Veld fires can put farmers back into crisis

FNB cautions farmers to put measures in place to mitigate against veld fire risks

Farmers that are already struggling financially due to the impact of the drought could face further losses as the risk of veld fires increases due to the dry winter period.

Dawie Maree, Head of Information and Marketing at FNB Business Agriculture says given the current situation in the agricultural sector, veld fires have the potential to put farmers back into crisis as the industry has still not fully recovered from the severe impact of the recent drought. During the dry winter season, veld fires can spread quickly, destroying farms and leaving relentless distraction.

It has never been more important to put measures in place to protect farms against veld fires. Farmers have exhausted most of their resources and simply cannot afford to deal with another major catastrophe.

Maree says veld fires can lead to severe production shortages, especially for wine, sugarcane and livestock farmers, further impacting on food price inflation and our ability to supply the export market. Livestock farmers who are currently re-building their herds could also suffer major setbacks due to damaged pastures, grazing land, water and transport infrastructure.

“Although veld fires are not unique to the country, their impact has been heightened due to changing weather conditions.  As a result, farmers must not sit back and wait for the worst to come. Long-term disaster risk management strategies should be put in place to manage and control the risks,” cautions Maree.

He advises farmers to consider implementing the following measures to mitigate against veld fire risks:

  • Fire management plan – this plan provides farmers with polices and guidelines of how to protect their farms, workers and livestock against veld fires. It further advises farmers and employees on the steps to take during fire situations and who to contact for emergencies.
  • Collaboration – both government and the private sector should be commended for their role in educating and raising awareness on the risks associated with veld fires. It is important for farmers to continue working together, share ideas and solutions on how to tackle this risk.
  • Maintaining farm and fire equipment – faulty machinery can lead to veld fires if it is not checked and maintained on a regular basis.  Farmers must regularly check and ensure that farm and fire-fighting equipment is in good working order. This is essential to protect livestock, other assets and employees in the event of a fire.
  • Firebreaks – although firebreaks cannot completely protect farmers against large spreading veld fires, they play an important role in containing and controlling fires on the farm and are compulsory by law.
  • Educating staff – employees should constantly be educated and trained on how to deal with fire situations.
  • Insurance – without adequate cover in place, farmers would not be able to recover from financial losses in the event of a fire or accident.

“While the above tips are by no means conclusive, they can go a long way to help farmers put together risk management strategies to proactively deal with fire risks as we approach the winter season,” concludes Maree.