12 January 2005

Drought: Western Cape 'disaster area'

The human aspect of drought would be described to President Thabo Mbeki and Western Cape premier Ebrahim Rasool in a bid to have affected parts of the province re-declared as disaster areas.

This was according to Dr Pieter van Rooyen, chair of an inter-departmental task team set up to report about the social aspects of the drought, and short-, medium- and long-term measures to deal with it.

"There are an estimated 6 000 families affected," said Van Rooyen on Wednesday.

He said national government had already declared areas of the Central Karoo, parts of the Boland and the West Coast as disaster areas.

However, the drought scheme introduced was limited to providing feed to animals, with R9m allocated expected to be spent by the end of February.

Van Rooyen said the disaster areas would have to be gazetted in terms of human needs.

Grant needs to be extended

An application to extend the grant to R25m has been lodged.

He said this would only be a short-term response, with the long and medium-term response including more research and development, the possibility of introducing alternative crops and farming systems, such as switching to stock farming or even game farming.

"What we are trying to do is keep the people on the land, helping the farmers to keep their workers," said Van Rooyen.

He said the report, compiled by the heads of the Western Cape departments of agriculture, finance and economic development, social services, local government and the treasury, would possibly be finished by the weekend.

"Western Cape premier Ebrahim Rasool could then possibly approach the president on Monday," said Van Rooyen.


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