There is no comprehensive, interdepartmental plan in place to combat the crippling drought that has gripped the Eastern Cape, as the crisis affecting the province deepens.
During a feedback session to the Rural Development and Agrarian Reform portfolio committee on Friday last week, it was revealed that the province has only applied for R643 million in drought assistance from National Treasury, of which R455,3 million has been requested for fodder.
This is woefully inadequate, with organised agriculture estimating R30-million worth of feed will be needed daily to prevent livestock from dying.
This means the funding requested is but a fraction of what is needed to get farmers through the summer months, with the fodder allocation providing feed for just over 15 days.
The projected losses from livestock production has been conservatively calculated at R6.4 billion, while yields from grain crops in the province are expected to be down 25%.
What is also concerning is that the drought declaration is only valid for a three-month period, and the Department seems perfectly content with ad hoc planning for three months at a time.
The drought is affecting about 1440 commercial farmers, 8700 smallholder farmers and about 55000 subsistence farmers.
What is also concerning is the apparent lack of value for money from service providers. The Department plans to drill and equip 223 boreholes at a cost of R111,5 million. This works out to a cost of R500,000.00 a borehole and is based on historical costs.
Even if this estimated cost includes the borehole infrastructure, said boreholes will still be provided at more than triple the cost of what can be procured by the private sector.
The Department will have to ensure that they get value for money to ensure that the province gets the maximum return on the drought assistance provided by national government.
I will be following up with the Premier, Oscar Mabuyane, regarding the establishment of a provincial war room, which should have representatives from CoGTA, Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform, Safety and Liaison, Department of Health and Provincial Treasury to coordinate the response to the drought.
The province cannot continue to delay acting while livestock are dying, and municipalities are running out of water. We need immediate action to save our rural economy.
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