Eastern Cape escapes drought crisis

NOVEMBER 14, 2015

The Eastern Cape is not among five provinces that have been declared drought disaster areas - threatening food security in the country.

As the country continues to battle a shortage of water, the most affected are farmers who are unable to harvest crops or feed livestock. An inter-ministerial task team led by Minister Pravin Gordhan told the media on Friday that North West, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the Free State bore the brunt of the water crisis.

“KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, North West, Limpopo and Free State are severely affected with some areas declared disaster stricken. Most are maize areas,” Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senzeni Zokwana, said.

“South Africa has declining but sufficient stock levels of white maize until the end of April; yellow maize stocks will be very tight. According to the crop estimate committee, the maize production estimate declined from 14.2 million [tons] in 2013 to 9.8 million tons in 2014, 31% less.”

Serious financial implications for farmers

Zokwana added that the drought would leave farmers in serious financial trouble as many of them would be struggling to meet their financial obligations. He said his department would be making funds available to alleviate the situation.  

"The department is providing R2.6m to help with assisting farmers affected by the drought. We want to identify areas where there are problems so we can assist in these areas,” he said.

Minister of water and sanitation, Nomvula Mokonyane, has cautioned South Africans living in the other four provinces to use water sparingly.

"Regional water supply dams and schemes remain water secure and are sitting with a positive water balance, with the national average dam level currently at 66%,” she said.

Gordhan echoed Mokonyane’s sentiments that there was no drought in Gauteng. He said there were 1.4 million households in Johannesburg, and only 8 000 were suffering water interruptions.

"Water scarcity is a serious issue. But we need to get to terms with the short-term, urgent issues while also understanding the long-term challenges. There have been some who've said we've only woken up now [with regards to the water crisis]. That is not true. Since 2013, the SA government has been heavily involved specifically with the Disaster Relief Centre to deal with the potential of drought,” he said.

South Africa’s water shortage is being attributed to the heatwave and a lack of rain. It was expected to last until the end of summer as a result of the of the El Niño effect on the climate. Government said it was studying the weather patterns and there would be a “bit of rain".