The Northern Cape is experiencing a veld fire season that is remarkably different from and more intense than previous years. According to historical data, the Northern Cape has not experienced many wildfires in the past. In recent years, however, this picture has changed drastically. This increase is not the only concern; the intensity and long duration of the fires are also problematic.
Furthermore, we are faced with unusual climatic conditions that are creating high fire indexes. These challenges include changing weather patterns, which have a direct effect on the normal spring rainfall, with most areas having received little to no rain, as well as high volumes of dry pastures that burn easily and strong winds.
These are all factors that contributed to the disaster conditions.
It is difficult to contain and effectively extinguish these fires because they occur across a vast terrain which is difficult to access, with multiple fires occurring at the same time.
Four of the five districts in the province experienced veldfires in 2023, accompanied by devastating losses. To date, 500 000 hectares have been destroyed.
Farmers are affected both physically and mentally, but the financial impact is the worst. They are left with little to no grazing, highly damaged infrastructure and often loss of livestock.
The damage to infrastructure is not limited to fences. It includes damage to water supply infrastructure, electricity supply, and basic communication infrastructure. To date, 480 000 hectares of grazing have been lost. The extent of the damage is difficult to quantify, although it is estimated at millions of rands.
The ripple effect of these fires also compels the farmers to purchase feed for their animals or ultimately selling their herd at a loss due to a weak market and related pressure.
The local fire associations, together with the landowners, local authorities and organisations as a team, have done excellent work in controlling and fighting these fires despite the challenges they face, but have now reached the point of exhaustion. The multiple fires and number of locations are overwhelming.
To prevent and effectively fight the fire and protect the communities going forward, financial aid is desperately needed. These funds will be used for, among other things, aerial support and to assist the Working on Fire teams. This will allow fires to be contained promptly and ensure that the damage is limited, and so doing, assist in maintaining food security.
Agri Northern Cape has urged the provincial and national government to acknowledge the urgency of this matter and to declare a state of disaster. This will empower the provincial government and its structures to effectively support efforts to combat fires and provide assistance in the form of feed and materials for repairing infrastructure destroyed in the fires.
President Agri Northern Cape
084 592 7474
Operations Officer Disaster Management
073 291 0557