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South Africa: How has the drought affected Western Cape farmers

There is much to ponder about for the farmers of the Western Cape, the province with its major commodities of fruit, wine and vegetables. It also produces livestock, meat and dairy; and field crops like wheat, barley and canola. All need water - and lots of it.

Agricultural water is allocated to individual farmers annually on the basis of crop type and area planted. It is given for use if and when the farmer chooses, during and after the growing season.

There's a real risk that the water shortage could see farmers' yields decimated during this growing season which is from September to March for irrigated crops, and from May to October for rain fed crops. The long term impact could also be disastrous. Consecutive loss-making years could bankrupt farmers leading to many abandoning agriculture entirely. reports on how Cape farmers really have no other choice than to adapt to the water shortage. The main water saving measures include mulching - very much suited to smaller farms, revisiting the design and planning of irrigation systems, restricting irrigation to the root zone - often via drip irrigation and the use of netting.

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