Gamtoos Valley farmers under threat as Kouga dam levels plummet

Gamtoos Valley farmers, who are reliant on the water from the Kouga Dam, are on the verge of losing entire orchards, and the Provincial Government has shown no interest in assisting them.

This will have a devastating impact on employment in the area, which will affect lives and livelihoods.

This week the Kouga Dam was at just 8.26% of capacity, and all indications are that the dam will most likely run dry within the next four weeks.

This will decimate Gamtoos Valley farmers who rely on water from the Kouga for irrigation, not to mention create a humanitarian crisis in certain areas within the Kouga Municipality.

These farmers are some of the biggest producers of citrus fruit in the country and export of citrus fruit from this area is a significant contributor to the provincial GDP. Should their orchards be lost it will take years, if not decades, for them to recover.

“Despite several letters to the Premier, asking for him to intervene and liaise with the Department of Water Affairs regarding ways and means to prevent the unfolding disaster, no feedback has been forthcoming,” said Retief Odendaal, the Democratic Alliance Shadow MEC for Rural Development and Agrarian Reform.

“It is also widely expected that the new water allocation for agricultural use could be slashed in the upcoming financial year, which begins on the 1st of July 2020.

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Such an allocation may be a moot point if the dam runs dry, but should water be available, a drastic allocation cut could mean that farmers would not meet the basic requirements to maintain their existing orchards.

Among others, the Democratic Alliance has asked the Premier to request that Nelson Mandela Bay Metro to stop any further extraction from the dam in order to assist the situation.

Even though NMB is still within its yearly water allocation from the Kouga dam, and has as such not overdrawn from it, the metro has other water sources that, if utilised optimally, would effectively mean that it could stop extracting water from the Kouga Dam.

Farmers in the Gamtoos Valley, and the residents of the Kouga municipality, do not have similar luxuries.

If the Metro were to stop extracting from the Dam for the next couple of weeks, the farmers in the region, as well as the Kouga Municipality, will be thrown a much-needed lifeline.

Every day that the supply can be extended is another day where rains could fall, and the dam’s supply could be replenished,” added Odendaal.

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