In a presentation to a joint Standing Committee on Environmental Affairs and Development Planning and Economic Opportunities, Tourism and Agriculture in the Western Cape Provincial Parliament, it was revealed that farms need immediate action to unblock the red tape and streamline the process of applying for water licensing.
We call for a water symposium, where all key stakeholders, together with Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, the Western Cape Department of Agriculture and the National Department of Water and Sanitation can find a common ground on how to solve the bottlenecks in drought alleviation. The Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning proposes that the environmental impact assessment process and the application for water licences should run concurrently, this will do much to streamline the lengthy application process. We have also asked for a report from the Department of Water and Sanitation on the outstanding water allocations, the agricultural sector needs quick answers.
The livelihoods of agri-workers and farmers are on the line. The sustainability of farms in the long term may be at risk if government doesn’t adequately assist in alleviating the damage caused by the drought. Many seasonal farmworkers will now face a double blow, firstly by losing income and secondly an expected increase in food prices. The wheat industry has been the most severely affected and will continue to negatively impact wheat supply to the Southern African region.
To battle the drought many farms have applied for water licenses and for the building of dams. It came to light in the committee that there is a lack of knowledge amongst farmers of the requirements for receiving approval of dams and water licences. This is in addition to an existing backlog, and lack of cooperation between different entities.
This drought has highlighted the scarcity of water, and its importance for our farmworkers, farms and food security. Government must do everything in its power to assist farmers, so that we can continue to have a sustainable agricultural sector in South Africa.