Last update: April 5, 2012 09:19:32 AM E-mail Print

 

Karoo farmers – beware of your veld paths

E. LE F. TERBLANCHE

 

Veld paths are essential on the Karoo farm. They link the homestead to the rest of the farm.

However, I hasten to add that some of the most serious cases of erosion have been caused by old paths. The present treatment and condition of veld paths could cause serious damage and the problem should be tackled in all earnest.

In modern times the light delivery van has become the farmer's saddle horse. Windmills, stock-watering points and veld camps are now regularly visited via veld paths. During the recent drought food had to be transported to the different camps to feed the animals. For this purpose farmers required additional paths through the veld. New paths were started, either by making them or by driving repeatedly along the same track.

It is alarming to see how many new paths have been started and allowed to develop only a few yards away from the old impassable one. Thousands of miles of these winding paths form a network through the veld and each part may be regarded as a potential erosion spot. Precautionary steps will have to be taken and every farmer will have to contribute his share by protecting, improving and maintaining his own farm paths.

In the first place, the number of farm paths should be restricted to .a minimum. New paths should be started only when absolutely necessary. For example, when a new borehole is being sunk, try to make the path leading to it run as straight as possible from an existing path or from the homestead.

Paths should not be started by repeatedly driving along the same track, as is customary, for in this case all the open and soft parts are chosen for this purpose.

Avoid making roads in those parts of the veld which are most susceptible to soil erosion, such as watercourses or vleis. If this cannot be avoided, try to drive as little as possible in the same direction of the slope of the soil.

Protect the path by judicious placement of cross-banks which will allow the water to run down the sides of the path, depending on the specific circumstances, or where the water can flow around both ends of the bank, thus being distributed evenly. This will prevent the water from running along the tracks of the road and the central ridge from becoming too high later on. Gravel the cross-banks so that they cannot easily be trampled down- or washed away. Guard against water holes forming behind and in front of cross-banks, for as soon as vehicles get stuck here, a new road will develop as a result of driving around the end of the cross-bank.

If there is no other alternative but for the veld path to pass through a ditch, select the position very carefully to ensure that it will be a permanent passage. If the ditch becomes impassable, not only will a new passage have to be made, but also a new path to the passage.

Employees should not be allowed to drive about in the veld as they please. Often farm labourers crisscross the farm with donkey carts, in search of firewood. The sheep, in turn, follow these paths and trample them out. Later these little paths are used by other vehicles and eventually they become actual veld roads.

Soft parts in the road should be gravelled as soon as possible to avoid the formation of water holes in which vehicles may get stuck. We often see a road with a half formed track next to it. The road is used when it is dry, while the track is used when water holes make the straight road impassable.

Farms will always have veld paths, but the sooner we realise the potential danger of these paths, the better.

 

Published

Farming in South Africa 38 (7)