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October 03, 2011

Provincial tractors scheme for new South African farmers off to slow start

Members of the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa in the Ehlanzeni district have accused the provincial department of agriculture, rural development and land administration of failing to hire a service provider to manage the 33 tractors under the programme.

The tractors are owned by the state, but are managed by service providers who, in turn, make the tractors and their drivers available to emerging farmers free of charge.

“Cotton farmers in the Nkomazi region were supposed to have started planting this month, but they are stuck because the tractors are locked up because the department still hasn't hired a service provider. We are all therefore affected and urge the department to give us full control so that we can manage these tractors on our own,” said association secretary Petrus Sithole.

Sithole said the association's branches across the province were willing to elect governing bodies to help run the programme in their respective areas.

“Our counterparts in other provinces have already started with soil preparation and cultivation practices while we are struggling to till our pieces of land, this holds us back,” said Sithole, who is a maize farmer.

Sithole said the move would also ensure that farmers were unable to bribe tractor drivers into giving them preferential treatment. He said every farmer would be on a list indicating the number of hectares that need to be ploughed.

The Masibuyele Emasimini programme was introduced in 2005 to encourage communities to take advantage of government's agriculture-related projects.

The project affords black farmers a realistic chance to improve production, increase yields and gain access to domestic and global markets.

A cotton farmer from Sekhwahlane village near Malalane, James Biya, said he had to use his own money to plough his farm because he could not afford to miss the planting period.

“Planting time is very crucial when farming cotton because you need to prepare the soil first. The project has indeed failed; I will now only be able to farm 3ha while my farm is about 7ha,” said Biya.

During her recent budget speech, Agriculture MEC Candith Mashego Dlamini said the province had allocated R170m for the Masibuyele Emasimini programme, R42m of which would be used by the capitalisation programme.

News 24

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