Gauteng emerging farmers failed by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development

It is disheartening that the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is failing on one of its core mandates, which is to focus on the commercialisation of smallholder farmers. In partnership with the Land Bank, R1, 95 billion has been allocated over the next three years to assist emerging farmers to participate in the mainstream agriculture economy.

This money is meant for commercialising producers, especially black producers that are experiencing challenges in accessing the markets, finance, and technical support, as well as the lack of skill and capacity to be competitive.

TIA Farming Projects started with aquaculture in 2018, realising a market opportunity in farming with tilapia as an untapped market. Due to the quality of their product, they were inundated with orders and could not keep up with the need, which was a challenge.

TIA Farming Projects approached a venture capital firm to assist with funds. However, the department also approached the company and was excited about getting involved in aquaculture and offered to provide financing. The farm then declined the available venture capital and waited on the department’s promises for assistance when an Environmental Impact Assessment by the department was embarked on in 2019.

It is now more than three years later, and this company has still not received a single cent from a department that has promised them heaven and earth to a new start-up company. To survive and cover the cost of electricity and feed they have now started growing cucumbers in the shade houses that previously housed 10 tilapia tanks.

This department that promised to develop and grow farmers has destroyed the potential of promising lucrative farming enterprises. In its false promise the department has also spurned the opportunity for private sector investment via possible venture capital funds. This creates an unattractive environment in the agricultural sector as a result of the department not providing certainty around support for the sector. This only hampers job creation and economic growth in the province.

A DA government proposes the following:

• Conduct proper research on exactly what assistance smallholder farmers need;
• Do proper costing and evaluations;
• Provide support in the forms of both grants and loans.

It is high time that this department starts delivering on its core mandate. Through all the mechanisms in place at the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL), we will be pushing for the MEC Mbali Hlophe, to urgently put a turnaround strategy in place, so that smallholder farmers can get the assistance they need.


Gauteng Agriculture Department fails to provide training to smallholder farmers

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is deeply concerned that the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development failed to meet its set target for the training of smallholder farmers in the province.

This was revealed in the department’s fourth quarter report for the 2019/2020 financial year.

According to the report the department was supposed to provide training to 580 smallholder farmers. However, the department only managed to train 188 smallholder farmers.

The reasons cited for department not meeting this target were the delays in procurement for the training that needed to take place for smallholder farmers.

In addition, the department also failed to meet its target of providing agricultural advice to 620 smallholder producers. The department only managed to provide support to 266 smallholder producers.

Providing training and agricultural advice to smallholder farmers and smallholder producers plays an important role in empowering them with knowledge and skills to ensure food security and job creation in the province.

This department is known for not providing adequate support to smallholder producers and smallholder farmers, even though there is a budget allocated for this.

I will be tabling further questions in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature to ascertain exactly how the department intends ensuring that the targets set for this programme are met.

e-Invoicing system critical to ensuring suppliers are paid on time

The Democratic Alliance is concerned that the Department of Agricultural and Rural Development is only at a 63% compliance rate when it comes to e-invoicing.

This despite the department not having any capacity constraints.

This was revealed by the Gauteng MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development, Kgosientso Ramokgopa, in a written reply to my questions tabled in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature for written reply.

According to the MEC the department has been using the e-invoicing system since 22 January 2008.

In addition, of the 1 262 invoices received by the department, 801 were processed through the e-invoicing system and only 461 payments were processed as non-purchased order-based payments.

These are for payments such as water and electricity, bursary payments, payments made to ex-employees and payment to other departments.

e-Invoicing plays an important role in ensuring that suppliers are paid on time. Furthermore, it also ensures that the department is able to account for the money spent on goods and services.

During Premier David Makhura’s State of the Province Address (SOPA) in July he reiterated that the e-invoicing system must be used as it will assist in eliminating human intervention where possible irregularities could arise.

I have already tabled follow-up questions to the MEC regarding the compliance rate with the e-invoicing system, to determine exactly why there is not a 100% compliance rate.

ANC-led Gauteng overspends on salaries, underspends in critical areas

by Mike Moriarty MPL – DA Gauteng Provincial Legislature Chief Whip

The ANC-led Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG) has in the 2017/18 overspent on salaries by R942 million yet failed to spend on critical Goods and Services.

According to the GPG fourth quarterly report, the GPG has underspent on Goods and Services by R1.6 billion for 2017/18 financial year.

Furthermore, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD) only managed to spend R750 million (77%) of their budget for the 2017/2018 financial year.

The GDARD also performed poorly in spending its Conditional Grant and Infrastructure allocations which has a detrimental impact on service delivery.

The R221 million that was not spent by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development could have been used to help train emerging and small-scale farmers and assist co-operatives. By not spending their Conditional Grant, the department runs the risk of having their budget cut for the next financial year.

The Department of E-government only managed to spend 91% of their allocated budget.

While, the Department of Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation (SACR), only managed to spend 87.4% of its budget.

SRAC only spent 46% of its infrastructure budget, leading to a backlog in the building and maintenance of sporting facilities in the province.

It is worrying that the GPG and its departments are failing to spend their allocated budgets while there is a dire need for service delivery in our communities.

Failure by provincial departments to spend their allocated budgets may see a cut in future budget allocations.

The DA will question why GPG departments have failed to spend their allocated budgets and what steps will be taken in future to avert this from happening again.

It is clear that Gauteng needs change, the kind of change that only a DA-led government can deliver, where the people’s money is spent on improving the lives of the people, not politicians.

Dpt. of Agriculture and Rural Development fails Gauteng farmers

The DA is concerned that the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has failed to meet its targets for its Farmer Support and Development programme during the second quarter of the 2017/2018 financial year.

Training of women and commercial farmers is important as they will be provided with the necessary skills needed to help alleviate poverty as well as ensure the transfer of critical skills.

The department only managed to support three out of a target of 15 women farmers, while only seven commercial farmers out of the targeted 20 were supported.

The current economic climate in the country is pushing up the price of food, while the drought currently being experienced in some parts of the country has a negative impact on crops, livestock and rooftop farms.

In the research and technology development programme, the department intended to train 80 farmers in water saving technologies, but this did not take place because the appointment of a service provider was delayed.

This is unacceptable as the agriculture sector has the potential to boost the economy of Gauteng, which in turn will lead to the creation of more job opportunities.

By not meeting the targets set by the department, the ANC-led government shows that it does not care about the people of Gauteng.

The DA calls on the MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development, Lebogang Maile to urgently do more to ensure that women farmers are given the support they need so that they are able to provide for their families.

We also call on the MEC to ensure that the 80 farmers who were supposed to be trained in water saving technologies receive this training as a matter of urgency.

The DA will continue to put pressure on the MEC to ensure that farmers receive the training and education that they need.

The DA believes that agriculture plays a huge role in food security and it is the government’s responsibility to provide an enabling environment for this economic activity.