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Climate Change Policy Ignores Women Farmers

CAPE TOWN - When asked if they have already felt the effects of climate change, Mary-Anne Zimri and Katrina Scheepers eagerly nod their heads. The two small-scale farmers say lack of rain this winter has foiled their planting season, ruined their harvest - and drastically slashed their income.

"We have been hit on all sides," says Zimri, who together with Scheepers belongs to a farming cooperative in Wuppertal, a small hamlet in South Africa's Western Cape province. The coop specialises in rooibos tea, but also plants vegetables and keeps livestock.

"We normally start planting rooibos in July, but this year it has been too dry to plant," says Zimri. For decades, she and her colleagues have relied on the steady rains of the South African winter to irrigate their crops. But now, a change in weather patterns has caused a noticeable reduction in rainfall, she says.

Since the coop does not have access to an irrigation system, Zimri and her fellow farmers have to fetch water from the river and carry it in buckets for several kilometres back to their fields. But what they can carry is not sufficient to generate a good harvest.

Not only the rooibos has been affected. Reduced rainfall also meant that their animal feed did not grow as expected, and the farmers' vegetable harvest is much smaller than the previous year. "It's not only us. Most farmers in the area lost their crop because it's been so dry," says Scheepers.      

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