The swollen Orange River spared no one: farmers, farmworkers, seasonal labourers who rely on harvest earnings to carry them through lean months and small businessmen who depend on the others for their livelihood.
It could mean the end of the road for some in these riverside farming communities.
Many farmers’ harvests have been destroyed and essential infrastructure – such as weirs, canals, irrigation networks and fences – has been reduced to rubble. Even soil has been swept away, including farm roads and fields.
At Augrabies town we meet the Oosthuisens who farm grapes on a nearby island. Martiens Oosthuisen is on his way to inspect what’s left of the bridge that gives access to several farmers’ cultivated lands.
Community member Gervann Kemp and others are feverishly using hired front-end loaders to build sandbanks to keep the water out of vineyards and citrus plantations.
Another team is hard at work on the opposite bank.
Farmers in this area grow mostly raisin grapes, Martiens says, adding the harvest had barely begun when the water started rising.
Table-grape farmers were luckier – most of their grapes had been harvested.
Farmers east of Upington, towards Groblershoop, have also been hit.
‘‘You’re talking damage to the tune of millions,’’ Hannelie Nieuwoudt of the farm Gariep says.
‘‘The most beautiful mealie crop we would have had in ages and bunches of sweet yellow grapes have disappeared under the muddy water.’’
Hoffie Joubert of Agri Northern Cape estimates the lower Orange River farmers’ losses will be close to a billion rand.
‘‘We don’t even want to think about what it will cost to restore the land and [fix] potholes,’’ Hannelie says. ‘‘We hope and pray the government will provide a helping hand.’’
* See the 27 January issue of YOU for pictures of the flooded lower Orange River region and an infographic that explains why so many parts of the world have been hit by floods recently.