Fire payouts ready at last

2008-07-10 00:00

FARMERS who suffered from the devastation caused by the fire storms in the midlands last winter will finally receive relief aid to recover their losses. A total amount of R40 million has been set aside to help farmers rehabilitate their destroyed grazing and farmlands.

In June 2007, millions of rands damage was caused in fires across an estimated 59 000 hectares.

Yesterday, KZN Agriculture and Environmental Affairs Department spokesman Khulekani Ntshangase said funds are ready to be issued.

“Relief … will be issued to farmers, beginning at the end of July.”

One of the affected farms was Dove House Farm in Karkloof, owned by Shereen Duncan. She said the entire plot, which includes a nursery and organic vegetable farmland, was damaged.

“The people involved in the organic farming project were devastated and since there has been no aid coming through as was promised, the project is struggling.”

Duncan said government officials arrived at the farm to access the situation towards the end of 2007. “They made a list of everything that had been damaged and left, but that was the last time we saw them.”

KZN Agricultural union (Kwanalu) president Robin Barnsley said farmers have not received any government aid.

“There have been no payouts of any relief to the farmers and we do not know why the process has not been finalised.” He said he was not sure whether the process was being delayed at municipal or provincial government level.

Affected farmers are struggling to recover. “The fires had a huge impact on farmers, some people had to downscale or change their operations in order to survive. In the timber industry, they had to cut their timber out of normal cycle and that will create problems in the future.”

Damage was caused to timber and sugar plantations and livestock farms and affected around 8 000 farm labourers, each with six to eight dependents, totalling around 50 000 people.

Sappi and Mondi lost between 400 and 500 ha of prime timber plantation each, while around 1 000 ha of privately-owned timber also went up in flames. Some 4 000 ha of sugar cane were destroyed in the Mid-Illovo area.

Homes in the Elandskop, Vulindlela, Shayamoya, Impendle and Taylor’s Halt areas were also destroyed.

sandilez@witness.co.za

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