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Farmers forced to resort to drastic measures amid drought

AgriSA says more farmers are selling excess livestock to ease the burden of having to feed them.

FILE: As residents from Senekal in the Free State battle the worst drought in years, a humanitarian organisation has distributed more than a hundred thousand litres of water to the community. Picture: Operation Hydrate Initiative SA/Facebook.

JOHANNESBURG - AgriSA said farmers in drought-ravaged areas are having to resort to drastic measures to stay afloat.

The organisation said more and more farmers are selling excess livestock to ease the burden of having to feed them.

AgriSA Johannes Moller said the body is working with government.

"We have discussion yesterday with the Department of Agriculture on the aid for the coming year to maintain production and to prevent job loses of course."

Meanwhile, the organisation said while farmers are grateful for recent wet weather in parts of the country, they need more to ensure the survival of their crop and livestock.

Forecasters say current rains are not alleviating the situation.

While emergency aid is being distributed by government - farmers say the only thing that can truly save them is rain.

Moller said every drop of rain is precious.

"We're very thankful for every milliliter of rain that's falls now because it's really a critical situation."

But he said large parts of the country have received very little rainfall.

"The rest of the country in the Northern Cape, North West, Free State, even KwaZulu-Natal."

The South African Weather Service has warned that the country needs rain over a prolonged period to truly signal the end of the drought.

OPERATION HYDRATE

Earlier this week, Operation Hydrate got the first 15 tankers of water ready to be sent to the drought-stricken area of Senekal.

The NGO, together with corporate companies, is aiming to deliver more than 1,5 million litres of drinking water to areas which have been hardest hit.

Each tanker has the capacity for 10,000 litres.

The NGO's Yaseen Theba said the scenes of desperation are heartbreaking.

"We met a 76-year-old lady. She came with a walking stick and she got to the point where we were distributing. I was quite shocked as I couldn't understand why she was walking all the way. She told me if she did not walk, she would not have any water. She could not remember when last she had drinking water."

The NGO said some communities in the Free State have resorted to drinking sewerage water.

It said the situation on the ground is distressing as people and communities are desperate for drinking water.

"We're getting reports of people drinking sewage water. We had reports last week of a person that was stabbed because a fight broke out while people were collecting water," Theba said.

There have also been calls for national and provincial government to help communities who have little or no water.