'This cow cannot stand up' - drought-hit North West farmer

2015-08-04 13:39
Pella Dam is the last hope for emerging farmers in North West. (Supplied)

Pella Dam is the last hope for emerging farmers in North West. (Supplied)

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Madikwe - In deep rural North West, emerging farmers hit by severe drought have lost hope, saying their starving cattle are too weak to walk to the nearest dam to drink water.

"This cow is just bones covered in skin. It has been here for days now. There is no water. The boreholes, wells and dams have dried up. Their nearest dam with water is over 50km away. This cow will not make it to the dam," says John Machaila, standing at the Thomasloop cattle pen near Moubane village.

Machaila said over 1 000 cattle used to graze at the Thomasloop cattle pen, but now only 60 were left.

The once proud herd of cattle are shadows of themselves, with their backbones, ribs and hip bones clearly visible. They blow dust through their noses as they look for grass.

"It is a daily struggle. We have lost hope. This cow will not make it... it will die within days if it does not get water. It cannot stand up," said Machaila.

The cow is breathing heavily, the head looks too heavy for the neck to keep it up.

Its calf circles around it, unaware of the difficulty the mother is going through.


(News24 Correspondent)

Desperate

A News24 correspondent travelled 500km into the rural areas of the province with a local farmer as a guide to speak to those affected by severe drought. One farmer was so desperate he tried to sell his prize bull to the guide.

Thomasloop cattle pen serves communal farms in Moubane, Mmatau and Tlokweng village. Machaila is one of emerging farmers affected by the drought in Maubane, Mmatau, Manamela, Mankaipaya, Molatedi, Montsana, Dwarsberg,  Mabalstad, Pella, Tlokweng, Katnagel and many more rural villages in North West.

The African Farmers' Association has warned that the drought in the North West province was particularly crippling to emerging farmers, who will need millions of rands to survive. The province is one those hardest hit by drought this year, with SABC's Radio Sonder Grense recently reporting that water shortages could cost farmers millions of rands.

In Mankaipaya, Lucas Leotwane looks on with desperation at his herd of cattle.

"We do not have water. Maybe the government will help us. I cannot afford to feed my cattle. The money I have, covers only transport to the nearest place where I can buy fodder. It is about a 100km single trip," he said.

Leotwane said previously the North West government assisted them, but this time around there was no indication of any help.


(News24 Correspondent)

'It's crippling us'

The next farmer was Ponki Makinita, who runs his own farm at Klipbult. His herd consists of mixture of Jersey, Simmentaler and Brahman cattle.

"The drought is crippling us. The grass is dry. The sun burnt it... it is brittle and feels like ash; there is nothing cattle can feed on. Look at this land," he said, throwing his hands in the air.

"I do not know what will happen if it does not rain, but also, if it does rain we will not recover soon."

Next to his kraal, two workers were busy mixing feed for the cattle.

"I bought it from Brits. It cost about R40 000 to feed the cattle for a month. I am still happy, [I have some water]... or my cost could have been more."

He says the drought was the worst he experienced in five years.

"It [the drought] is recurring, it started in 2010... it is now that we started to feel its impact."

Makinita points to his prize bull and tells the News24 correspondent's guide: "It cost up to R50 000, but we can talk... do you want it?"

The guide, Koos 'KK' Motsosi, also a farmer, showed News24 three dams in Mabalstad that used to provide water to cattle.

"People said the drought started last year [2014]... I disagree. If it was last year, the dams would not have been so dry."

He points to a stream: "This used to be a stream flowing and feed a dam ahead. Now everything has dried up."


(News24 Correspondent)

Communal farming 'difficult'

Motsotsi says communal farming is difficult as people do not agree on many aspects that would improve their farming or mitigate in times of drought.

"We do not agree on how much cattle each one of us should have. At times there is too much cattle which led to overgrazing."

He is working to unite farmers in the Bojanala region of the North West province.

On the way home, many cattle were seen on the roads, with their herders all saying they are looking for water.

"We do not know where to find water, uncle. The Moses Kotane Municipality providers water through tankers for people but could not do so for our animals," Thapelo Morebedu tells News24.

- The provincial agriculture department had not responded by the time of publication to enquiries sent on July 15.


(News24 Correspondent)

Read more on:    mahikeng  |  agriculture  |  drought

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