South Africa - In the arid hills of the Northern Province, two worlds
collide as the South African government applies its constitutional
mandate of "some for all, not all for some" to the nation's
scarce water supply.
Dykema surveys his corn and potato crops from a white Toyota pick-up
truck and speaks of one day abandoning the 150,000 acre farm he
built from scratch. Without irrigation, Dykema worries that he will
suffer the fate of his father, a dry-land farmer who routinely watched
his crops wither during the country's frequent droughts.
all know that there is not enough water in South Africa for the
future," says Dykema, a second-generation Afrikaner farmer.
"There is no guarantee. The government can come tomorrow and
turn (it) off."
miles east of Dykema's farm, Butsi Mashiloane, a five-foot-tall
grandmother of six, remembers the mile-long walks she made less
than a year ago as she carried home a 6-gallon bucket of water balanced
on her head.
her journey takes her 50 feet to a communal tap located in front
of her cinder-block house. Although she must now pay 14 Rand for
the water her family uses, she feels the monetary sacrifice is worth
sometimes do not have enough money for food," says Mashiloane,
"Although sometimes it is difficult, I feel it is worth not
having problems getting water."
years after the African National Congress won the country's first
all-race election, the delivery of water to three million South
Africans like Mashiloane has been one of the government's most striking
as the government prepares to extend service to a remaining 12 million
people, officials at the Department of Water Affairs say that the
country's demand for water may exceed its supply in the next ten
years. Many hydrology experts believe that the most likely solution
will come at the expense of farmers like Dykema.
will have to be some serious thoughts about the quantity of water
used by agriculture," says Peter Ashton, a hydrologist at the
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
gravity of the situation needs to be recognized," says Minister
of Water Affairs and Forestry Kader Asmal in a recent departmental
report. "We can no longer rely on developing yet another water
the ANC prepares for the nation's second free election in June,
it faces pressure from voters to accelerate the delivery of basic
services such as water.
still have to complete the process of transforming the state. We
need to move faster," says Thabo Masebe, spokesperson for the
ANC. "The immediate challenge we have is to change the lives
of all those people who have had to rely on water that was not healthy."
the ANC publicly maintains that no water will be taken away from
farmers, its own water policy experts speak frankly about the need
don't think we need to produce all our food in South Africa. We
can import our food from our northern neighbors, where water is
much more plentiful," says Johan Van Rooyen, director of water
resources planning at the Department of Water Affairs.
to the Department of Water Affairs, agriculture used 54 percent
of the nation's water in 1996, while urban and domestic use stood
at 11 percent, mining and industry at eight percent, forestry at
eight percent, and the environment at 19 percent.
South African Agricultural Union intends to sue the government if
water is taken from farmers without compensation.
away a person's rights to irrigate a certain area without compensating
him in market terms - I think that's a major issue," says Nic
Opperman, director of resource services at the South African Agricultural
Union. "Eventually, you must have trust in your court system,
the legal system of your country."
farmer's fight to hold onto their water, the legacy of Apartheid
tinges the debate.
be frank about it, underlying there is always this racial tension,
because a majority of the farmers are white. And they are seen to
have all the benefits in terms of having access to water. And there
are what is generally called the disadvantaged blacks who haven't
got the access," said Gerhard R. Backeberg, a research manager
who specializes in agriculture at the Water Research Commission.
"Obviously it's an issue - how are you going to reallocate?"