Cape Town – Tears and prayers flowed as parts of the drought-stricken Free State received some much-needed rain on Monday. “Hierdie boervrou se trane het klaar die reënmeter vol [This farmer’s wife’s tears have already filled the rain gauge],” wrote Annelize le Roux on the Facebook page Boere in Nood (Farmers in Need). Morne Myburgh posted a video clip of rain on the Winburg-Senekal road, saying “Praise God”.
Members of the group have been tirelessly hauling hay and other cattle feed to farmers who have already resorted to feeding mielies that died on the stalk to their starving animals.
NC Schoombie, one of the organisers of the initiative, said the government was not doing enough to help commercial farmers in distress, focusing instead on up and coming emerging farmers with a R114m donation in KwaZulu-Natal.
So the farmers’ wives started rallying those who were in a position to help. So far they had helped 400 farmers in seven provinces.
“Cows eat to regulate their temperature and if they don’t eat they can’t keep themselves cool on the hot ground. So if it doesn’t have the energy to cool down, it just can’t carry on.”
Only 3% of mielie farmers in drought-stricken areas had planted this season, said Schoombie, and those who had planted had watched it go to seed once it had reached waist height. Hay and alfalfa donations were arriving at the organisers’ depot in Bloemfontein from the Eastern and Western Cape, and from areas where farmers had irrigated fields.
The group had received donations of around R1.8m and was using the money to pay for diesel, truck rental, and to buy feed where it was being sold cheap.
The group was planning a fundraiser and had spoken to recording artists who wanted to know how they could help.
He said they were focusing on helping commercial farmers because they felt the government was neglecting them.
“We are trying to help the struggling commercial farmers – the guys have the experience. The up-and-coming farmers, the government must keep an eye on them.”
He said that even the R114m provided for the emerging farmers was a drop in the ocean.
“We are just a few farmers that are sticking together. But we are going to get stronger.”
They had calculated that they would need 55 000 bales of hay to help everybody who had reached out to them so far.
On Monday, they got news that the company Legalwise was going to provide R200 000 and make two lawyers available to help battling farmers. The Red Meat Producers Organisation was also making donations from time to time.