Sutherland farmers in dire straits as drought persists

The drought in Sutherland is drying up farmland boreholes – and draining farmers in the area.

“It takes a lot out of you‚ this drought‚ it really eats at your soul‚” Abra van Wyck‚ president of the farmer’s union in the Karoo town, said.

With no good rainfall in the cold and remote area since 2013‚ Van Wyck said boreholes had slowly dried up‚ making it harder to raise sheep.
Van Wyck said it was estimated that the sheep population had declined from 400 000 to 130 000 since 2013.

The drought‚ and its impact on the sheep population‚ has also hurt morale around town.

Hester Obermeyer‚ a member of a drought committee formed in November, said: “We’ve been dealing with this for so long.

“Every day you get up‚ every day you check the horizon for clouds‚ and you wonder‚ ‘Is this the day the rain is going to come’?”

Obermeyer said most people in town could not help but talk about the drought constantly.

She knew of more than 50 farmers who were unable to pay their bills‚ and estimated that about 200 farmworkers had lost their jobs since the drought began.

This week‚ charitable organisation Gift of the Givers went in with hydrologists to drill more holes for water.

It is also bringing in feed and other supplies for the farmers as well as water tanks and bottled water.

On Monday‚ they drilled a borehole that produced potable water.

“When the first drill started and the water was found‚ the tears were flowing‚” Obermeyer said. “Grown men were crying – it was such an uplifting experience.”