Bid to declare FS fires a ‘disaster’

Farmers in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal have joined forces in an effort to help their colleagues in the Free State who have lost thousands of hectares of grazing land to massive veld fires
Issue Date: 13 April 2007

Farmers in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal have joined forces in an effort to help their colleagues in the Free State who have lost thousands of hectares of grazing land to massive veld fires.

According to Louis Heyns, a farmer in the Winburg area where about 14 000ha of veld was recently burnt, farmers have offered their surplus fodder to those affected by the blazes in the Free State.

However, he called on government to help pay for the high cost of transporting the fodder. “We really appreciate the help, but we would like to appeal to government to assist us with the transport costs. would like the area to be declared a disaster area due to the drought and fire,” he said. gricultural organisations have also appealed to government for assistance. It is estimated that fires have already destroyed 60 000ha in the Free State this year. According to Free Agriculture’s Henk Vermeulen, the application to government to declare the area a disaster area is a difficult one, as it must go through many channels. “We have asked for assistance, but whether we will receive any is another question.”

He said the response from other farmers has been tremendous, with many willing to provide fodder to farmers whose grazing has been destroyed. TAU SA general manager Bennie van Zyl said many of the union’s members were also helping where they could. “have set up a meeting point where those who have surplus feed can take it, and those who need it can pick it up there,” he said. eyns said it was a critical situation for farmers to be in, as the growing season has come to an end and no more fodder can be grown for the animals. “grazing that was on the land was intended to feed the cattle until the middle of October, so we have no fodder for the animals until then.”

At the time of going to press, government said it was formulating a response to the disaster. M eanwhile, Free State farmers affected by the recent fire that swept through farms 20km north of Bloemfontein have been requested to send a list of damages to the Glen Agricultural College. It is suspected that the fire, which burnt 18 000ha of veld and caused huge damage to grazing, livestock and infrastructure, started at the dumping grounds of the college. – Gwenda van Zyl