Emaciated cattle‚ barren land and a livelihood slowly crumbling to dust. This is the reality faced every morning by Wilhelm Stemmet.
He has joined the ranks of farmers whose cries for help ring out from far and wide as they try to survive in the midst of a debilitating drought. The rooibos and cattle farmer from Vanrhynsdorp in the Western Cape is hoping for rain‚ but casts his eyes upwards to blue skies.
Stemmet described his daily routine‚ waking up to barren farm land‚ as an image that he has been forced to become accustomed to. Dusty winds like he has never experienced‚ emaciated animals and farm workers trying to stretch out whatever work there is available.
“I am 55-years-old and I have never experienced a drought like this. Everything on the farm is going to ruins‚” he told TimesLIVE.
Stemmet cannot help but get emotional when he speaks of the financial burden of the drought.
“It is a lot of stress on one person because everyone looks to you to for an answer – the animals‚ your workers‚ your family. But I will remain hopeful that the rains will come anytime soon. The farm workers we have supported us very well.”
During the interview‚ he apologises profusely for allowing his emotions get the better of him.
“It weighs heavily on all of us and especially me as the provider. I am thankful for all the help that we do get. We still have drinking water which does not make the situation for us as dire. It would be a very sad day when we don’t have drinking water‚” he said.
But this doesn’t help his crops.
“Rooibos tea is dependent on rains. We would normally get 250 mm of rain but the past year we only got 30 mm of rain. There is no growth. With the rooibos tea‚ you get a quarter of your normal harvest. My rooibos business is being threatened. I can see it with my harvest that I don’t get the quantities I got in previous years. Most farmers have either sold or slaughtered their livestock. I have had to decrease my livestock numbers.”