Disaster looms as drought kills 30,000 jobs

Sand blows across a normally submerged area at the Theewaterskloof Dam near Cape Town
Sand blows across a normally submerged area at the Theewaterskloof Dam near Cape Town
Image: Reuters

More than 30,000 jobs have been lost in the agricultural sector since January 2018 as a result of the persistent drought, Agri SA said on Friday.

Food and water scarcity posed a risk to sociopolitical stability in the country and a collective effort was required to prevent a national disaster, the federation said.

Emergency meetings would be held in the next two weeks on how best to help farmers and employees in drought stricken areas.

Agri SA said it was already in discussions with, among others, the government, financial institutions and businesses.

A survey with Agri SA members was conducted in December last year to accurately assess the effect of the drought on farming and job creation.

It found that – apart from R7bn lost in turnover as a result of the drought since January 2018 – 70% of respondents struggled financially, more than 50% reported the need to retrench farm workers and the continuing drought was devastating crops.

The survey found there was an increased risk of veld fires.

“The economic impact is severe, but we need to think of the human cost as well – people losing jobs and farms closing down when we need to strengthen food security and create more employment,” Agri SA deputy executive director Christo van der Rheede said .

He said Agri SA would continue to provide support to farmers.

“More than half of the farmers are suffering from depression and anxiety, among other things, due to the challenging reality caused by the drought,” Van der Rheede said.

Agri SA executive director Omri van Zyl said since the end of 2015 its drought disaster fund had spent more than R18m to help farmers, farm workers and others.

Van Zyl called on the public to help.

“The drought is a colossal crisis. South Africans who are enjoying the affordable food and drink that is produced by our farmers need to wake up and realise that food security and affordable food are at risk,” he said.

Agri SA is a federation of agricultural organisations and consists of nine provincial and 26 commodity organisations, and 43 corporate members.

Meanwhile, Beaufort West is bracing for severe water shedding this weekend.

The Beaufort West municipality has warned residents that it does not have enough water to meet the basic needs of the town over the weekend.