FILE PHOTO: Cracks are seen in the dried up municipal dam in drought-stricken Graaff-Reinet,
FILE PHOTO: Cracks are seen in the dried up municipal dam in drought-stricken Graaff-Reinet,

Plan needed for drought funds - economists

By Edward West Time of article published Mar 9, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - The government needs to channel its national agricultural emergency efforts into specific areas where farmers and communities haven't seen a drop of rain for more than four years, Agri SA deputy executive director Christo van der Rheede said on Friday.

Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, has declared a national state of disaster in South Africa in agriculture. This followed rains in recent months in many parts of the country, where the drought has been alleviated and production looked to be reasonable, said Van der Rheede.

The Minister's announcement also followed the allocation in the recent Budget of R500 million for disaster management, including floods and drought, while a similar amount was set aside for bio security and to support exports.

FNB economist Paul Makube said the R500m for drought and flood relief was “very positive” news for agriculture, “although the implementation would be the proof of the pudding.”

Van der Rheede said most agricultural areas that had been drought stricken since 2017, including Gauteng, Free State, Northern Province and Mpumalanga, had received good rains in the last few months and there were good production prospects in most provinces.

However, there was a “dire” need for drought emergency measures in specific parts of the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Northern Cape.

When a national emergency is declared, the government has to make resources available to alleviate the plight of those suffering from the disaster, which in practice means implementing the National Disaster Management Plan, and making available stores, equipment, vehicles, facilities and personnel to execute the plan efficiently, specifically in provinces where the drought has been persistent.

“An integrated and uniform approach to disaster management in all provinces by all provincial organs of state, provincial statutory functionaries, non-governmental organisations and agricultural structures involved in disaster management, in these provinces, and by the private sector, is now of critical importance,” Van der Rheede said.

He said stakeholders needed to meet with Minister Dlamini Zuma to ascertain which provinces were most affected by the drought, the responsibilities of each stakeholder, areas of collaboration, risks, areas that require immediate assistance, and the activation of an action plan.

The re-prioritisation of unused funds in various departments presented an opportunity that should be thoroughly utilised before the end of the financial year, in support of this disaster declaration, he said.

DA spokesperson for Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Annette Steyn said that communities in the Northern Cape, Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Limpopo had suffered in silence through the drought for some time.

In a presentation to Parliament's portfolio committee on agriculture, land reform and rural development in October last year, it was revealed that R1.3billion was needed to contain the effects of the ongoing drought crisis.

“The declaration of a national drought disaster is, therefore, a welcome decision as it will trigger the release of the much-needed funds to the affected provinces,” said Steyn.

Western Cape Minister for Agriculture Dr Ivan Meyer welcomed the national emergency decision.


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