KEETMANSHOOP – To ensure their safety from the possible infection of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid – 19), farmers in the //Kharas region are strictly observing social distancing at least one-metre apart while doing farming duties, this is according to Karasburg Farmers Association chairperson Hansie Esthuyse.
He opined as such when probed by Farmers Forum as to how farmers are dealing with the current Covid-19 pandemic. “Farmworkers are, as a precautionary measure to curb further spread of the coronavirus not allowed to leave farms and if the need arise for them to do so, they are subjected to remain at places they travelled to until such time that the situation in the country improved,” he explained.
Esthuyse added that farmers are only leaving their properties in cases of medical emergencies or when filling up on dry foodstuff or animal fodder. The chairperson went on that visits by workers from one farm to another has been suspended in order to avoid overcrowding as one of the virus’ precautionary measures. “As consolation for these restrictions, we on the farms can at least access the vast open spaces and enjoy nature,” he argued.
Esthuyse also said they, as farmers are sometimes experiencing a challenge when their animals get sick, as it can be difficult at times to get a veterinarian coming to their farms. “In addition, we can also not take our sick animals to the nearest veterinarian in town as one need to apply for a special permit in advance to do so,” he mentioned.
Referring to challenges experienced to sustain operations on farms, he singled out the temporary absence of a proper marketing system as the biggest one. “We need special permits to market our animals outside the country’s borders, thus resulting in a huge loss of income,” he said with worry. Esthuyse carried on that in light of the suspension of auctions and furthermore the temporary closure of some abattoirs, they as farmers hardly meet their needs.
“We as //Kharas farmers feel banks should seriously make an exception to the rule, recognising the tough times farmers are going through and grant us a three-month payment holiday on loans and overdrafts with them,” he suggested as a temporary relief measure. Esthuyse then raised fear that, should the situation in the country stretch beyond the 21-day restriction period, farmers will at the end be brought down on their knees.
He further said that farm owners are constantly informing, educating and sensitising workers on latest developments pertaining to the prevailing coronavirus pandemic. “Famers are furthermore avoiding visiting each other or gathering as much as possible and rather communicate on issues of importance through their WhatsApp groups or emails,” he explained in addition.
Esthuyse concluded that farm owners do however remain committed and positive towards the future despite challenges they are facing now.