The drought gripping the Kouga region was a main talking point at the Agri Eastern Cape’s 17th annual congress that was held this week in Jeffreys Bay.
The effects of climate change had made 2018 a particularly difficult year for Eastern Cape farmers – particularly those in the western region, who had received donations of over 22,000 tons of feed from fellow farmers in other provinces.
With Kouga Dam currently at 6,95%, irrigation farmers in the Gamtoos River Valley have been particularly impacted by cuts of 80% in their total allocations for the new water year.
Normal to slightly above average rainfall is expected over the next two weeks in the Kouga area, but drying out again from mid-August, Eastern Cape regional manager for the South African Weather Service, Hugh van Niekerk, told delegates.
“It won’t be enough to fill our dams,” Van Niekerk said.
In the longer term, Van Niekerk said various medium to long-term climate scenarios predicted serious consequences of climate change for the agricultural industry.
These include an increase in temperatures, more frequent droughts, more intense flooding and a rise in sea levels and sea surges.
Felix Reinders, the president of the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage, said water was the key to food security, not just for primary production but at all stages of the agricultural value chain.
Reinders said water shortages had decreased yields for crops across the board.