- A R500-million project intended to help emerging black farmers is on the brink of collapse
- In June 2010, former president Jacob Zuma handed over 85 new tractors to the Masibuyele Emasimini project
- Discussions about the need to recapitalise agricultural colleges are underway
In June 2010, President Jacob Zuma handed over 85 new tractors to the Masibuyele Emasimini (back to the fields) project in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal to encourage small scale farming.
Of the 32 new tractors allocated to the Dr JS Moroka municipality in Mpumalanga, only six are still running. The rest haven't been serviced and stand idle.
Tractor drivers in Machiding, went on strike in March because, they say, they have not been paid. They struggle to afford diesel fuel and repairs for the tractors.
In Mmametlhake and Marapyane, 17 of the tractors allocated to the area were broken or had no fuel, resulting in more than 30 farmers not planting 65ha of sunflower seeds this season.
The African Farmers’ Association of SA said a total of 185000ha of once productive, redistributed land in KwaZulu-Natal was standing idle as farmers waited to benefit from the project.
The neglect of agricultural colleges was raised in parliament and acknowledged by Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana, Briefly.co.za gathered.
Annette Steyn, a member of parliament’s portfolio committee on agriculture, forestry and fisheries, said the state of the agricultural colleges was not a good sign for government's ambitions to support emerging black farmers.
Disintegrating infrastructure and staff shortages were undermining the efforts of agricultural extension officers to support farmers, Steyn said.
Emerging farmer Abios Maloka said 25ha of maize went to waste last season because the fields had not been ploughed in time .
“Instead of assisting farmers, [the programme] brought devastation and hopelessness. Before, we would plan in advance to get the fields ploughed but we were given a false sense of hope. Now we are sitting with heaps of fertiliser and seed that has not been used.”
Job Mthombeni, president of the African Farmers’ Association of SA in Mpumalanga, said the association had told the government of its concerns. He added the project ran smoothly until November, when the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries took over the management of the programme.
“Since then we started getting complaints about tractors breaking down, not ploughing in time for planting and drivers not getting paid,” he said.
The association’s president in KwaZulu-Natal, Mandla Mthembu, said the tractors should have been given to farmers and not to the provincial departments. Department spokesman Bheki Nyathikazi did not respond to questions.
The DA's Eastern Cape leader Athol Trollip, believes all agricultural colleges need recapitalisation.
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