DROUGHT – worst we’ve known


Dark clouds gather over the Outeniqua Pass but even a huge thunderstorm would not bring relief here between Paardeberg and Oudtshoorn.

The drought – the worst in 132 years – is expected to keep this and many other areas of the Karoo in its stranglehold for at least another year.

“My family moved from the Langkloof to Trutersdal in about 1933 in search of a better life but now we’re suffering again,” says Weeber Truter, chairman of the agricultural association in Harold, between Oudtshoorn and Uniondale. “I’ve never experienced drought like this.

“I was a crop farmer but had to switch to goats because of the continuing drought. When it rains in the mountains during the winter months we get water here in the valley – but that’s in another six months. What do we do until then?”

It’s harvest time but harvesting machinery worth millions of rands stands idle in sheds. There’s no feed in storage for these lean times.

Weeber says and other farmers saw very little of the nearly R27 million in drought aid made available by the government of the Western Cape. They hope to get a share of the R50 million package recently promised by the national government.

Ryno Strydom also farms angora goats on Hartebeesrivier. The farm dam for irrigation of the oats crops is empty; locusts crawl from the hard crust of earth in the dam. Lick-blocks are scattered about, with supplementary feed such as molasses for the animals bleating heartrendingly with hunger.

In Mossel Bay a desalination plant is being built similar to the one in Sedgefield, although on a much bigger scale.

“The water crisis is forcing us to work very fast,” says Dawie Gerrits, project manager of the installation in Voorbaai.

They aim to provide the first fresh water early in February.

There are also plans to desalinate water in the Overstrand municipal area, covering towns such as Hermanus, Gansbaai and Hangklip. Although there will be enough water for holidaymakers in this coastal area during the festive season the Southern Cape will need good rains to finally be free of the grip of the drought.

As for farmers in the Outeniqua area, staying optimistic about the prospect of rain and praying for showers is all in a day’s work.

Get YOU, 9 December 2010 for the full story.

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