Drought is a hell of a thing

Farming in the Boesmanland is tough
Piet Rosekrans who farms on “Gaan kyk” (Go see) in the Van Wyksvlei district proclaimed: “Drought is a hell of a thing”.  Indeed, drought is a hell of a heart rendering thing. Your tears also dry up because of too much weeping with the farmers of the drought-stricken Karoo and especially the Boesmanland.  Eight years brought an end to the ability to make plans, turned the erstwhile soft ear of the bank manager and the Coop manager deaf and emptied the coffers of the carefully planned nest-egg.    Most of the sheep producers have lost hope.  Every drop of hope has been wrung from all and sundry by the worst drought in 118 years. The greatest portion of the flock has died, the borehole’s are dry and some of the farmers do not have anything left to sell to pay workers or to purchase even a smidgen of the feeding of starving sheep.  Some farmers have even sold their furniture to make some kind of payment to workers. Farmers had to stretch their workers, their families and themselves and so did the rural towns, over the past eight years.  No one could budget for a drought of this magnitude.  It’s heart-breaking to see that for some of the farmers, the point of no return has come and gone and not even a deluge of rain will be able to reverse their situation.  Some of the sheep herds have been so far depleted that even over filled dams and green lush pastures would not enable them to become commercially viable again.
‘Your tears also dry up because of too much weeping with the farmers of the drought-stricken Karoo and especially the Boesmanland.”
Rev. Deon van der Berg
Boesmanland farmer

Most of the livestock producers, who toil with intense effort, sweat and tears, to place a juicy lambchop on your plate for your enjoyment, feel as if their efforts have been forgotten.  The South African Government has forgotten them in the face of numerous applications for drought aid.  They have been forgotten by their families and friend who once visited and overstayed their welcome and yet, left the farm at the end of the stay every time with an abundance of meat in the good old days!  They even feel that God has forgotten and no longer hears their pleading prayers.  They cannot, no, they refuse to listen to one more admonishing sermon, to another repeat message of a need to repent and turn from wicked ways, and a show of remorse for their sins, before God will bless them with the healing of their land and give life giving rains.  Everywhere I see people who live extremely close to Father God, because that is who they are!  Their identity embedded and ingrained in Jesus Christ, living each day in complete dependence on Him, even in the midst of the hurt, the shattering pain their dependence whines through.  One old “Aunty” said to me: “In the Boesmanland there is no survival without absolute dependence on God”.

In the face of the abject desperation of some of the commercial farmers, you find that they are being duped and done in by unscrupulous types, specifically because they are desperate to save their herds.  The gobsmacking, incredible tale of two young farmers, in the Van Wyksvlei area, wretches even at the most hardened heart.  They took 1250 ewes, of which a number were expecting, to another so-called Christian farmer’s in Wesselsbron, because he had grass in his fields and he offered them a 50/50 share in the herd growth.  They returned embittered, angry and hate filled a few months later with only 212 ewes being delivered to their dry farm in Van Wyksvlei. Further the stories of how only the farmers who have sufficient funds left to still belong to an agricultural organisation, qualifies for drought aid or donations that are received through official channels. This causes severe strife in the communities as everyone suffers equally and all animals are hungry.  It is even worse to hear of those persons who are involved with the drought relief efforts, suddenly can afford new luxury homes and vehicles from the proceeds of the drought aid donations and only assist and care for selected farmers. We are indeed faced with a colossal humanitarian crisis.  This drought cannot be solved with a few or even a few hundred millimeters of rain.  It did not arrive overnight and neither will it disappear overnight.  We are eternally thankful with the farmers for the rains that fell generously at the end of 2020 and early 2021 in certain areas, some borehole’s and some dams are wet again, and have water to display, but, as I have heard many times before, “it does not rain grass and neither does it rain cash!” If you visit the farming communities after the rains have fallen, you can only rejoice with them for the grass and even the paper-thorns that are sprouting in their fields.  But your heart still cries with those who have not had sufficient rain yet, who still must purchase and supplement feed to save their herds, especially the ewes.  There are simply no answers to their questions as to why God had skipped over them.  However, I know one thing for certain! Our God can cause grass to grow in 4 millimeters rain, as if 40 millimeters had fallen. Notwithstanding the amounts of rain that have already fallen, notwithstanding how lush the Boesman-grass grows, or that it is in full seed, or how the yellow blooms of the paper-thorns cover the earth, it still does not allow a dad to pay the school fees of his three children and they must be homeschooled.  It does not allow him to keep his elderly father in the retirement home in Douglas.  The reserve monies have dried up, and the credit worthiness is no more.  A third year Teaching student who has passed cum laude in all her subjects, has to finish her studies because: “I am sorry my child, but dad no longer can afford the studies”.  They are no exception.  They share that pain with hundreds of parents who only wishes to give their children the best education, but the most endearing love and the greatest will still does not allow them to afford it. I realise that 1800 feed bales and 160 tons of silage that Beginet NPC have donated, is only a small patch in a large hole.  But then you hear: “This feed gives us hope, and at least it shows that someone is still seeing us”.  Oom Pieter Stadler of Soutriver in the Boesmanland said to his wife: “Mom, the Lord’s assistance comes by road nowadays!” When she admonishes him, he is quick to say: “Don’t misunderstand me wrong.  We pray and we rely on the Lord for His assistance.  Now He sends lorries by road loaded with feed to help!” It is a great privilege to the Beginet team who is involved with this effort to be the postman who delivers the food by road.  One thing I had to come to realise.  We cannot have delivered enough yet.  There are innumerable deliveries that still have to be made.  Not only in feed for the herds of livestock, but firstly in love, assistance, spiritual support, emotional support to the families on the farms and the family includes the farm workers.  We have to deliver a great amount of school fees, hostel fees and the like so that the children may complete their scholastic education. Varsity fees!  I shudder to even think about it.  However, we have to trust in the Lord our God that we may also be the postman in that area.  That notwithstanding the fact that ewe have to overcome the obstacle to assist livestock producers to replenish their herds so as to become a commercial farming viable once more. The farmers have come to the end of their plan making to try and provide the needed care.  Mostly they live from day to day.  The pleadings to the South African Government for aid and assistance have been exhausted and has reached the point of enough. All they have left is God and us.
Mom, the Lord’s assistance comes by road nowadays!” When she admonishes him, he is quick to say: “Don’t misunderstand me wrong.  We pray and we rely on the Lord for His assistance.  Now He sends lorries by road loaded with feed to help!” Uncle Pieter Stadler, Soutrivier in the Boesmanland
Rev. Deon van der Berg, Beginet NPC

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