February 2016


JANNIE DE VILLIERS, uitvoerende hoofbestuurder/CEO

The incessant heat and messages from our grain producers during the December holidays compelled me in the first week of January to get into my car to personally find out what the current situation was.

How would I be able to advise the Minister if I have not seen it first hand and have not experienced what is happening in the production areas personally? It was not easy. One of my outstanding personal goals of 2015 was: ‘Take a trip to break your heart’. That was precisely what I did: 1 248 km and 258 photos later. I came to realise that I, in fact, really understood very little of what it precisely meant when I wrote this down in my quiet time journal in January last year.

I tried to do this as unobtrusively as possible, almost like the biblical Nehemiah, who inspected the walls of Jerusalem in the evenings. By the middle of the second day the media tracked me down with everyone wanting to know what I had seen. In Sannieshof under a tree with the temperature in the shade registering 37°C, I endeavoured to give voice to my thoughts and emotions.

How can one convert all your emotions into words so that others can fully understand them? Who am I to try to describe the emotions of producers about their farms and their people and the animals who do not understand what happened to the grass and the water?

Next to the road my ‘driver’ (youngest son) gave a small bottle of cold water to a man who has walked more than 20 km in the bloody sun to get to town while I tried to get the best photo of maize wilting in the heat waves.

In every town we passed I noticed how the number of green Jojo water tanks have increased. Those who still doubt that a water shortage is our next crisis, only need to go and look for themselves. We can replace and generate electricity ourselves, but water?

I hear of the new record temperatures in the Swartland and the West Coast and during the day we keep the curtains of the house drawn so that the house can remain ‘cool’ – just like my grandmother Dollie did on the farm Brandkop during December holidays.

What to do now? What is the message of the scorching heat and drought? Who must hear it and who must do what about it? These are the thoughts milling through my head over and over.

Every producer and every agricultural business will be under great pressure this year. Standing together and surviving together – that is what we will have to do. What does this imlpy for Grain SA? We will have to make sure that we have all the required information and that we are aware of the precise needs of our members so that we may be in a position to
speak on their behalf when we have to discuss what is needed to survive in 2016. We would like to still be around when the people in future talk about the drought of 2016. Then we will tell them how we survived it and what we did to survive so that we can inspire others with courage.

I do not have any clever bit of advice to share with you, except my faith in God. He gives the prosperous years and also the bad years. Let us keep faith in Him and His promises. He has already borne the punishment for us and He is not punishing us, but He is trying to tell us something. Let us all together endeavour to find out what it is He wants to tell each of us and then act in obedience.

Publication: February 2016

Section: Features