Limpopo villagers forced to dig for water

News24 Correspondent

Mokopane - Villagers in Waterberg, Limpopo’s main livestock-farming zone, knew little about climate change, until recently when the river they depend on for their livelihood ran dry.

Residents of Bokwidi village, north-west of Polokwane, have been forced to dig into the Mogalakwena river’s bed to find water for washing and for their livestock, which they have depended on for decades.

Over the past three months, the Mogalakwena - a combination of the Tswana words mogala "fierce", and kwena "crocodile" - has run dry.

Now herdsmen are travelling long distances into the bush as their herds go in search of greener pastures and water. Some cattle die along the way.

Keeping their animals alive is vital if they want to maintain their way of life, but this is looking increasingly difficult.

"We decided to dig in the river where we can see fresh mud. That is the only way to keep our livestock alive," said Frans Sebetha, secretary of local farmers’ association.

Livestock farmer William Mokoka, 73, said he had never seen Mogalakwena river without water.

"This river never dried up since I was born, but now is there is no river here. If you look it’s a bush," said Mokoka.

Once they have dug into the river bed, they construct a makeshift dam for their cattle. They have to stay and keep watch, in case the animals get stuck in the mud.

The farmers intend petitioning the local Mogalakwena municipality for the provision of water. The provincial agriculture department said recent rain had not helped improve the water levels in rivers and dams.

However, the distribution of drought aid was underway.