REPORT 5 February 2017

Maize farmers in Limpopo, Gauteng, Free State, North West and the Western Cape have recently confirmed the presence of armyworms, which derive their name from their tendency to destroy vast quantities of crops in a relatively short space of time, making an infestation difficult to contain.

Reports from Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe have detailed the carnage armyworms can wreak on the production of maize crops, and South Africa needs a plan of action in order to prevent a possible food security disaster. Indeed, the armyworm ‘plague’ has already destroyed 70 % of crops in certain areas in Zimbabwe, 100 000 hectares in Zambia and 2000 hectares in Malawi.

Governmental silence on the issue is alarming, especially considering the far-reaching implications of a possible plague. The arrival of armyworms is a threat to our country’s food security and could lead to further increases in food prices, which will have a negative impact on the poorest and most vulnerable in our country.

If the armyworm is confirmed to be of the American variety, South Africa will also not be allowed to export maize which will then impact on this sector’s ability to sustain jobs.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries have been urged to start a process of open dialogue with fellow African countries that have been plagued by armyworms, in order to find a swift solution to this crisis.

From Andrew Gray ZS2G comes this sad news of a rescue attempt at Sardinia Bay, Port Elizabeth. On Sunday afternoon, 29th January,  a 22 year old Zimbabwean student went in to the water to swim. The man entered the water outside of the designated swimming area and this area is not monitored closely by the  lifeguards.

Sardinia Bay is known for its strong backwash and undercurrents. With minutes the swimmer had disappeared under the water. The lifeguards were alerted and swam out to look for the man.

Andrew, ZS2G who was visiting the beach at the time, alerted the PEARS/ HAMNET WattsApp group and asked that those who could come and assist, bring binoculars.

All in all there were 8 people from the PEARS HAMNET group who responded and between them they brought three pairs of binoculars and seven handheld radios. The amateur radio group was tasked to search the rocky shore area next to the beach and this group was the only one on the beach with any binoculars.

The NSRI launched a boat and an Emergency Medical Services helicopter did a search over the water. From the helicopter, a body was seen submerged in the water,  but the waves were too rough for the rescuers  to retrieve it.

On Sunday evening everyone had to stand down. The emergency services have been continuing with the search during the week, but until now the body has not been found.

Andrew, ZS2G ,would like to thank the following who responded to the call:

Mandy ZS2AV, Denise ZS2DG, Colin ZR2CRS,  Graydon ZU2GH,  Mike ZU2MOO,

Dakota ZU2DW, and Bev Higgs , wife of ZS2DH.

Andrew says “A lesson learned by ZS2G during this incident, is always to keep a 2m handheld radio and a pair of binoculars in the car.” Thanks for the insert, Andrew.

And from Riaan Greeff ZS4PR comes a report on the Value Logistics One Cycle Race for 2017, held last Sunday the 29th January. The Vaal Hamnet division was invited by Glynn Chamberlain ZS6GLN of the Gauteng South Hamnet group to assist at this event. Gauteng fielded 18 hams, while Vaal supplied 10, and they assembled on Saturday in the afternoon to install radios and APRS trackers in the ambulances and set up the JOC and the UHF repeaters.

An army marches on its stomach, and so it was that the Vaal team supplied the evening braai and the next morning’s early breakfast. The start was on time, and the race went well, with accident or incident messages clearly relayed to the JOC, manned by a race representative, both ambulance services, traffic and fire department personnel, and HAMNET. 3600 riders were all home by 13h00, and HAMNET Vaal again fed the team at lunchtime.

Riaan says a lot of positive feedback was received from the organisers, and HAMNET in this region left a positive footprint on the community of Midvaal and Meyerton. Thanks Riaan and Glynn for your partnership on the course.

For the second week in a row, the dams in all provinces except the Eastern and Western Cape, are, on average, slightly fuller than last week. The Eastern Cape’s dams are standing at 58% full, like last week, but far behind the 74% full at this time last year. The Western Cape’s dam are on average 38% full, compared to 40% last week, and 46% this time last year. If you remember that the last 10% or so of the dam water will be too muddy to be used for drinking purposes, you realise that the Western Cape is perilously close to a major problem, with enough water perhaps to last until the end of March. The City of Cape Town is cracking down on inconsiderate users, with stiff fines for abuse of water. Potable water may not be used to wash cars or boats, hosepipes may not be used at all, and watering of gardens by bucket or watering can may only happen before 9am or after 6pm on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Tough times indeed.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.