Farmers' experiences and coping after disastrous veld fires in the North West Province
Becker, Herman Christiaan Johannes
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Research into the psychological consequences of natural disasters in South Africa remains largely unexplored. This is surprising, given the devastating economical and psychological ramifications that result from major catastrophic events. No research has been done relating specifically to the experiences and coping strategies of fanners who have experienced a veld fire disaster in South Africa. Farmers constitute an important sub-group for study as they may be psychologically at risk to the effects of disasters. In the international research arena exploration of the long-term consequences of disasters is lacking. In considering the question of coping following a disaster, few studies have focused on the influence of temporal dynan1ics, which would seem to be crucial to the outcomes of coping strategies. This study aims to address these gaps in the literature by exploring the experiences and coping strategies of farmers who have experienced a veld fire disaster which occurred in the North West Province of South Africa on 23 August 2011. The total financial loss as a result of the fire amounted to R42 276 I 71. The fires were allegedly caused by damaged power lines, which produced sparks and ignited the nearby veld. This study used a qualitative design. This methodological approach was adopted for its ability to capture the complex and time-sensitive dynamics of coping strategies. This was combined with a case study approach, based on the experiences and coping strategies of eight farmers who had experienced a veld fire disaster within the boundaries of one geographical area. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the farmers in their homes and were recorded, transcribed and thematically analysed. The results of the analysis showed that the farmers progressed through three time periods with distinct patterns of experience and corresponding coping strategies. The person environment relationship, as well as transitioning situational demands inherent in this relationship, were found to be crucial in determining the outcomes of the fanners experiences and coping strategies. The results also suggest that successful coping is reliant on the individual’s ability to continually adapt their coping strategies in a context-appropriate manner. It is recommended that psychological debriefing should be avoided and that crisis intervention teams (CIT) should focus on the long-term consequences of the veld fire. Future coping research needs to take the temporal aspects of coping into account.
- Humanities