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Drought devastates rural lands

By unknown | Jul 06, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

One of the pleasures I enjoyed in my youth was travelling with my father to Polokwane.

One of the pleasures I enjoyed in my youth was travelling with my father to Polokwane.

The village I grew up in is about 30km south of Polokwane.

Besides looking forward to the treats, including fish and chips, bread and cool drink one would normally get on such trips, I always looked forward to just soaking up the scenery on the way to town.

The farms we drove past were a kaleidoscope of green from the crops, brown and black and white from the cattle grazing lazily, and the shimmering from the overflowing dams. There were also the tree-lined avenues leading into the rambling farm houses.

Whenever I travel along the same route now, I am struck by the desolation that has replaced the kaleidoscope I used to enjoy. The stretches of land where farmers used to cultivate crops are now dry and fallow.

There is no livestock dotting the landscape and the dams are dry. The rambling farmhouses are now empty shells. Most farmers have moved on because of the drought.

Those who have stuck it out are struggling to survive.

A river used to flow through our village named GaChuene after Kgoshi Mamokgalake Chuene 1.

As youth, we used to swim in the river, make clay cows from the mud along the river banks and hunt birds in the lush forests. There was a thriving subsistence economy with every family having a patch of land where it cultivated crops and where its livestock grazed. Whatever the family survived on from the land was augmented with wages earned by those who worked as migrants in the industrial areas.

Climate changes led to less rainfall. To alleviate the situation, the river was dammed up and used as a reservoir for supplying water to the community by means of communal taps. The water was not enough to be used for crop cultivation as well. Because of the drought there were also no more grazing grounds for the livestock.

From a relatively self-sufficient, largely peasant community, the people of GaChuene became dependent on wages from migrant labour.

The largely unskilled and unemployed youth now spend most of their time at local taverns drinking their miseries away. Included are those retrenched from the industrial areas. Also included are those pensioned off because of ill-health. The industrial hubs have sucked the life out of their able bodies and spewed them out.

They now live in an abyss of an alcohol-induced stupor.

These are the challenges that the ANC points out whenever it talks about the need to accelerate rural development. On the one hand there is the need to transform land ownership in rural areas.

The land reform programme is aimed at redressing the anomaly where less than 20percent of arable land is in the hands of the indigenous people of this country.

There is also the growing mining sector in rural provinces such as Lampoon - which could be used to benefit the villages where these mines operate.

There are still tracts of land that lie fallow in communities such as GaChuene and farms en route to Polokwane. There is a need for a programme to rehabilitate this land so that communities can once more use it for crop cultivation. There are other communities in rural areas endowed with other natural resources besides minerals.

My late father's ancestral village in GaDikgale, northeast of Polokwane, is known as Dikgopeng - the place of the aloe flower. This is because of the abundance of the aloe flower in the area.

This is the flower that has been punted by many scientists as having medicinal properties. The flower is also being used in the cosmetic industry. So what stops the government, together with the people of GaDikgale, setting up an aloe cultivation project and supplying the manufacturers in the industries where this natural resource is in demand?

It is a fact that Limpopo is a drought-stricken province where water is a scarce resource.

Because of this the provincial government, assisted by national government, has embarked on massive projects to build dams so as to harvest this scarce resource.

The growing mining industry in the province has further increased competition for water.

There is a need to ensure that communities can, in sustainable ways, cultivate crops and become economically self-sufficient - despite the limited natural resource.

This means that there is a need to look at technologies used by other countries where water is a scarce resource to sustain the agricultural sectors.


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