KZN farmers battle to keep their livestock alive as drought worsens

2015-11-04 10:09
Greytown water activist Brian Walker sifts bone-dry sand where water was once abundant at Lake Merthley in Greytown.

Greytown water activist Brian Walker sifts bone-dry sand where water was once abundant at Lake Merthley in Greytown. (Ian Carbutt)

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Pietermaritzburg - Some KwaZulu-Natal farmers are ­having to buy water from stores to keep their cattle and other livestock alive as the drought conditions worsen.

As another month passes with no rain in sight, KZN farmers have lost 30 000 head of cattle this year alone due to the province’s driest year in over a century.

With livestock dying and crops ­failing, concerns over whether farmers will receive any assistance from the ­government have been raised.

KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union director Sandy la Marque said on Wednesday that reports from farmers across the province of livestock seen dying in fields and on the sides of roads have been pouring in.

“The drought has affected farmers across the province. In some areas, there is no water at all and farmers are having to buy water from stores for their livestock,” she said.

“Animals are dying because there is no water and feed is short.”

She said crop farmers were also ­suffering as KZN’s worst drought since 1983 took hold of the province.

“Crop farmers are basically going to lose their crops,” she said.

La Marque said there had been reports from farmers that there was a strong possibility communal and subsistence farmers would lose 60% of their herds within the next few weeks if there was no assistance from the government.

“The situation is serious and all farmers are wondering if financial assistance or any resources would be allocated to the farming community. It is a critical concern for us and assistance is needed with immediate effect.”

KZN Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) spokesperson Lennox Mabaso said in a statement ­on Wednesday that the Department of Agriculture had contributed a sum of R6 million towards drought relief.

“These funds are earmarked for animal fodder,” said Mabaso.

“R91.3 million was allocated to KZN, bringing the total drought relief allocation to the province to date to R443.7 million. Of this, R172.2 million has been spent on the purchase of 45 water tankers and water ­tankering services by municipalities.

“In addition, the National Disaster Management Centre has allocated a further R24.6 million to KZN municipalities for the drilling of boreholes and installation of micro water supply schemes and hand pumps,” he said.

Mabaso added that money alone would not solve the drought crisis and said the help of the public was needed too.

“We need everyone to play their role in conserving water and to think about every drop as if it was the last drop,” he said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  weather  |  drought  |  agriculture

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