Drought and Water - TAU South African Bulletin

(Note: Farmers and consumers EVERYWHERE, heads up! If you value property rights and freedom, you must read this and more that is to be found at the websites immediately following this Bulletin! Why, please ask yourself, is the United Nations so complacent -- and condoning -- of this slaughter of farmers and total control of water and land use? Old Russian Proverb: "You'll know it's true, when it happens to You.")

October 14, 2003

Bulletin #97-03

South Africa Bulletin from the headquarters of TAU of SOUTH AFRICA


A severe drought grips South Africa. Animals die in their thousands while crop farmers anxiously scan the skies for rain. This is not a new scenario of course South Africa is not a farming-friendly country, which makes the productive bounties of South African farmers that much more admirable.

Everything to do with food production in southern Africa is fragile the slightest degree of variation affects hundreds of thousands of people. The food needs of more than a hundred million people depend largely on a small band of South African commercial farmers around 45,000, and diminishing daily. They are harassed at every turn, not only from criminal gangs who have made them the highest group of murder victims in the world, but high input and security costs, debilitating legislation (minimum wages, water and municipal taxes), and the vagaries of the weather.

Water is a vulnerable resource in South Africa "the country is so dry and drought prone that the agricultural sector uses 72% of the country's fresh water, as opposed to Britain's 3% and the United States" 27% for the same purpose.

Although South Africa's agricultural sector contributes less than 5% to the country's GDP, this sector employs 30% of the labour force, according to the American CIA website (2002). The same website says 50% of South Africa's population is below the poverty line, while the unemployment rate is 37%. South Africa's arable land is noted at 12,13% while the country's "natural hazards" section says "prolonged droughts."

The website further declares that "extensive water conservation and control measures" are needed, while the growth in water usage "outpaces supply." There is "soil erosion and desertification."

Thus the prognosis for a sustained productive agricultural sector is not good, and logic would have it that those who can produce a surplus – the only country in Africa is South Africa – would be left strictly alone to get on with what they do best. The opposite is true of course, but that is the subject of another essay. Given the importance of food in this dry part of the world, one would think the South African government would fall over itself to assist not only South Africa’s commercial farmers but the thousands of small-scale black farmers whose cattle are dying every day as the drought drags on in the country.

Farmers in drought-stricken Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces tell SA Bulletin they have received not a shred of assistance from either the provincial or national administrations. Neither cash nor fodder has been forthcoming, although some hay has been provided to a small group of black farmers in Limpopo. Pictures of dead cattle grace our newspapers every week: although the government has declared Limpopo a disaster area, no help has been forthcoming. (The lucerne price has increased to around R55 a bale, A cow will feed for just two days on one bale.) The cost of keeping herds alive is thus beyond the reach of many commercial farmers, and most emerging farmers.

If help does arrive, it will be too late say farmers in Limpopo. Animals are dying daily. According to a press report dated 3 October 2003, the government is waiting for the national treasurer to approve drought relief funding.

As a corollary of drought, veld fires have damaged grazing so that very little remains in these two provinces. Fruit farmers' water allowances have been cut by 50% in some areas, while the Weather Bureau’s rain predictions for the next month or so are not good.

The prognosis for water in a future South Africa is cautious. At the end of September 2003, the World Bank's World Wide Fund (WWF) advised South Africa to protect water catchment areas. The WWF says it is estimated that humanity now uses 54% of accessible water runoff, a figure to increase to 70% within two years. In 1998, 28 countries experienced water shortages, a figure predicted to rise to 56 by 2025. In the past century the world’s population tripled, but water use rose six times.

(It is interesting to note that some tribal removals executed by the previous government under the homeland policy were to preserve water catchment areas. In the Limpopo province, large areas were then opened up to productive and profitable commercial farming because of this policy.)

The WWF has lauded South Africa for adopting a National Water Act, with a catchment management strategy as an important part of Act. But no strategy and planning will survive unless South Africa curbs the huge loss and waste of water now occurring.

South Africa's major metropolitan areas lose billions of litres of piped drinking water annually. This is the direct result of "poor management and control by local authorities" according to Water Affairs director general Mike Muller. He told a parliamentary water affairs and forestry committee in May 2003 that it is not only water that leaks away, but water that is "unaccounted for." Most of the losses were the result of water not being metered and billed efficiently.

The City of Johannesburg was unable to account for 42% of the water it paid for in 2001. The difference between the amount it bought and sold at the time amounted to 165 billion litres. Mafikeng lost 40% of the water it bought to leakages and seepage, due to lack of maintenance. The loss figure is around R6,3 million a year. And in Soweto last month, residents dug up newly-laid water pipes and burned them because they refused to pay for water on the prepaid water meter system.

A the same time, South African farmers, both commercial and small-scale, are having to pay heavily for forage for their livestock. The price of lucerne has risen by 40% from last season because of the lack of grazing and good rains. The state of dam levels is critical. The Vaal dam is 57% full (this time last year it was 87% full), while other dams in the country reflect the same pattern.

The South African wheat crop will fall short by 34% this year from last year's figures, it is forecast. This is because of the dry conditions in the Western Cape and the Free State, forcing farmers to plant less wheat this year. The Western Cape's harvest is expected to drop by more than half, to 438,750 tons from 938,350 tons last year.

The domestic need is 2.5 million tons, and South Africa will have to import at least 1 million tons his year.

South Africa awaits the drought of the century, according to he SA Weather Service. A century ago, the population was about 4 million people. Today, the whole of southern Africa needs to be fed. Other contemporary problems include the amount of farms being withdrawn from production as a result of land redistribution, and the scorched earth policy of commercial farming's political enemies

If rains do not come this month, South Africa's mealie surplus of around two million tons will have to be utilized, and if planting is very late this year, South Africa's food prognosis for next year is ominous.


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