Mbombela — THE ongoing dry weather conditions affecting the entire Southern African region is the latest blow in a series of setbacks to hit farmers in the Mpumalanga Province.
Projected to result in reduced yields, the unfavourable weather persists a year after farmers in the province suffered the effects of hailstorms and another spell of drought.
The hailstorm accompanied by strong winds wreaked havoc around the region.
"Last year we lost everything because of hail," farmer Dr Job Mthobeni reminisced.
"Insurance paid for few things but I had to pull myself up with the help of my family. We are in trouble (again) because of this drought," Mthombeni, the former chairperson of the African Farmers Association of South Africa in Mpumalanga, said.
He disclosed losing four sheep and six cows last year because of drought.
"This drought has really affected us because when you plough maize, you have to look at certain land where you know your crops will not be affected," Mthombeni said.
He feared further loss of animals, whose value also drops during droughts.
This is in addition to spending money on inputs and service yet the returns would be reduced.
"You (farmer) take the animal to auctions and you will find that they offer small amount. You also need to pay your employees and feed the animals," Mthombeni added.
Farmers are clinging to hope following the recent, albeit scant, rains.
"The risk of deep planting maize won't be too much. Farmers must also take advantage of the rain that fell in recent days," Mthombeni advised.
He runs the Kromkrans farm in the Chief Albert Lithuli municipality.
Mthombeni is worried that drought will affect them badly, with 200 hectors for maize under hectarage, as well as significant land allocated to apple tress.
The farm established in 2000 also boasts over 100 sheep and poultry.
It employs 20 permanent and 60 seasonal employees.
The farm supplies local markets and neighboring countries such as Mozambique and Botswana.
Mthombeni believes there is still hope for unemployed youth in agriculture, only if they are keen to learn and take notes from experienced farmers.
"I took unemployed youth and gave them a hectare where they can plant vegetables and go sell for themselves for that they can provide for their families after harvesting but only few are interested," he said.
Mthombeni, who was a farm worker in 1970s, believes that education is power.
"Youth need to study in order to gain more knowledge."