South Africa may grant emergency aid to farmers in Gauteng province due to a severe drought that is scorching grazing pastures and threatening the key maize crop, a provincial official said on Saturday.
Authorities have earmarked some 450 million rand ($32 million) for drought-affected regions, but officials fear it may not be enough to stem the damage in the hardest-hit areas such as Gauteng and the southeastern province of KwaZulu-Natal.
“(We’re) pondering ways of ensuring that the province does get some emergency relief funding by declaring it as a disaster area,” spokeswoman for the Gauteng agriculture department Phindile Kunene told radio station Eyewitness News.
Gauteng includes the economic-hub of Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria but it also has important farming communities which supply the urban areas with food, including maize, sorghum, chicken and beef.
KwaZulu-Natal — a stronghold of support for the ruling African National Congress (ANC) — was declared a disaster area last month, meaning more state funds will reach its farmers.
President Jacob Zuma’s party will rely heavily on rural areas at local elections next year and the government has come under increasing pressure to help farmers hit by the most acute dry spell in over a century.
The drought could have a “serious impact” on food prices and ultimately knock growth, employment and revenues in Africa’s most advanced economy, Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said last week.
Officials have promised to send water tankers to farms and relocate some livestock to state-owned land where there are better pastures.