Farmers in the Gamtoos River Valley are closing shop amid crippling water restrictions and the prolonged drought. Several years of stringent water restrictions on growers’ drawings from the Kouga Dam are taking their toll in the citrus-rich Gamtoos River Valley, with several commercial farmers having relocated or closing shop over the past 12 months.
Last month, the Department of Water and Sanitation announced that the 128 citrus, cash crop and dairy farmers in the valley relying on the Kouga Dam would be permitted to draw just 20% of their usual water allocations from the dam for 2022/3. The dam is currently at 16.6% capacity.
“A 20% allocation [for agricultural users] has a devastating effect on the economy of our valley,” said Rienette Colesky, chief executive of the Kouga Dam custodians, Gamtoos Irrigation Board (GIB). “Our emerging farmers have really been struggling and some of them have discontinued farming,” she said, adding: “At least five commercial farmers have left the agricultural industry or relocated to other areas during this past year.”
For farmers, it is the sixth successive year of these restrictions.