Gauteng farming co-ops need improved support

Adriana Randall MPL

DA Gauteng Spokesperson on Finance:

The Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development failure to assist farming co-operatives will limit economic growth and job opportunities for rural communities.

 

In a written response to DA questions over assistance to the Tomonk Farming Co-operative near Cullinan, lack of funds, poor communication and half-hearted coordination between the department and beneficiaries has caused this Co-op and its potential growth irreparable harm.

 

This includes:

  • The forced sharing of equipment such as tractors, agricultural machinery and equipment with another co-op, Supagrand Milling, nearly 40 kilometres away. Due to the distances involved, the practice has become unsustainable;
  • The department could not appoint a mentor to assist with the farm’s development to due limited funds for farmer training;
  • Departmental assistance for four hydroponic tunnels, seedlings and fertilizers never materialised;
  • A contract to drill and equip boreholes was turned down and farmers were merely informed the project would be postponed by a year;
  • No emergency funding was made available to assist after damage caused by a hail storm in September 2014.

 

During his State of the Province Address, premier David Makhura outlined a grand scheme to create agricultural hubs to speed up job creation and economic growth.

 

The horticultural sector is the second largest income earner with 21% of the province’s gross agricultural income, and presents huge opportunities for small farmers to create jobs and grow the Gauteng economy.

 

Assisting emerging farmers to build sustainable commercial enterprises is not done through extension officers visiting only three times per year and sharing machinery and equipment with others – it is done though ongoing mentorships and training backed up by the technical resources.

 

If this department wants to make good on Premier Makhura’s promises, it needs to ensure that objectives are coupled with a budget that promotes all aspects of agricultural development.