the largest township on the outskirts of Kariega, has been heavily affected by the drought. The informal settlement and surrounds have also suffered periodic water outages, putting pressure on people already struggling with high unemployment and high crime rates, Phumla Runeli, a community activist from the township tells Food For Mzansi.
“Right now, in my backyard, you can see cows that are trying to scratch [out] something from the ground that can help them. There’s no water for the small-scale farmers, nothing, and no food for them. They are struggling.”
Runeli says that small-scale farmers in the area are losing their animals at an alarming rate. Recently, urban pig farmers in her area suffered heavy losses.
“Many of the animals, the livestock, are dying every day. Hundreds of pigs are dying.”
She points out that farmers in KwaNobuhle now don’t have access to land, not even leased land. The land they do have access to in the township has been affected by the severe drought.
“There is no hope. People are struggling to get some food. The poverty is so big.”
Farmer dreads day zero
Fourteen kilometres away from KwaNobuhle, Sizwe Maci farms with goats on land he leases in Rocklands, Gqeberha. For Maci, there has been a different turn of events. The drought has not yet affected his business too badly thanks to the recent rains that allowed him to meet the water needs of his animals. But this is not a situation he expects to last, he says.
“Goats require water on a regular basis. If there is no water, it will affect the goats in a very adverse manner. The situation, at this point in time however, is not very bad. We were fortunate to get some rain.”
The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality is running against time with day zero threats looming. Despite the recent rainfall that slightly increased dam levels in the metro, locals like Maci remain concerned.
He tells Food For Mzansi that he is dreading day zero, when taps run dry, as this would mean that he would not be able to expand his business. He says that right now, his operation is dependent on rain.
“With day zero approaching us at a very fast pace, I don’t think we’ll have growth. It will affect us financially and the situation is going to be bad. [We are] depending on rain. There’s nothing else that can provide water, except rain.”
In need of government support
Meanwhile, more large-scale farmers in the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality are experiencing their lowest irrigation levels yet. According to Eastern Cape department of rural development and agrarian reform spokesperson Masiza Mazizi, a further lack of rainfall will result in irrigation restrictions to be imposed on farmers.
“According to a drought study conducted, Nelson Mandela Bay [has] about 67 farmers and 334 large stock units affected by drought [who] require feed costing R1,31 million. Eight dams require silt scooping.”
To help these farmers cope with the drought, Mazizi explains that the department has provided alternative water sources and will continue to do so.
“The department provided two boreholes in Nelson Mandela Bay … in the last financial year and in the current financial year, four boreholes will be provided to farmers who have applied.”
The department, says Mazizi, is implementing the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act and is also using the Land Care programme to assist farmers with mitigating some of the effects of the drought. He says these have allowed farmers to enjoy additional infrastructure like boreholes and livestock dam maintenance.
Mazizi also lists water management projects in the area with objectives that include developing new stock dams to ensure equitable water distribution, borehole provision in communal grazing areas and land reform farms, water tank provision and desilting.
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