Drought Funding for smallholder farmers: lessons from the Aussies

As rivers and dams run ever so close to dry, the most disadvantaged farmers, mainly smallholder farmers face doomsday. Parts of Northern Cape, have continually experienced depths of drought culminating in NPO’s such as Gift of the Givers to step in.

In Australia, the experience has been different – ensuring that farmers survive drought the next time it befalls them.

The Australian government Drought Resilience Funding Plan funds decisions for projects and activities. USSD 3.8 billion was allocated for farmers and farming communities with the funding turning on investment throughout the years when there was no drought.

Collectively, farmers and farming communities contribute to this fund annually avoiding the reliance on government when drought occurs. This eases burden on government’s national disaster fund.

The determination of drought relief package for provinces declared disaster zones was worrisome. A huge province like the Eastern Cape received a meagre R30 million for drought relief. Its population census is largely found in rural areas with a high density of agricultural activity.

On the other hand, the Western Cape received R170 million more in drought relief with a large of its farming population being white, able to mitigate against drought and be tolerable.

The Fund also ensures that possible farmers and farming communities prone to drought were earmarked for training and education on drought resilience. In the case of South Africa, there is little of such organisation and priorities, with no training neither manuals developed on how best farmers can mitigate against drought.

The Australian government now expects by 2028-2029 for the Fund to have reached 5.8 billion dollars mark. Such revenues will be used for research extension, innovation, improved environment and natural resources management.

As with the rising expectation, the Fund will aim to assist farmers and community farming in;

  • Restoring native vegetation for soil or water regeneration
  • Financial and business planning for primary producers to improve ability to manage through lower income periods caused by drought
  • Training and information for primary producers in areas such as finance and business planning, managing climate risk and sustainable stock management
  • Training and information on local climate variability and advice on climate risk applied to specific locations
  • Research in drought resilience
  • Improving data on fodder and impacts from drought, including market trends.

It was time for government and farming associations to look into forms of establishing a Smallholder Farmer Drought Fund Plan.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Mzansi Agriculture Talk.

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