As hotter and drier EI Niño weather conditions close in on South Africa’s agricultural sector, coupled with risks associated with load shedding, farmers are encouraged to put necessary measures in place.
Dawie Maree, head of information and marketing at FNB Agribusiness, warns that during the dry season, veld fires can spread quickly. This destroys not only farms but also infrastructure and grazing land and causes destruction in neighbouring residential areas as well.
“Power surge risks following load shedding, coupled with consumers mistakenly leaving items such as heaters and stoves on could potentially result in fires,” Maree said. “Furthermore, the use of candles or outside fires can also lead to fire risks, especially in rural areas.”
Maree said farmers will need to find ways to mitigate to avoid risks that can dampen confidence and growth of the sector going forward. Especially after the sector contracted by 12.3% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2023.
Factors to consider
Maree believes long-term disaster management plans should be put in place to manage and control the risks of veld fires.
Not only during winter season but throughout the year, so that people become accustomed to the risk management measures that farms take to mitigate and manage risks during unforeseen circumstances.
After contracting by 12.3% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2023, the industry needs to take the necessary measures to avoid risks that can dampen the confidence and growth of the sector going forward.
The following measures can be taken:
- Consider having a fire management plan.
- Collaborate with the government and other farmers to follow procedures or protocols.
- Always keep fire equipment in good condition.
- Maintain adequate firebreaks.
- Have adequate insurance.
- Have regular stakeholder engagements with communities to raise awareness.
- Educate yourself and your workers about veld fires.
Historic impact of veld fires
“Veld fires are not unique to South Africa; the impact has been severe in the past and put farmers on the back foot after a challenging couple of years. Taking a proactive approach and ensuring that risk measures are in place will go a long way,” said Maree.
The negative repercussions of the fire outbreaks have resulted in increased loss of agricultural production in the past.
“Over the years, we have seen the negative impact that veld fires have caused to farmers, in certain parts of the country, as they try to recover from a very difficult time that goes as far back as the 2015/2016 season during the drought,” said Maree.
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