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Good rains but drought not over yet

14 February 2020

Good rains but drought not over yet

Many farmers in drought-affected areas of New South Wales are celebrating this week’s rain, but more is needed to break the drought, according to Salvation Army rural chaplain Major Dianne Lawson. 

“It’s a positive start. This rain has filled a lot of on-farm dams and some of the rivers have started to flow that haven’t flowed for a while, but it’s certainly not drought-breaking,” she said.

As of 10 February, The Salvation Army had distributed just over $15 million to more than 5000 households as part of the Australian Government Drought Community Support Initiative (DCSI) that was introduced on 21 November last year. 

Denise Thomas, The Salvation Army DCSI Program Coordinator, said her team had received around 15,000 applications for assistance in recent months.

“We have 27 employees, 18 chaplains and a crew of dedicated retired officers and volunteers working full-time to stand alongside individuals and families affected by the drought. Corps officers in drought-affected areas are also on the frontline supporting individuals, families and communities that are hurting.”

Those who are completing drought assessments have reported that the stories are getting worse every week.

“Farmers are walking off their farms daily,” says Denise. “Some have de-stocked completely. Some farmers are not earning any money from their farms.”

Recent rain has lifted the spirits of many farmers in western NSW, but some areas remain dry and despite the rain, drought recovery could take years.

“People are more and more desperate,” says Denise “Even though people have seen some rain now, the farmers say it will take five years of good sustainable rain to get back to just half of what they had and half of the income they had prior to the commencement of the drought. Some may never recover from significant debt.

“Spirits are lifted [by the rain] and some farmers are taking a gamble and planting crops. There’s more hope than there was a month ago. We just need the follow-up rain now. That’s what we’re praying for.”

While the welcome rain is providing more hope than has been felt in some time, The Salvation Army’s rural chaplains will continue to work closely with farmers and those in remote communities to ensure they are well supported.

Image: Farmers (and their little helpers) are still hand-feeding stock in drought-affected areas of New South Wales

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