Category: <span>Agriculture</span>

NEWS RELEASE: Resource management is key to Eastern Cape survival

Caption: Cover image – A noticeable influx of people from destitute Eastern Cape communities is contributing to socio-economic sustainability concerns in the Gamtoos Valley. (Photo: Cobus Meiring)

News Release
For Immediate Release
29 September 2020

Resource management is key to Eastern Cape survival

“The inevitable advent of Day Zero, combined with renewed load shedding, COVID-19 impacts and political and policy uncertainty, will no doubt impact upon regional socio-economic prospects. An urgent effort is required to collectively plan around resource management and water security, in particular, for the Gamtoos Valley and the Eastern Cape as a whole,” says Rienette Colesky, Chief Executive Officer of the Gamtoos Irrigation Board (GIB) in an interview with Cobus Meiring of the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF).

The interview is part of an ongoing climate change debate and interview series, facilitated by the Forum to examine the correlation between some of the nett-effects experienced during COVID-19 and those enforced by climate change. In the interview,  Meiring asked Colesky about the relevance and sustainability of resource management in the Eastern Cape.

Farming activities in the Gamtoos Valley: Gamtoos farmers are adapting to the “new normal” exerted by a changing climate. (Photo: Cobus Meiring)

Says Meiring: “The geographical borders of the Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) extend close to where the regional footprint of the GIB and the Sarah Baartman District Municipality starts. There are many shared similarities that the respective regions have in common in terms of environmental management, including climate change, in particular, drought and changes in rainfall patterns.”

Meiring wanted to know from Colesky what the GIB’s main concerns about climate change and resource management are in going forward.

Says Colesky: “The Gamtoos River community and its socio-economic survival is almost exclusively agro-centric and dependent on what the natural environment gives us. Resource management – water resource management in particular – is vital, not only for the Gamtoos and Kouga region, but it is essential for the Eastern Cape economy and the communities it supports. Water (management) is also a forex generator – it is a critical component of the entire agricultural produce export value chain and forex markets and therefore contributes to the South African economy as a whole.”

Asks Meiring: “The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality has now reached Day Zero. Given the extremely vulnerable status of the Kouga dam level, what are your sentiments on the immediate future of the regional water security situation, and the prospects for the farming community that is almost exclusively dependent on water from the Kouga dam, catchment and supply system?”

Says Colesky: “We are basically in uncharted waters with regards to water security and the impact thereof will have a harsh and tangible influence on both the short, medium and long-term prospects of agricultural productivity in the Gamtoos Valley.”

“Compounding the socio-economic situation, over the past few decades we have seen a significant influx of people from destitute Eastern Cape communities into the Gamtoos region in search of work. The influx generates ever-increasing demands on sparse resources, and, as COVID-19 highlighted, poses new economic and social challenges, impacting both directly and indirectly on our mandate and management resources.”

“Over and above our mandated environmental management issues, GIB has taken on a significant number of state-subsidised relief efforts aimed at poverty relief, mostly centralised around environmental rehabilitation work in wetland systems, invasive alien plant management and infrastructure maintenance and improvement.”

Continues Colesky: “We know that the interior and western parts of the GRDM also suffer from almost perpetual drought, and the Gamtoos farming community most certainly is feeling the same pressure, having to resort to adaptive measures to reduce water use, whilst maintaining as high as possible quality production levels.”

“Despite the restrictions imposed on us by nature in the form of a changing climate, especially in terms of severely reduced rainfall in our vital catchments, our farmers’ ability to adapt to the new normal in order to survive has been remarkable thus far.”

Concludes Colesky: “We are deeply concerned about the water security situation in the region as well as what is happening in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, as we are socially and economically closely interlinked and co-dependent on the same resources.”

“An urgent and  collective effort in terms of planning around resource management, and water security in particular, from regional, provincial and national levels are required, without which a prosperous future for the Eastern Cape, as a whole, will not be sustainable.”

ENDS

MEDIA ENQUIRIES
1. Rienette Colesky, CEO of the Gamtoos Irrigation Board (GIB)
Tel: 042 007 0382; Cell: 083 703 0428
Email: rienette.c@gamtooswater.co.za; info@gamtooswater.co.za

2. Cobus Meiring: Chair of the Garden Route Environmental Forum Secretariat
Cell: 083 626 7619
Email: cobus@naturalbridge.co.za

Garden Route Inter-governmental Agriculture Workshop held to strengthen agriculture in the district

The Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM), in collaboration with the Western Cape Department of Agriculture and the South Cape Economic Partnership (SCEP), on 9 April 2019, held a Garden Route District Inter-governmental Agriculture Workshop.

The engagement was held at the Outeniqua Experimental Farm in George and representatives from government departments and municipalities in the Garden Route district attended the event.

Representatives from municipalities in the Garden Route district, together with Mr Paul Hoffman, Programme Manager of the South Cape Economic Partnership (back, right), who participated in the workshop.

In setting the scene, Ms Natalie Raubenheimer, Senior Local Economic Officer at the GRDM, shared the municipality’s perspective in terms of agriculture development in the district.  Raubenheimer also shared the objective of the workshop, which is to embark on a district process of effective stakeholder collaboration, including knowledge and resource sharing, which will ultimately lead to “higher productivity on farms, orient farming activities commercially, and strengthen the link between farming and other sectors of the district economy” – all these factors will be of benefit to emerging farmers.

Representatives from the Government Departments who participated in the Agriculture Workshop.

Mr Clyde Lamberts, Deputy Director for Farmer Support and Development at the Western Cape Department of Agriculture’s in the Garden Route, shared the Department’s regional approach towards the development of the agriculture sector. Lamberts said:  “If we share our funds and expertise, we will make a success of agriculture in the Southern Cape, as the area has many opportunities to offer”. When referring to challenges faced by the Karoo, he said:  “Fifty (50) percent of the national veld which is part of an extensive sheep production hub, got destroyed due to the prolonged recent drought, of which many parts do not have the potential to recover in the short term.  He added: “As a team, we can make a change in our community now, but we need to find synergy, by identifying good products that are sustainable and resilient to grow”.

During the plenary session, municipal representatives identified the various resources available in their respective municipal areas and the discussions led to the topic on how these resources can be streamlined for this regional approach to take effect.  Furthermore, government representatives shared and elaborated on their respective organisations’ involvement and contribution towards the development of the regional agricultural sector in the district.  Representing the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), Ms Lianda Landman during the plenary session said, that the best way in which SEDA can provide support to Agriculture in the Garden Route district is through Agro-processing. She furthermore highlighted that the organisation can also assist with the application of funding for people involved in agro-processing and/or exports, to attend various international agro-processing shows/exhibitions and that SEDA will assist with these applications to the National Department of Trade and Industry.

Mr Richard Dyantyi, Expanded Public Works Manager at GRDM, touched on the issue of the clearing of alien invasive species and shared the municipality’s challenges in this respect in the Garden Route. When mentioning these challenges, especially with regards to properties of Council, he said:  “Access to these properties is a challenge, as Council properties are based within the centre of other stakeholders’ properties. The municipality needs to get the buy-in from these land owners to adhere to the National Environment Management Biodiversity Act, Section 76. GRDM will share the draft plan with the stakeholders for their comments and that the Breede Gouritz Catchment Management Agency (BGCMA) will assist GRDM to register for water rights of Council properties.

In realising that this workshop is a stepping stone towards a bigger process that needs to be accessed, many thought that commercial farmers and other essential government departments, should be included in future discussions of this nature. The need for all municipalities to do more in-depth analysis of their available land was also identified. Some officials that were present recalled the words of Executive Mayor of GRDM, Cllr Memory Booysen, when he, at more than one occasion, last year, said:  “We do have properties, but we do request people to come and engage with the District Municipality”.

Ms Melanie Wilson, Manager for Economic Development and Tourism summarised the discussions of the day and Executive Manager for Economic Development and Planning, Mr Lusanda Menze, formally thanked Mr Paul Hoffman from South Cape Economic Partnership for steering sound discussions throughout the session, as well as the colleagues from B-municipalities and government departments who took part and engaged in the discussions as key stakeholders of the agricultural sector.