Colossal crisis: Farmers wrung dry by drought
A report reveals the dire situation that is causing widespread depression among SA farmers
The drought in SA destroyed 31,000 jobs in the agricultural sector and cost the country R7bn.
Food security and affordable food in SA are at risk as embattled farmers struggle to cope financially and emotionally with the effects of the continuing drought.
The latest drought report released by Agri SA, a federation of agricultural organisations, paints a bleak picture of the prevailing situation in SA’s agricultural sector.
To glean an overview of the impact of the drought, Agri SA compiled an electronic survey in which 23 of its provincial agricultural affiliates – representing about 18,000 producers across SA – participated.
“The economic impact is severe, but we need to think of the human cost as well – people are losing their jobs, and farms are closing down at a time when we need to strengthen food security and create more employment,” warned Christo van der Rheede, Agri SA’s deputy executive director.
“More than half of the farmers are suffering from depression and anxiety, among others, due to the challenging reality caused by the drought.”
Omri van Zyl, Agri SA’s executive director, described the drought as a “colossal crisis”.
“South Africans, who are enjoying the affordable food and drink that is produced by our farmers, need to wake up and realise that food security and affordable food are at risk,” said Van Zyl.
Key findings include:
• 31,000 jobs and R7bn lost since January 2018;
• 70% of respondents struggle financially;
• More than 50% reported the need to retrench farmworkers;
• A devastating impact on crops due to continuing drought;
• An increased risk of veldfires due to the arid conditions of pastures; and
• More than 50% indicated some form of depression, anxiety or other behavioural health issues experienced by members.
According to the report, provinces such as the Eastern Cape, Free State, Northern Cape and North West have been worst hit.
Gauteng is reported to be stable, while KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape are regarded as “below normal” in terms of drought status.
From the report, financial and fodder support were by far the most urgent support required.
“Support for boreholes was third, while emotional support followed shortly. Our qualitative analysis indicates that 173 municipalities out of 278 have been reported to be affected by the latest drought occurrence.
“This represents 62% of all municipalities affected by drought.”
Agri SA said food security was a hard-won privilege and could easily be lost to the persistent drought.
“In the next two weeks, emergency meetings will be held on how to best assist farmers and farm workers in drought-stricken areas.
“Agri SA is already in discussions with various role players, including government, financial institutions and agribusinesses.
“Since the end of 2015 Agri SA’s Drought Disaster Fund has spent more than R18m to help our farmers, farm workers and communities. We again call on the public to help.”