Agriculture Department’s performance: a blow to emerging farmers

By Bosman Grobler MPL, Spokesperson on Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs:

Emerging farmers in Mpumalanga don’t only have to battle against elements such as drought, hail and an un-inclusive economy; they also have to bear the brunt of the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs’ (DARDLEA) shortcomings.

In its annual report for the 2014/15 financial year, DARDLEA has shown once again that it is not committed to uplifting emerging farmers. The department spent almost its entire budget of over R1 billion to only meet 63.8% of its set targets.

Year after year, emerging farmers under the Masibuyele Emasimini programme are made to wait long periods for tractors to plough their land. Sometimes these tractors don’t even arrive, forcing the farmers to plough small and unprofitable plots. According to the annual report, over 10 000ha of land belonging to land and agricultural reform beneficiaries was left unploughed. As a result, DARDLEA could only create 381 jobs out of a targeted 566.

The Department claims to have achieved 14 out of 20 of its targets in the farmer support and development programme but when giving his opinion on the performance of DARDLEA, the Auditor General was unable to validate these statistics.

What is surprising is that DARDLEA was able to supply numerous heads of cattle from the Masibuyele Esibayeni project to traditional leaders this past weekend, yet the matter concerning farmers in Thembisile Hani municipality who lost their cattle in a natural disaster was closed without adequately compensating all the farmers.

The DA has been calling on DARDLEA MEC, Andries Gamede, to support emerging farmers as, given the opportunity, they will form the backbone of our economy. These calls have evidently fallen on deaf ears as it is clear that MEC Gamede has no plan to see emerging farmers prosper.

With Mpumalanga being added to the list of provinces affected by the drought, it has become even more crucial for MEC Gamede to reign himself in and focus on helping emerging farmers survive this tough period.