Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza briefs the media in Pretoria on the Agricultural Disaster Fund application process. File picture: GCIS
Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza briefs the media in Pretoria on the Agricultural Disaster Fund application process. File picture: GCIS

Nearly 15 000 smallholder farmers set to access Covid-19 relief aid

By Siviwe Feketha Time of article published May 19, 2020

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Financially distressed farmers are set to know this week if they will be among the nearly 15 000 smallholder farmers who will be benefiting from the multi-million rand Covid-19 relief assistance which will be released by the Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Department.

On Sunday, Minister Thoko Didiza outlined the status of applications for the R1.2billion agricultural relief.

She said R600million had been set aside for smallholder farmers on private and communal land.

Didiza revealed that of the 55155 total applications received from farmers, the department had approved 15036, with a value of just over R500m being planned for allocation to them.

Each of the successful applicants would receive assistance in line with their farming operation up to a maximum of R50000, which would include money, livestock and other support measures, Didiza indicated.

“Livestock has been the highest commodity requested by farmers at more than 7000, followed by vegetables at about 3000 farmers and poultry at about 2500 farmers,” she said.

Didiza said a number of the many farmers who were not successful were not making the R20000 annual turnover prescribed as the criteria for receiving support.

She said many others failed to convincingly prove that they were legitimate farmers.

“Some of the farmers who fell off could not produce the documentation that shows that they are operating on a particular piece of land, and whether that land is privately owned or in traditional areas.

“Actually we had no sense that those farmers are farming anywhere.”

Didiza said the farming operations of the concerned applicants could not be verified even after extension officers tried to conduct oversight and assessment on the applications.

“There was no verification that convinced our extension officers that these indeed were people who are producers.” she said.

Didiza said many farmers were found to have difficulty in record-keeping, resulting in them being unable to verify the turnover of their farming activities, including during the applications.

She called on the unsuccessful farmers not to lose hope as there would be other departmental interventions that were being rolled out in collaboration with provinces.

“I appeal to those farmers who might not have been successful to approach our provincial offices and I am sure they will be assisted,” she said.

She indicated that the interventions would also be targeted at subsistence farmers as they were a “necessary element in our food system and must be assisted”.

She said R400m of the funds would be directed to the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy programme, which involves 146 farmers who are leasing about 216000 hectares of government land, with some of the remaining funds ring-fenced for the procurement of protective gear for farm workers.

Didiza said farmers would be briefed this week on whether or not they were among the successful applicants eligible to receive the assistance.

Political Bureau

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