The KwaZulu-Natal department of co-operative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) spokesperson, Senzelwe Mzila, has issued a weather alert stemming from MEC Sihle Zikalala to the Provincial Disaster Management Centre in the province. The alert detailed that disruptive rain, which could lead to flooding, is expected in most parts of the province over the weekend.
The announcement follows a warning that was first raised by The South African Weather Services (SAWS) explaining that 200mm of rainfall is expected in the low-lying coastal areas of the province.
The areas that will mostly be affected after receiving a level nine warning are: the eThekwini Metro, Mkhambathini, Msunduzi Local Municipalities, Richmond, iLembe District, King Cetshwayo District Municipality and Mkhanyakude District Municipality. A level five warning has been given to the more inland areas.
The damage is done already
In the meantime, small-scale farmer, Nonhlanhla Majola from Ridgeview, Durban, said she is bracing herself for the upcoming rainy weekend but has been struggling with harsh weather conditions since the beginning of the week. She is owing most of the current damage on her farm to recent hailstorms that passed over the area.
“It is exceedingly difficult because we are small-scale farmers. I’ve sent a warning to all the small-scale farmers in our network, telling them to stay away from the fields now, and those who can open furrows to do so, in case flooding comes so there won’t be a mess or ruin the crops,” she said, “There is nothing one can do in this weather. The shade nets that I have put in place are on the ground. I am back to square one.”
Majola said she and her neighbouring farmers are aware that the area is conducive to hailstorms at this time of the year and they are trying to minimise damage by making use of shade nets; however, the recent bout has left her without any crops to recover, forcing her to start from nothing.
“I’m as ready as I can be because when it comes to these kinds of disasters, one can only hope and pray that by the time the rain is gone, it has not destroyed the place. We have put measures in place to make sure the rain doesn’t directly destroy our farms and residential places,” she said.
‘Water is good, but not too much’
Not so far from Majola is crop farmer Mbali Ishmael in Inanda, who is relying heavily on 50kg bags filled with soil to use as a blockage for flood waters. She says redirecting the water flow is the only protective measure she has in place.
“What I have done is fill soil into bags and I tried to think ahead and block the flow of the water coming directly onto the plantations. I can’t even afford shade netting and I am only redirecting water for now,” she said.
One of the many victims of last April’s flooding, Ishmael says she has a long way to go in terms of protecting her farm and she has loaned money from family members to raise funds to build the necessary infrastructure to protect her crops.
“I have not recovered. It is a slow recovery because I have asked my family to borrow me some money so that I can restart and plant,” she said, “Before that, we had the civil unrest that ruined our produce because the shops we supply were closed for a long time but now only two of them are open.”
With hopes of generating enough funds to improve her farm, Ishmael is planning to upgrade to shade netting, hydroponics, and funnels.
Shade netting essential
“We do not have to be too sophisticated, just having shade netting over your crop helps a lot. We love open farming in open fields and we have gotten so used to it. So the only thing we can do is to get shade netting. We do put nets on, but shade netting allows us to plough,” she said.
While that may be the case, crop farmer Irvin Naidoo says as a farmer, he has learnt to observe and predict weather patterns to minimise damage to the farm. He has strengthened roads and furrows in the farm to redirect the water flow.
Naidoo is confident that these measures will act as a barrier against the harsh weather conditions. He says it starts off with observing the weather, monitoring drainage, washaways, and piping systems and then lastly keeping the staff alert and ready for rain damage or flooding.
“Us farmers know more about the rain than everyone else and we are very clued up about the rain. If we see rain, we then react accordingly. We make sure that our rows and infrastructure are in good condition,” he explained.
“We are ready for it, and you can say that nature is unpredictable. Although we can prepare for it, if you get like 1000m, what can you do? We can take about 100 to 120mm, but if it is anything more than that then, we can start panicking,” he said.
Tips for surviving heavy rains and flooding:
- Develop a flood plan;
- Elevate critical facilities;
- Use sandbags or other barriers;
- Protect water sources;
- Secure loose objects;
- Move animals to higher ground; and
- Monitor weather forecasts
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