Stormy or not: rainy festive season a gift to farmers

Heavy rainfalls and flash floods have left a trail of destruction in parts of the Free State. This picture was taken by Riaan Meintjies in Tweespruit, 27km east of Thaba Nchu. Photo: Storm Report SA

Heavy rainfall and flash floods have caused some destruction in parts of the Free State. This picture was taken by Riaan Meintjies in Tweespruit, 27km east of Thaba Nchu. Photo: Supplied/Storm Report SA

An unusually wet and stormy summer is predicted for Mzansi, but farmers in most parts of the country welcome the news of a rainy festive season.

The International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) recently issued a La Niña advisory, saying that Mzansi is set to receive more rain than usual in coming weeks. La Niña is an intermittent climate phenomenon caused by the cooling of surface ocean water along the tropical west coast of South America.

“Although rain is good for drought-affected regions and for the environment, sometimes its after-effects are not good for those staying in areas that are more likely to get flooding. [However,] for the agricultural industry the above-normal rainfall is likely to bring positive impacts for crop and livestock production,” the report states.

The South African Weather Service said particularly Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal could expect more rain than the usual.

Good tidings in the Northern Cape

Northern Cape farmers’ union Saamtrek Saamwerk coordinator Sehularo Sehularo says its members are happy about the rains coming their way. This is especially true because of years of drought which had had a devastating impact on farmers.

The province is one of several across Mzansi which have already received severe thunderstorms early this season, mostly over its central and northeastern parts.

“We believe that when it rains like this… the veld will recover from the serious effects that the drought had brought to many farmers.”

He adds, however, that it will still take years for farmers to recoup what they had lost during the drought years. He hopes that farmers in the province now realise the importance of rotational grazing “so that, when the country is hit by drought [again, the impact] should not be as severe as it was in the past.”

Sehularo is hopeful that the rains will help reduce the impact of veld fires that the province experienced in the past. “We lost a lot of grazing land during those veld fires, so this rain is a relief to farmers.”

He cautioned that there are still some pockets in the country where drought persists and that farmers are hopeful for the rest of the season. “We all know that the country is facing challenges of water. In some instances farmers can go days without water, which puts a lot of strain on the livestock and crops. I think more rain will close that gap.”

Livestock need shelter on rainy days

North West is one of the provinces more severely hit by storm damage this season. More than a hundred houses have been destroyed at Lebotloane village in the Moretele local municipality, Bloemhof in the Lekwa Teemane municipality and Monnakato village in Moses Kotane.

A farmer in the province, Oupa Morare, tells Food For Mzansi that despite the potential damage it could cause, good rains are what farmers really need.

“It is true that so much rain could lead to more harm than good but on the other hand we really need this rain more than anything. Our livestock need the grass to be as green as possible. This is what we need.”

Morare explains that more rain meant that farmers were spending less on feed.

He cautioned farmers against letting their livestock roam the streets unsupervised, however.

“When it rains it is best that the livestock get locked up. We have seen in the past that livestock are roaming around when heavy rains are pouring and winds are blowing all over. They [livestock] wander around and end up causing accidents, so I urge farmers to lock them up,” he says.

Worried about infrastructure

Meanwhile Oratile Maphatiatje, who farms cabbages in the Vaal in Gauteng, says he is grateful that rain is falling. Still, he is worried about the damages it could bring due to the dilapidated state of the country’s infrastructure

“We all know that the infrastructure in our country is in tatters. Bridges are falling apart and roads are just not normal with potholes. My biggest worry is the damages that this more rains could possibly bring,” he says.

“I just hope that the more rain we will have will not leave us in a more challenging situation than we are in terms of infrastructure collapsing.”

ALSO READ: In pictures: Thunderstorms wreak havoc in Mzansi

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