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The Agri Relief Foundation (ARF) recently donated fire blowers and other firefighting equipment to the value of approximately R445 000. The equipment was distributed equally among members of Free State Agriculture, Agri Northern Cape, Agri North West, and Mpumalanga Agriculture. The ARF was established in 2021 and focusses on assisting agricultural producers in need.
By the end of the century, climate change is predicted to raise temperatures by 3 to 5°C in some parts of South Africa’s interior, states Working on Fire, a government-run programme. A combination of higher temperatures and more frequent periods of drought increases the risk of fires. In South Africa, wildfires are common and at times cause extensive damage, often with great economic impact on the agricultural sector.
Read more about fire insurance here.
“After last year’s devastating fires and the fact that South Africa once again had a good rainy season with lush fields that make the risk for fires high this year, we decided to act proactively and provide producers with equipment to put out possible fires,” says Prof Frikkie Maré, associate professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of the Free State (UFS), and one of the directors of the ARF.
“The blowers can be used in both fire management and firefighting. This equipment is incredibly effective and blows out the flames. The advantage of the blowers is that they can easily be used on foot in areas where ridges and mountains prevent vehicles from entering with water sprayers,” explains Prof Maré.
Are you fire ready…? Read here to check.
In response to this donation, Dr Jack Armour, commercial manager at Free State Agriculture, says: “Fires in the Free State can cause entire farms to burn down. This has a negative financial implication for the farmer. It is not only difficult for farmers to insure their entire farm against fires, but they also often need to replace the pasture that was lost and sometimes they even need to reduce their herd.”
“As Free State Agriculture, we support grassroots structures of fire protection entities made up of members of farmers’ associations. The 15 fire blowers we received from the ARF are distributed between the different regions and come in handy for putting out smaller fires until the fire brigade arrives,” Dr Armour adds.
Maintaining the sustainability of rural economies
Prof Maré says the ARF aims to contribute to keeping producers on their farms and thus maintain the sustainability of rural economies and support food security.
The ARF has so far purchased 15 blowers each for the Free State, Northern Cape, and North West, and six water firefighters for Mpumalanga. Although it might seem like a lot of equipment, the land area prone to veld fires in South Africa is so large that it does not yet satisfy the need.
Read more about the Western Cape fires here.
“The contribution of the ARF is a drop in the bucket, but I believe that every drop helps,” says Prof Maré. He added that although the ARF will continue to assist individual producers, they have decided to launch projects where they would like to act proactively to combat disasters, instead of helping afterwards.
Anyone willing to assist the ARF in its ventures to help keep the producers of our food on their land can contact the ARF’s office at 012 843 5660. – Press release, University of the Free State