A-maize-ing initiative to bring bags of hope to struggling farmers

2017-12-27 08:36
"Be A-maize-ing” is an initiative by charity organisation Caring Daisies. (Supplied)

"Be A-maize-ing” is an initiative by charity organisation Caring Daisies. (Supplied)

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Cape Town - Making the great trek to the Western Cape this festive season? An extra bag might make a big difference to drought-stricken farmers struggling to get by.

"Be A-maize-ing", an initiative by charity organisation Caring Daisies, encourages holidaymakers to bring a bag of maize as they make their way through Beaufort West and Graaff-Reinet on their way to the seaside. The maize will go toward feeding the farmlands' hungry animals.

SEE: Land Thirst - voices from the drought-stricken Karoo

"This is just about bringing hope," Caring Daisies founder Anria van Heerden says. "We know we won't be able to save them or bring rain, but we will try to make a difference, at least."

Coffers have run dry

As part of their Manna vir die Boere programme, countless farmers have been assisted through fundraisers and special projects. But the organisation's coffers have run dry, forcing them to think of more creative ways of assisting.

"The idea came about when a school girl from Swartkops raised R40 000 for the farming community. Her mother phoned us and said everyone should be roped in to help, suggesting that, if every family bought one bag of mielies, together it would make a big impact."

Van Heerden has seen farmers reduced to tears when they receive donations and described their situation as "terrible".

"Things are going really badly. There will never be enough money to help them, but we can try."

No surface water

Beaufort West, home to about 37 000 people, ran out of surface water in November and is now dependent on 32 operational boreholes and the local water reclamation plant. 

Besides the "capital of the Karoo" – which is worst off - and the City of Cape Town, the other affected areas in the province are Kannaland, Knysna and Bitou.

Beaufort West Mayor Japie van der Linde, in a recent interview with News24, said he was most worried about the farm areas around the town, which sustained the local economy.

Plant growth has been affected by changing rain patterns in recent years.

A farmer told News24 that rain used to fall in the Karoo between February and May. Now it happens between September and November, resulting in the dry wind blowing away any trace of moisture afterward.

Digging deep to cover costs

Animals are now reliant on fodder, mielies and supplements to survive, forcing farmers to dig deep to cover their costs.

Agri Central Karoo manager Dean Gous praised the initiative, explaining that while the donations from across the country are welcomed, transporting the feed to the desperate farmers can cost up to R30 000 per truck load.

The agricultural organisation currently reaches out through its networks to find donors to help cover the transportation charges.

Farmers from all over SA have been assisting to bring some relief to those battling the drought, the same way those in the Western Cape assisted farmers in Limpopo and other regions when they faced a similar situation in recent years.

                                                                     (Supplied)

"You won’t believe how much one bag of feed helps.  A 50kg bag can at least temporarily give a struggling farmer one less thing to worry about," Gous says.

Most are already deeply in debt and have reduced their flocks by a third to cut costs, he explains.

"Once you reduce your numbers too much, you can't survive anymore. These reductions also result in job losses, because the farmers can't afford to pay the workers."

Morale is low, he says, and Agri Central Karoo has responded by organising workshops and talks to motivate its members and discourage them from becoming despondent to the point where they consider suicide.

But things are not expected to get much better anytime soon.

No rain is predicted

"According to the weather forecasts, no rain is predicted for this month [December]. It looks like things will only start looking up in March or April," he says.

He encouraged those passing through to bring a bag of feed or cash to purchase their donations from resident businesses, thereby also supporting the local economy.

Van Heerden says, as donations are received, they are assigned to struggling farmers across the Northern Cape and parts of the Western Cape. 

"We need to do what we can, one person at a time. And anyone can help.  If you don't know where to buy it, make a donation. It will bring relief, even if it seems like nothing." 

And still pray for rain, she encourages.

"This initiative is focused on a message of hope. Again, we're not going to change the world. But we can make a difference to someone."

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Read more on:    cape town  |  drought  |  farming

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