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Thursday, 5 May 2011

Kamberg, farming

Some thoughts on farming in SA.

View across some farmland to the Drakensberg in the background.

Intensively cultivated farmland, with stands of timber on the horizon.

More intensive farming, grasslands in the foreground. No farmer may plough virgin grassland that has never been ploughed before without permission and an environmental impact study. This is to protect grassland fauna and flora.

Three farm dams stretching down a side valley of the Kamberg valley. Every little valley here has three or more dams. South African farmers have been great dam builders in the past. In a dry country like ours you need to save as much water as possible. South Africa's average rainfall is 500mm, (about 20 inches) compared to 850mm in most of the rest of the world. Today you may not build a dam on your property with authorization and an environmental impact study. Dams were often built on wetlands which destroyed the habitat on which so many species depend.

A large dam on a farm in the Kamberg valley. As I said in a previous post in SA the word dam includes the water behind the dam wall. Dairy cattle grazing on irrigated pasture, with water used from this dam. See the pump house below the dam wall.

Another view of the same farm, with the Kamberg in the distance.

Since 1991 the number of commercial farmers in SA has decreased from 120,000 to less than 40,000 today. Due to ever increasing costs it takes large scale farming to make a profit. Fuel, fertilizer, tractors and implements have become very expensive, The number of farm labourers has also decreased drastically adding to our already large numbers of unemployed people. Farmers in SA receive no subsidies or other help from the Government.

South African farmers are highly productive. Our soils are shallow and poor and our rainfall very unpredictable, yet farmers are able to produce enough to feed a growing population at a reasonable price. South Africa also exports huge amounts of fruit, meat, maize, wool and other products overseas adding to our export earnings.

Many SA farmers have sought greener pastures in countries to our north. Mozambique, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In the DRC, SAAGRI, the SA farmer organization has acquired the lease on millions of hectares of land. Even countries as far afield as Sudan has SA farmers. In spite of the fertility of these countries, they produce very little agriculturally. A country like Nigeria, which has a high rainfall and very fertile soil, imports most of it's food. Some of these governments offer almost free land and all sorts of tax incentives to farmers who wish to settle and farm there.

Some say that we will end up importing most of our food from our northern neighbours if the trend continues.

1 comment:

Joyful said...

It's very sad that small family farms are very rare these days even here in NA.