Things looking up for farmers but still a lot more needed to break drought

FEELS SO GOOD: Fort Cox Agri College students Phindani Nomaphelo, Mlanjeni Asithandile and Asisipho Maseti revel in the recent rains on a farm near East London Picture: MICHEL PINYANA
FEELS SO GOOD: Fort Cox Agri College students Phindani Nomaphelo, Mlanjeni Asithandile and Asisipho Maseti revel in the recent rains on a farm near East London Picture: MICHEL PINYANA
Farming communities in the Eastern Cape have renewed hope amid the heavy rain and snow that has fallen in the Eastern Cape over the past two days.

While commercial farmers felt the amount that fell was less than they were hoping for, Eastern Cape Rural Development and Agrarian Reform MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane remained upbeat, saying the showers and snow had brought some relief.

Agri Eastern Cape president Douglas Stern told the Daily Dispatch yesterday that relief for farmers would mean a minimum of 30mm.

Qoboshiyane told the Daily Dispatch: “Any rainfall is welcome and I think it is going to bring a lot of relief to the drought-affected areas and for the farmers.

“Our water tables were low, and from the measurements, we have received about 80% of our rainfall.

“We are hopeful that our dams will fill up again. If we could have five days of continued rain I think it would men even greater relief.”

Qoboshiyane said areas like Butterworth, which received a considerable rainfall, was an indication that things were looking up heading into the summer season.

Stern said: “This province is extremely dry. The drought we are facing has been the worst in 100 years. The minimal rain we have been experiencing now is not enough to break the drought, unless we have follow-up rains to make it more meaningful.

“If we have decent rain, about 30mm, that would be a good starting point but the soft rain we have had is not enough,” he said.

“This is the third season we are going into with below-average rain. “Summer is our growing season, which means if it were to rain in the next two to three weeks it would be ideal for the vegetation.

“Last year we had good rain in August but we experienced the coldest weather in October, with very little rain over the summer months, and that killed our vegetation.”

He said while farmers were always grateful for any rainfall, it would take time to turn things around.

Stern said snow, as another form of precipitation, was welcomed by farmers.

“The snow helps a great deal but we need really deep snow as it would be crucial and would help with the underground water levels.

“We have the belief that, like day follows night, rain will follow the drought and we are always hopeful,” Stern said.

He said to properly replenish the vegetation, the government had a responsibility to help Agri EC stay afloat.

SA Western Service spokesman for the Eastern Cape Garth Sampson said: “Significant rainfall indeed occurred overnight across the Eastern Cape. While falls were not particularly heavy – of the order of 30 or more millimetres in many places – further rainfall is expected.

“The Eastern Cape has been very dry of late, experiencing much less rainfall than is usually the case, with many dams and reservoirs urgently in need of replenishment,” Sampson added.

“This episode of rainfall, augmented by snowmelt in the days to come, will be most welcome for the Eastern Cape. In particular, heavier falls have occurred this morning, in and around the Port Alfred area and adjacent interior, where localised flooding may occur today.

“Widespread snowfalls were also reported over high-lying terrain in the Eastern Cape,” he said.

“Consequently, many roads and mountain passes in the Eastern Cape are currently closed, as per the listing below. Further heavy snowfall, of the order of 2cm per hour is expected for the Winterberg region of Eastern Cape today .”

Sampson said catchment areas could expect between 10mm to 20mm of rainfall and that the weather would gradually clear from the west later today.

He said gale force winds of 70km/h were expected along the coast and inland north of East London from yesterday afternoon.

Areas such as Katberg, Hogsback, Lady Grey and Nieu-Bethesda were covered in blankets of snow yesterday.

The snowfalls were expected to intensify over the Winterberg region at a rate of about 2cm per hour.

Conditions would start to clear today, he said. —

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