To the Farmer: Forgive Us…

Writer Nicole Viljoen is based in the Free State where she has witnessed the drought first hand. Her heartfelt blog post in Afrikaans last week, addressed to the farmers in this dire situation, was shared by tens of thousands. By popular demand she has translated it into English. To read the original Afrikaans post, please click here.

I am not a farmer. My husband and myself have a small holding just outside Bloemfontein where we farm with a few sheep and lucerne.

Drought South Africa

Today was a heart wrenching day for me.

My Damara ram “Oupa” refused to stand up. I tried everything to get him to get back up but alas. He was laying in the sun and I tried to drag him towards the shade as the heat was unbearable.

He fought with a younger ram and I suspect that he obtained injury to his skull. I have to also say that he was very old. He had a great life, always fed, enough water and was taken care of like a king.

The drought was not the reason he passed.

I stared into his eyes while he lay there. I felt so helpless. I sat next to him and cried, thanked him for giving us many pregnant ewes, while trying to get him to at least eat some lucerne I had with me. Nothing.

I contacted my husband to arrange with our foreman to end his misery. I was heartbroken.

This traumatic moment got me thinking. My heart bleeds for the farmer when he knows he has to make a decision to load his gun, walk towards his cattle or sheep, ask for forgiveness – while they stare at him, thinking that maybe he brought food – and pull the trigger.

If I felt that way about one sheep that I had to take care of and had to let go of how must a farmer feel in this situation? What sadness they must feel while having to do this? It’s torture. I cannot imagine how helpless you must feel to look into that animal’s eyes and sense their hunger, knowing you cannot help.

My heart bleeds for the farmer that stick his hands into dry land and only holds dust while he is on his knees praying for rain.

My heart bleeds for the farmer that has sleepless nights wondering how he and his family will survive. I cannot imagine how hard it is to return home, to face his wife and children when he feels this way. So you stay in the field a little longer just to gather yourself.

My heart bleeds for the wives that can do nothing but stand by and watch as their husbands go through hell. My heart bleeds.

My heart bleeds for the farmworkers who don’t know whether they will still have jobs. They have families that depend on them too.

My heart bleeds for the animals who so desperately want food that they run alongside the fences towards the farmer’s vehicle when they see him and all he can do is to show them empty hands. How helpless must one person feel when they cannot provide for their animals? All he can do is say “I have nothing”.

My heart bleeds for the farmer who feels like a failure because he cannot provide. The helplessness must be overwhelming to say the least.

I looked at my plate tonight and realized that everything on it comes from a farmer. I realized how I never just sat down and said thank you to our farmers. I was embarrassed. I struggled to eat. I was overcome with sadness.

Farmers, forgive us.

Forgive us for never realizing the impact you actually have on our lives.

Forgive us for taking everything for granted. Our meat is packaged neatly and our vegetables washed and fresh in the stores. People don’t realize if they pick up a product in a store how much blood and sweat went into producing the very food we need to survive.

Forgive us for thinking that food is a right. That food will always be there. We don’t realize that tomorrow it could be gone.

Forgive us for not realizing how good you are to us. I believe you are the people in this country who ask for the least but actually need the most. You never make noise when times are tough. You just go down on your knees and pray. You trust that there will be provided for you.

I read about farmers who sat in their barns and pulled the trigger and ended their own lives. That they prefer death instead of the sadness and helplessness.

“A Captain never leaves his ship,” they say. I cannot even begin to imagine how desperate and sad a farmer must be to do this. Nobody wants to be seen as a disappointment. Not to his fellow man, his farm or his animals. It makes my heart heavy.

Forgive us for just shaking our heads and only feeling sorry.

Forgive us for liking a post with no actual thought about what you are facing. We like and sympathize then move on with our day. A like on a Facebook post doesn’t provide feed for your animals, a like doesn’t bring rain and a like doesn’t save lives. Our opinions don’t change the reality you are facing every day.

I feel people who aren’t farmers are too afraid to actually realize what is happening. We prefer not to think about it. We cast a blind eye. We prefer to believe that everything will work out and be ok.

Forgive us. I don’t think people want to be sad. If I felt so heart sore because of one sheep I cannot imagine the pain you have to feel for a whole field or barn full of animals. I cannot imagine the strain you take when you cannot plant your crops and provide.

Forgive us that we cannot feel your desperation. We don’t know what it is to have to give away livestock just because we don’t have food for them. We complain about plants dying in our gardens and how unfair life is. We don’t understand how it feels to be standing where crops should be, in the dust, only to look up to the heavens and ask “why” while the desperation and sadness overcome you.

We don’t understand, forgive us. We don’t understand the love, determination, perseverance and faith it takes to feed a nation. We can learn so much from you.

Forgive us for not always being able to help. We have taken you and everything you do for us for granted. Farmers are supposed to supply, that’s their job right? Forgive our arrogance and ignorant attitudes.

I admire each farmer, large and small. I want you to know that you are in my prayers. I want you to know that you are the foundation of this country and that without you we can do nothing. Take heart, help is coming. Take heart, people are praying for you. Help is on the way! Have courage, we need you!

Forgive us.

This article first appeared on NICOLE VILJOEN’s blog – Nicole Will Write – and is republished here with Nicole’s kind permission.


Nicole is an animal-lover, based in Bloemfontein, Free State where she is an MC, writer, lyricist, voice-over artist, radio presenter, motivational speaker and entrepreneur.

“I love working with people and reminding them that they are amazing – it doesn’t matter what circumstances they are facing in their lives. Life is too short for regrets.”

Follow her blog: Nicole Will Write