Ghaap Plateau ravaged by fires

Wildfires destroyed over 200 000ha of grazing on the Ghaap Plateau in Northern Cape this season.

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Wildfires destroyed over 200 000ha of grazing on the Ghaap Plateau in Northern Cape this season. So said Kobus Gouws, a farmer on the plateau and head of the Koopmansfontein Fire Association.

The fires were mainly caused by lightning and negligence and affected farms in Barkly West, Delportshoop, Koopmansfontein and Danielskuil, among other areas.

Gouws said the first fire started in early September near the Koopmansfontein Research Station, caused by an open fire in windy conditions. Other wildfires followed and the last was extinguished in late November in the Spitskop area.

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He lauded the farmers and farm workers who worked relentlessly to combat the ongoing fires. “These people never hesitated to help, day or night. Were it not for them, the damages would have been much worse. We call on government structures such as the roads department, municipalities and Transnet to get involved. They must take cognisance of the devastation caused by the fires. Hundreds of thousands of hectares of grazing are threatened by wildfires annually, as well as infrastructure, livestock and even human lives.”

Willem van Zyl, chairperson of the Berg Farmers Association (Barkly West), pointed out that farmers from as far afield as Boshof in Free State, and Douglas and Jan Kempdorp in Northern Cape rushed to the fire areas.

“This shows the spirit of solidarity among farmers. Very little livestock was lost because they rapidly moved herds to neighbouring farms. But the fire season isn’t over yet. If we don’t get rain soon and with current strong winds, fires might still occur.”

Hansie Snyman from the farm Harrisdale in the Barkly West district lost 50% of his grazing. Last year he lost 80%.
“It was a terrible shock. Luckily I had some camps that were spared to accommodate a portion of my cattle, but some of the cattle are penned and kept on fodder we accumulated during the year.

“The irrigation farmers are harvesting wheat now and we have access to the wheat stover as well. “We had some 40mm of rain this week (in late November), so we’ll be able to put the cattle on the veld in two months’ time. Some of the camps will be left for the grass to seed properly.”

Agri Northern Cape CEO Johan van Rensburg said the past growing season’s exceptional rains and high growth played a role in the wildfires. – Annelie Coleman

Lightning and negligence resulted in the destruction of more than 200 000ha of grazing on farms in the Ghaap Plateau region of Northern Cape.