15 000 out of over 55 000 applications for Covid-19 agriculture relief fund approved so far
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Pretoria – To date, 15,036 out of the 55,155 applications for assistance from the coronavirus (Covid-19) agriculture disaster relief fund have been approved, Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza said on Sunday.
The R1.2 billion relief fund aims to address the effects of the coronavirus and ensure sustainable food production post the pandemic, she said in a statement.
The smallholder and communal farmers’ application process opened on April 8 and closed on April 22, and 33,000 manual application forms were distributed through the department's provincial and district offices, commodity and civil society organisations.
“I am pleased to announce that after the closing date, 55,155 applications were received. The Eastern Cape province received the highest number of applications, followed by the Northern Cape and North West.
"To date, 15,036 applications have been approved, valued just over R500 million, in favour of smallholder and communal farmers,” Didiza said.
The department would finalise its decision on the remaining applications in the next week.
“Of the 15,036 approved applications, 5 494 are women, 2 493 youth and 224 people living with disability, and males at 9 542. Livestock has been the most requested commodity by farmers, followed by vegetables, poultry, and fruits.
"Each of the approved farmers will receive inputs in line with the size of their farming operations up to a maximum of R50,000,” she said.
A further R400 million was being channelled to farmers within the proactive land acquisition strategy (PLAS) who were already approved for the department’s stimulus package, as they had initially been budgeted for in the 2019/2020 financial year.
“It must be noted that an amount of R600 million had to be reprioritised from the stimulus package on PLAS farms in the 2019/2020 budget to assist the other smallholder and communal farmers in terms of this Covid-19 intervention,” Didiza said.
The issuing of vouchers to provinces would start on Monday. The department engaged the services of different suppliers through an open supply chain management (SCM) process to avoid any delay in the delivery of the inputs.
Didiza said a number of lessons had been learned from the process, which would require government and the sectors, especially commodity groups working with small-scale and subsistence farmers, to build on.
Among others, the department had noted the lack of proper documentation or filing of documents by farmers.
“It saddens me that during this process many of them fell by the wayside because they could not provide proof that they are farmers or farming.
"The registration of farmers on the producer farmer register will enable government to locate farmers so that targeted support can be provided,” she said.
She urged farmer organisations to assist farmers in formalising their operations, especially insofar as record-keeping was concerned.
Didiza also made it clear that monitoring and evaluation of the programme was very important to ensure value for money and food production.
Therefore, the department would work with various NGOs and civil society organisations to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the intervention on the ground.
“Through this intervention, we want to ensure that agricultural production continues to ensure food security for the country. Food is being produced at farm level and deliveries are made to wholesalers, retailers, fresh produce markets and other critical distribution points.
“We urge the food value chain roleplayers to strictly comply and adhere to strict health regulations to contain and arrest the spread of Covid-19 as we strive to supply food to the nation,” Didiza said.