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Drought stricken areas now declared natural disaster

Organised agriculture has once again pressured the National Disaster Management Centre to declare some provinces of the country as ‘national drought disaster declaration.’

On 20 July, NDMC head Dr Mmphaka Tau, after considering national sector and Provincial Disaster Management Centres deliberations, gave notice in terms of Section 23 (1) (b) of the Disaster Management Act of 2002, to declare the identified provinces to be classified drought national disaster.

This is a welcomed relief for farmers facing the vicissitudes of the ongoing drought. The classification by Dr Tau means that all organs of state are now compelled to assist drought-stricken farmers.

“It is a positive step by the government to recognise the plight of these areas suffering from the severe disaster drought conditions by issuing a disaster declaration,” said Willem Symington, Agri SA chairman of the natural resources centre of excellence.

It is unclear whether such intervention by organs of state could arrive in the form of cash advancement or not, as the current fiscus was placed in doubt after President Ramaphosa recently announced extension of covid relief funds.

The Eastern Cape especially the Nelson Mandela Bay region continued to experience low water shortage. A weekly dam levels status report issued by the Department of Water and Sanitation this week showed a minimal increase of the province’s dam levels from 50.4% last week to 50.5% this week.

“The Algoa Supply System not only supplies water to Nelson Mandela Bay but its neighbouring towns as well. The already low percentage is worrying and the department is working on interventions to mitigate the water shortage,” said the DWS spokesperson Sputnik Ratau.

Despite slight improvements in water dam levels, Agri SA called in various state interventions to urgently stabilise local economies and ‘preserve what is left of core breeding herds.’

“The bureaucratic red tape and insufficient budget for drought relief by the government have deprived farmers and farmworkers in the drought-stricken areas of their livelihoods, but despite this, we are positive that national resources will be made available to address the disaster,” added Andrea Campher, risk and disaster manager at Agri SA.

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