By Bosman Grobler MPL, DA Spokesperson on Agriculture, Rural Development, Land Affairs and Environment:
The Department of Agriculture must explore different ways to empower emerging farmers under its Masibuyele Emasimini programme.
During a recent oversight visit to the department of Agriculture’s extension office in Tembisile Hani municipality, The DA was concerned by the poor working conditions of tractor drivers and the apparent mismanagement of assets.
Emerging farmers in the area reported that it was difficult to get support from the Masibuyele Emasimini programme administrators because of the department’s poor communication and planning. They also reported that the department’s severe mismanagement of assets was denying them the opportunity to take full advantage of farming opportunities.
During the oversight visit and through engagement with some of the emerging farmers, we found that;
- Of the 17 tractors available only 8 are in working condition, 3 were completely irreparable, 3 severely damaged and 3 had flat tyres.
- Even when the drivers of the tractors wanted to fix them, it is not allowed, as the repair was only done on contract.
- The process of obtaining authority to repair the tractors was marred with bureaucracy which meant that broken tractors stood for up to 3 months waiting to be fixed.
- The tractors were not secured which resulted in some of their parts being stolen.
- There was no job security as contract workers complained that they got paid different amounts and did not have a fixed payment date.
- Employees of the Masibuyele Emasimini programme had no tools or safety gear.
- Many employees were frustrated that systems and structures were not in place to help emerging farmers satisfactory.
I will write a letter to Agriculture MEC, Andries Gamede, asking him to explore different avenues to empower both those employed by the Masibuyele Emasimini programme and emerging farmers.
As many of the Masibuyele Emasimini employees reported that when ploughing season was over, there was nothing to do but sit and wait for the next ploughing season, the department must take this opportunity to give them alternative skills. Through short courses and other skills development training methods, the department can empower the workers to provide better assistance to emerging farmers. If the tractor drivers were afforded the opportunity to get accreditation, they could fix the tractors themselves; cutting down the money and time it takes to have them repaired.
The department of Agriculture plays a pivotal role in creating an opportunity based society in Mpumalanga. By ensuring that the department’s employees have multiple skills, MEC Gamede will empower many people and possibly even attract young people to the agricultural sector.