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DA calls for locust-plagued provinces to be declared disaster areas

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The DA is calling on government to declare a locust disaster in the Western, Northern and Eastern Cape and the Free State.

It comes amid several plagues affecting the four provinces over the past few months.

The DA confirmed that it has written to the minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, asking her to request the minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, to legally declare the plague a disaster.

The proposed time frame in the affected regions is three months, followed by a month-to-month review thereafter. The declaration will facilitate the necessary interventions in the four provinces, including the release of increased funding by the National Treasury.

The Western Cape Department of Agriculture said that combatting the severe infestation is critical for food security and rural livelihoods. The department recently availed R5m in financial support to farms battling intense swarms of locusts.

These funds are to be spent by teams in need of personal protective equipment, sprayer pumps, and aerial spraying support.

According to reports, some rangers and farmers have claimed that prescribed toxic chemicals and personal protective clothing have been delivered late, while others have allegedly not been paid.

WC MEC for Agriculture, Ivan Meyer, expressed concern that at the insect’s rate of migration, noting that enormous pressure on farmers in the Central and Little Karoo.

“Although the management of the locusts is a national responsibility, it is now critical that we work together to protect the field crop of Western Cape farmers. For this purpose, I have also opened a joint command cente, to monitor the situation in (the province) daily.”

Monitoring is among the top three responsibilities, should the declaration be gazetted. The DA’s Noko Masipa explained that data must be made available regarding the outbreak, potential damages and needs to allow effective oversight by parliamentarians.

The party also called for a stakeholder forum- that includes the MECs of the affected provinces- should be established and for locusts to be dealt with at their various stages- eggs, hoppers and adult grasshoppers- to prevent further devastation of crops.

By Tauhierah Salie



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