State rebuffs farmers

WHILE frustrated communal farmers are begging for state intervention to cope with a drought crisis, the government is steadfast in refusing to rescue cattle owners.

The Limpopo department of agriculture said yesterday it would not do anything more than help the farmers with subsidised fodder.

MEC Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba said the department was focusing on helping cattle owners with subsidised feed since there was no policy binding them to compensate farmers.

She said this after a visit to drought-affected areas where 5578 cows have perished due to a lack of suitable grazing.

"There is no policy that binds us to compensate communal farmers for their loss of crops or stock. What we can do is provide infrastructure for water and give them fodder at subsidised prices," Letsatsi-Duba said.

She said they could only compensate farmers in the case of fire disasters.

Experts warned that failure to compensate farmers would have dire consequences for food security and the country's ability to produce enough meat.

The eastern parts of Limpopo have been hit by a serious drought for years as a result of climate change.

The department said it was looking for an extra R35million to address drought- induced problems and to carry out research to determine the effects of climate change.

Letsatsi-Duba said the department was advising cattle owners to reduce their livestock in response to disasters such as drought.

Agricultural analyst Ndiafhi Kwinda said the failure to compensate farmers would undermine the rural development strategy.