With Australia experiencing a severe drought in several regions, an orchard owner decided to help out. The owner, Brian Burton from Queensland, Australia, is donating almost 200,000 mangoes to drought-affected communities and other local charities.
Help in times of drought
When Burton bought his property a while back, it came with 2,300 Kensington mango trees. Initially, he decided to sell the mangoes. However, Burton did not like the terms of the contracts and ended up donating the first crop in 2018 to charity, so the local pensioners benefited from Burton’s kindness. In 2019, the crop got destroyed by storms. This year, almost all the trees are laden with ripe mangoes.
Given the drought plaguing the region, Burton decided that this time he will donate the mangoes to affected communities. “I’m hoping it perks them up, gives them hope… Hopefully, it does some good and encourages them — knowing the farmers here [in the drought-declared Gympie region] are supportive of what they’re going through out there,” he said to ABC News.
Volunteers from the Rainbow Beach Drought Runners are working tirelessly to pick the mangoes and get them to the people. There are about 30 to 60 volunteers who hope that the mangoes will help lift the spirits of the community. Burton had thought of sending mangoes out of the state of Queensland to fire victims, but he abandoned the plan after it became clear that the fruit might go bad before it reached those in need.
Though Burton hasn’t faced any issue with his crop this year, the same is not true for others. Several months of drought have taken a toll on farmers in Australia. One farmer in Locker Valley had to lease more land to grow the same amount of vegetables he would have grown in a normal year. Though it has cost him a lot more money, the farmer wants to ensure that he delivers veggies to his clients in agreed quantities and maintain their business relationship. If prices of vegetables rise due to shortages, he is hopeful of avoiding a loss.
Many small-scale farmers are eking out their lives with lower incomes. The Australian government has announced loans of up to $500,000 to small farmers who have been affected by the drought, with the first two years of repayment being interest-free.
Fortunately, Australia has recently received rain. A farmer from New South Wales became an online celebrity after he uploaded a video where he is seen enthusiastically welcoming the rains after 18 months of drought.
The fire menace
For farmers raising livestock, the drought was already proving to be a problem as they couldn’t get enough water to take care of their animals. But the current fires raging throughout the country have made things tougher. Farmers from Kangaroo Island ordered thousands of rounds of ammunition to kill off the animals that had been injured as a result of the fires. According to farming groups in the region, almost 100,000 sheep and 25,000 other livestock have been lost.
“A gun dealer was told to get as much ammunition as he could to shoot sheep and wildlife… He left [mainland SA] with 50,000 rounds and he ran out of ammunition… One farmer lost 7,000 first-cross ewes. The whole lot, gone…. I have got farmers ringing up now that have just walked in with a rifle from shooting sheep… If we don’t get help in there quick, something bad is going to happen,” Kevin Butler, the founder and president of the volunteer rural bushfire recovery organisation BlazeAid, said to The Guardian.
In New South Wales, over 13,000 livestock are confirmed dead because of the bushfires. Close to 6,000 beehives have been lost, with an additional 10,000 damaged. To support the farmers in fire-affected areas, about 10,500 tons of fodder has been provided.
A dry season
Farmers in New Zealand have been reeling under the pressure of dry and arid conditions as well. In the Puhipuhi region, the area that usually receives the highest rainfall in Northland, less than an inch of rain has fallen in some areas. To make matters worse, water sources are evaporating at a fast pace due to the scorching sun.
This has been the second driest year in the last 100 years of Puhipuhi’s history. “[It’s] pretty dry, haven’t had much rain at all for a month or so… [We’re] going into our crop season in October extremely dry… Went and checked the main creek and it’s dropped about 500mls [1.6 feet] in the last two months… It’s almost coming to a point where it’s not even running anymore,” a farmer from the region said to News Hub.
The severe drought situation has forced authorities to restrict water supplies across the country. In some parts of the Far North, people have been asked not to use sprinklers, garden hoses, or irrigation devices. Swimming pools and water blasting have been banned. In Kairakau, total outdoor water bans have been placed this month.
In Central Hawke’s Bay, officials have restricted the use of hoses on specific days and times. The area has activated Level 3 restrictions, with Level 4 being the highest. “Moving to level 3 is around us really acknowledging that we’ve had an enormous dry period. The river levels are very low. We want to manage the river levels really carefully and in particular our reservoir levels,” Monique Davidson, chief executive of Central Hawke’s Bay District Council, said to RNZ.
The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) warned that soils across the top three-quarters of the country have dried up and that the worst is yet to come. Northern Waikato and the Far North District were two of the most parched regions in the country.