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15 December 2011

Implementation of 2011 Flood Relief Scheme

AGRI NEWS - A meeting arranged and chaired by the Northern Cape Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development was held on 7 December 2011 at Upington to discuss the implementation of the 2011 flood assistance scheme, based on the R131.862 million that was allocated for disaster relief for the financial year ending 31 March 2012.

The invitation was addressed to amongst others, Agri SA, Agri Northern Cape, Department of Water Affairs and Eksteenskuil Agricultural Co-operative, and was well attended by representatives from these organisations. It was also noted that the Orange River Farmers Union represents 22 Water Users Associations and two Independent Water Boards.

A broad overview of the flood damage and the status of the repair programme were given. The substantial damage to the infrastructure was clearly seen from pictures and it also show what individual farmers have done to repair some of the flood and protection walls.

Following this, the content of the 2011 flood assistance scheme was discussed. It came clear that the scheme, as it has been approved, does not cater for the repair of the protection walls or levees on either state or on private land to protect large areas of irrigation land, livelihood of farmers and those living on the land. The subsidies provided for in the scheme are not adequate since some of the individual protection walls can cost more than the value of a particular farm. In the low-lying areas e.g. Eksteenskuil, where small farmers and subsistence farmers are not in a position to make any contribution whatever the nature, due to the huge damage and that well equipped and skilled contractors will have to be called in to do the repairs.

Although there is great appreciation for the Government’s assistance, the meeting proposed that as a first priority the funds should be used (as a 100% subsidy) to fully repair all the protection walls alongside the flooded area, since it is regarded as key conservation works as risk reduction against future floods.

If this route is not taken, many farmers will not be in financial position to repair these works on their own properties within the current subsidy scheme of 50 % of the cost of repair. This will leave some of these protection walls or levees “open”, which can cause future disaster flooding. The same arrangement must apply to the small and subsistence farmers.

The meeting suggested that second, third and fourth priority should be the repair of privately owned water installations and canals; roads (referred to as farm roads) soil conservation repair works.

The meeting discussed a range of strict control measures that must be in place and that the regulations must be drawn up as soon as possible. Representatives of Organised agriculture indicated that they will fully support such measures.

The 24 Water Users Associations and two Independent Water Boards confirmed that they interpret “own contribution” as defined in the Government Gazette as their duty to supervise and inspect while the repair of the works are being done.

They are also prepared to serve on the task team who will perform the duties of verifying and signing off when the work is completed. At provincial level Agri Northern Cape will serve on the Coordinating body while Agri SA will serve at national level. Concern was mooted that the small number of local contractors will not be able to cater for the demand and that the scheme must allow for contractors from outside the area to tender, but with the strict proviso that local unemployed persons must be appointed to do the bulk of the work.

Local registered engineers should also be contracted to assist with the planning of the work, supervision and signing off The completed works. There is a lot of confusion on the rule in the framework of the 2011 flood assistance scheme that states “repair means restore to applicable standard (in DAFF terms)”.

There are no specific standards and it is recommended at the norm of the 2011flood be used. The height of the flood namely the m3 water/second at the Upington bridge measured at +500mm and should be used as the future standard. The onus rests with the farmers to comply to these standards. Those works already completed by individual farmers will be dealt with under the rules of the current scheme.

Urgent presentation to the relevant authorities to amend the present Flood Assistance Scheme will be prepared by the provincial department of the Northern Cape for submission to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Courtesy of Agri SA and Mossel Bay Advertiser.