South Africa

R1bn for drought relief

Cape Town – The Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Bheki Cele, says a package of just under R1 billion has been set up to assist farmers who are affected by drought in several provinces.

The Deputy Minister also said more relief is being given to farmers as drought has dried up reserves, leaving crops and livestock vulnerable.

He said this when participating in a debate of President Zuma’s State of the Nation Address, in Parliament, on Wednesday.

“All provinces are under constant assessment and further declaration has been and will continue to be made as the assessments are concluded.

“It is important to note that other mitigating and risk reduction programmes of government are continuing.

“A total package of just under R1 billion has been approved in addition to the R124 million allocated by provinces to assist the affected farmers with livestock feeds and livestock water,” he said.

During his State of the Nation Address, the President emphasised the importance of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries as he gave feedback on the Nine Point Plan, with specific focus on the revitalisation of agriculture and agro-processing value chains and the Ocean Economy.

The President said five provinces have been seriously affected by drought and government has provided relief to the affected communities.

Collectively, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries sector contributes over R70 billion to the South African economy.

Deputy Minister Cele said the drought is threatening the national priorities linked to food security, job security and the economic growth.

“We are engaging the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and the Land Bank, who have already made available over R100 million to assist farmers, with credit facilities related to drought,” he said.

Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane said the current water shortages are not only as a result of drought, but “also the realities of the mess we have inherited whilst we have also been able to make a big difference”.

She said in 1994, only 36% of South Africans had access to clean water. But today, more than 86% of South Africans have access to water.

“In the past, we were abstracting 9% of ground water, and today, with our mitigating interventions, we now have doubled to 18% of the current water mix,” she said.

Addressing the house about the interventions that were implemented, the Minister said 173 boreholes have been refurbished and brought back into operation, while 219 boreholes were rolled out and made operational during the period of the drought. –