Farmer suicides on the up in drought-stricken SA

6 months ago written by

Afrikaans singer Laurika Rauch sang about a farmer who commits suicide because of drought in her gripping song “Mannetjies Roux”. Now reality has caught op with this. A drought-driven economic crunch in South Africa is said to be blamed for a spike in farmer suicides in the country.

Business Day quotes a report by The Times in which statistics from insurance company Liberty is analysed. It shows an 20% increase in suicides in South Africa last year and one of the main reasons is farmers’ suicides.

According to an actuary at Liberty, Henk Meintjes, the economic climate in South Africa hasn’t been great. The number of confirmed suicides was 20% higher in 2016 than the average for 2014 and 2015 combined. Liberty tried to find a reason for the surge in suicides and discovered a sharp increase in the number of farmers over the age of 55 committing suicide in the Northern Cape last year.

“We can’t prove it is because of the economy faltering but it is likely,” Meintjies told The Times.

Farmers were living in the same difficult economy as everyone else but on top of that they had the drought to deal with, he added. There was a direct correlation between a failing economy and the suicide rate, Meintjes said.

In Greece an economic collapse led to an increase in suicides of between 40 and 80% and after the banking crisis in 2008 in the US, the suicide rate rose by 40%.

Claims with Momentum Insurance shows suicides extends beyond the agriculture sector. Their statistics shows claims for not only farmers but also company directors and business owners who have taken their own lives.

Chris van Zyl, deputy general manager of farmers’ group TAU SA, said many farmers in the Northern Cape had suffered from drought for years. “They were already in a dire situation. If you have a few bad years before a drought really kicks in, it just worsens the situation.

“Banks would provide overdraft only to a certain limit. Many farmers had no options from a financial point of view.”

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