Farmers in the Northern Cape say the persistent drought in the province has reached a crisis point. Former Agri Northern Cape Deputy Chairperson Marais Klug says this will change livestock farming forever.
Farmers have been drastically reducing their herds, the primary source of income in the area, because of the drought. Unlike other provinces, the Northern Cape has not had good rains recently.
“It’s difficult. A farmer in my community tells me he’s crying more about the drought than the death of his father, which was about a year ago. You are distressed about the plight of the animals and other people. You see the suffering everyday, you will live with it,” says Klug.
Klug is a farmer himself and a community worker. He says this is the worst drought he has seen in his 35 years of farming.
Klug says farmers are naturally resilient and always have plans, hence the well-known saying “‘n boer maak n plan.”
However, recently many farmers have been overwhelmed by the situation.
“We’ve had a few cases of suicide already, and we have to avoid that through churches and the local organized agriculture. We are covering the whole province and there’s help available, though not enough, but we can prevent suicide and too much suffering and we must get hold of these people.”
A local Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Caritas, is offering support through its 24-hour helpline that offers counselling to those who are not coping. The NGOs Manager Estie Botha says they have been inundated with calls in the past two weeks.
“Family members, sisters and brothers, children of farmers have phoned in and say that they are very worried. They are in cities and in towns and they are really worried about their family members living in the farms, and what’s very special is that people care about each other,” says Caritas Manager, Estie Botha.
Klug says after this drought, livestock farming will never be the same.
“Agriculture in the Northern Cape, in extensive sheep farming of the Northern Cape, will be changed forever. I think the prospect I am talking is the new normal. I think the value of the farms, the way we are going to manage our farms, and everything will change with the drought. It’s officially now in more or less half of the Northern Cape, the worst drought in many years. So, it’s quite desperate and it’s not only affecting animals; it is affecting people now. ”
Farmers, farmworkers and their families who need counselling are urged to call, SMS or Whatsapp 083 415 1484. Health Professionals seeking to volunteer their services, and those wishing to assist in any way, can also call the same number. Author- Motlalepule Morake
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