Agriculture

Drought: What farmers & municipalities can learn from Aussie’s

As the Nelson Mandela Bay and Limpopo Dam levels gradually decrease, water supplies for irrigation farming are increasingly putting farmers yields in peril.   

According to the South African Weather Service, the Eastern Cape has been experiencing dry conditions since 2016 and the trend is expected to continue unbated throughout the year it said. 

In both Northern and Western Cape, the two provinces have been warned of the state of vegetation conditions as coming under extreme stress than the previous year.  

Troubles for Eastern Cape are set to continue as the “efforts to suppress raging wildfires in the Coldstream and Koomansbos areas of Tsitsikamma, has destroyed just over 2 400 hectares of commercial plantations and natural veld’ said the department of forestry, fisheries and environment (DFFE). 

These eerily climate change warnings have put doubts on the determination of drought relief packages for provinces declared disaster zones.  

A huge province like the Eastern Cape only received a meagre of R30 million for drought relief in 2019. Its population census is largely located in rural areas with a high density of agricultural activity. 

Taken collectively, it seemed government was not serious in providing drought relief to the disadvantaged farmers nor there was a concrete drought plan in existence. 

Support was relegated to providing fodder and boreholes than ensuring farmers are fully supported to mitigate against the drought . To some respect, it even took the Gift of the Givers to intervene and help distraught communities impacted by drought. 

Municipalities could take leave from the Australian government, which introduced a Drought Resilience Funding Plan to fund drought projects and activities. To date, the fund has generated over 3.8 billion AUS dollars, with government drought funds invested during seasons or years when there is no drought.  

Furthermore, the fund is a public and private partnership initiative, and also provides training and education to farmers and rural communities on; restoring native vegetation for soil or water regeneration, drought resilience and research, information on local climate variability; advice on climate risk applied to specific locations. 

The Australian government 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 conditions are getting worse, farmers and local municipalities could learn and adopt this Australian approach rather than awaiting the National Disaster Management funds. 

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