The president of the National African Farmers Union (Nafu) warned farmers this week against the slippery slope of corruption, and against bringing petty politics into farming.
“We must not mince our words; we need to make money,” said Motsepe Matlala while warning farmers that the misuse of funds, and corruption, could lead to the total collapse of good initiatives that create hundreds of jobs.
He believed infighting amongst members of agricultural organisations was hampering the development of the sector. The only way to ensure growth and transformation was to leave politics out of agriculture.
“We cannot eat politics; we need to make money. Let us leave politics for politicians.”
Matlala was speaking at the launch of a long-awaited project in the ZF Mgcawu district of the Northern Cape. The project was actioned after deputy president David Mabuza visited the province in 2019 to assess the effects of drought on local farmers.
The Northern Cape department of agriculture, environmental affairs, rural development and land reform supplied the start-up capital to plant lucerne and maize in the area to help surrounding farmers have feed available in times of drought.
The department partnered with Nafu as administrator on the two-phased initiative. The project is expected to grow to such an extent that it will create 200 jobs in nearby towns like Keimoes and Kakamas.
‘Every cent counts’
While there was much jubilation at the launch of the R3.2 million project, Matlala warned all stakeholders and beneficiaries to be prudent; failure to do so could have dire consequences for food security and job creation in the province.
“We all know that government does not have money. We as farmers [must] use the resources that are given to us wisely. We have to guard against corruption [and] we have to make sure that thieves are in jail.”
Matlala believed growth in the agricultural industry was of the utmost importance to increase the food security margin in the country. At the same time, he cautioned government not to neglect other pressing issues such as water rights, poor roads networks, subsidies for insurance and challenges with water boards. Without addressing these issues, the sector could not grow.
“Water is a critical matter in farming. Whatever you farm, you cannot do anything without water. Our water boards are not efficient [and] government needs to address this.”
A promise to sort out shared problems
Northern Cape agri MEC Mase Manopole, who was also accompanied by Raisin SA CEO Ferdie Botha who had committed to support the farmers in their endeavours, promised to convene an agricultural lekgotla. She intended to bring all role players in the sector around the same table, and to find lasting solutions to farmers’ challenges.
She said she had already spoken to her counterpart from the department of public works to ensure that roads leading to the farming community were maintained, as they both understood the significant impact that agriculture had in the province. “There will be a plan of action [from us] as sister departments for developing the infrastructure in the farming community.”
Gerome Beukes, on whose farm the lucerne will be grown, said he was grateful for being chosen as beneficiary of the much-anticipated project.
“I feel very humbled and I believe that this project is going to change the lives of the people who will be working here. With unemployment being so high, this will go a long way to alleviate poverty.
“Importantly, this will serve as fodder for farmers in our areas, which will also assist in boosting the economy of our small towns. [We need] not rely on going to bigger towns [anymore],” he said.
We will not disappoint
Manopole welcomed the launch of a project with such high job creation potential, but appealed to beneficiaries to give women a place in leading it.
The provincial president of Nafu, Abi Messelaar, promised that his organisation would ensure that every cent was used as intended, and to increase the footprint to other drought-prone areas. “We have heard the MEC’s plea. This project will include women and youth. We are going to make sure that as many people as possible benefit from it.”
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