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Lifeline to embattled agricultural sector

WHILE controversy rages about the inequity of government’s relief for farmers in the Eastern Cape, two organisations and some private donors have provided a lifeline to the embattled agricultural sector.

In 2016, Burre Burger started bringing much-needed feed to the Aberdeen area, and he has subsequently supported farmers in Klipplaat, Jansenville, Steytlerville and Graaff-Reinet in the Eastern Cape. The organisation ‘Droogte Hulp met Burre Burger’ has become well known throughout the country, even receiving financial help from overseas, and many local farmers say that without his help, they would have given up long ago.

Burger buys lucerne and maize from donations received, and asks recipients to make a contribution towards feed they receive. This is ploughed back into the relief funds. He has a local organiser in each area, and this person decides who else should benefit from each delivery; typically, about 20 farmers benefit from each load.

He aims to make between 10 and 15 deliveries each week, countrywide, and estimates that he has sent more than 1800 trucks of feed out, worth over R210 million.

A smaller but no less valuable organisation is Chris van Beljon’s Boere Droogtehulp SA, founded in January last year. In this part of the country, he focuses on helping farmers in Aberdeen, Middelburg, Cradock and Pearston. If farmers approach him for aid, he asks them to send videos and photos of the affected farms, so that he can see for himself the state of the land and animals.

Van Beljon asks for no money from the beneficiaries, but obviously welcomes donations. He prefers to work through individuals, who then share their bounty with neighbours in need. When asked how he decides who to help, his reply was simple: “If they don’t get in touch with me, I don’t know that they need help.”

He has made 284 deliveries to date, and helps about 50 farmers every week.

There has allegedly been some ill-feeling among farmers, that some receive far more aid, from several sources, than others. However, Hantie Marx, chairperson of the Aberdeen Farmers’ Association, expressed his gratitude to every single person, business, company, institution and church who has contributed in the form of drought aid.

“We are also very thankful for the rain which has fallen in the past two weeks,” said Marx. “Unfortunately the situation is still very serious – we need much more rain, and the cashflow of farmers is still under pressure.” He lamented the lack of help from the government, and that the farmers have had to rely on private aid.

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