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Legislation on drought relief must be amended to be effective

Sustained drought conditions are increasingly becoming a part of the South African agricultural context and thus far, drought relief has not been effective seeing as the legislation on it is not taking the urgency of such serious drought conditions into account.

The FF Plus understands the necessity of timely intervention and support during times of severe drought to prevent disasters from occurring in the regions that could actually still be managed, by timely aid and taking precautions, during drought cycles without suffering a total loss of production.

For this very reason, the FF Plus tabled a parliamentary motion yesterday that states that it needs to be acknowledged that the current system of disaster management in drought-stricken areas is neither relevant nor effective.

The motion also requests that the matter must be referred to the Portfolio Committees for Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform as well as Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) to review the current disaster management model and implement legislation that will ensure effective disaster aid.

The motion makes mention of the following:

• The effect of climate change on South Africa and the current situation of sustained drought conditions in South Africa are noted.
• That provinces, like the Northern Cape, have had droughts lasting years and that it poses a serious threat to food security and the survival of millions.
• An acknowledgement that at present, drought relief is not adequate and does not reach the beneficiaries that it is meant for, while an estimated 32 000 jobs are lost in the agricultural sector every year and 1,2 million households are currently being directly affected by the sustained drought.

A brief background of the situation with a few examples that compelled the FF Plus to table the motion:

• Before drought relief can be allocated, the drought-stricken area must first be declared a disaster area.
• To have an area declared a disaster area, the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) must first establish a committee to decide on the matter. This committee either approves or rejects it. With sustained droughts, like in the Northern Cape, the application is referred to the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform that must motivate it. Only then it can finally be approved. Then the process to find the money to provide support commences while the departmental red tape related to processing the applications for aid only delay the process even further.
• In practice, farmers apply at their district municipality for drought relief. In the administrative process that ensues, the support, if it is approved, has to go from the national level to the district level and only then it reaches the farmer. It frequently happens that the support never reaches the farmer.
• The FF Plus is aware of some cases where the drought relief that was applied for and approved in 2013 was only paid out in 2018. In the interest of all farmers in South Africa and our food security, this situation cannot be allowed to continue and the FF Plus will do everything it can to bring about the necessary changes.

Contact number: 082 490 6663

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