Farmers in the Northern Cape are concerned that urgent drought relief funding of R35.8 million that was availed by the provincial department of agriculture, land reform and rural development in February this year will not reach all farmers in the province by the end of the year.
The drought-relief fund was allocated to ensure that livestock farmers in drought-stricken areas in the Northern Cape are able to purchase fodder through a voucher system with pre-identified agri-businesses.
Farmers in especially the Namakwa district, including the district municipalities of Pixley Ka Seme and ZF Mgcawu, were prioritised as they were identified to be in the critical drought-plagued areas of the province.
President of Agri Northern Cape, Nicol Jansen, says the R35.8 million that was made available by the national treasury through the department of agriculture in February this year has not reached all the farmers in the province.
“There is a hold-up and we would like to see the process being dealt with more swiftly so that the coupons and vouchers can be traded in and help farmers in a quicker and more efficient manner. But we are trying to resolve the issues with the department, and we are trying to find out what is actually the reason for the hold-up,” he says.
Jansen says he is worried that the process is not being rolled out quickly enough and that the year will end with some of the crisis-stricken farmers not having received the vouchers.
“There is movement, but not fast swiftly enough. I’m afraid that some of the farmers will not get the help for Christmas and that is a real concern for me. R139 million was released on a national level to seven of the nine province and from that R139 million, R35,8 million was allocated to the Northern Cape,” he says.
“Some of the provinces managed to utilise their funding swiftly. The Western Cape for example already gave that help to the farmers between March and April of this year, but the Northern Cape was not able to get access to the money from the department of agriculture,” he details.
Jansen indicates that even their attempts to communicate with the department to find out why there have been delays were futile.
“The government gives us a lot of excuses. Each day is another one, but I think in general there is not an urgent understanding of how big the need is or how desperate this help is for the successful applicants. If there is a will there is a way and I didn’t experience the will in the government structures,” he says.
Zandisile Luphahla, spokesperson of the Northern Cape department of agriculture and rural development, disputed the notion that they are delaying processes.
He indicated that when the government allocated drought relief to the Northern Cape it was released to treasury and treasury had to follow a procedures which included publishing the relief paperwork in the Government Gazette, which in turn slowed down the process.
Luphahla reveals that they then decided to continue with the application process in the meantime, which lasted until 16 October 2020. He says once the qualifying farmers were identified they started dispensing the vouchers to them.
“We are in the process of distributing those vouchers to our farmers and we should have delivered those vouchers to all of those farmers in the drought-stricken areas by the 15th of December,” he says.
“So, it is not true that government is dragging their feet we all got money at the same time as other provinces and the gazetting took time. But nevertheless, we manged to reach our deadline and its wrong for anyone to say we have been dragging our feet,” he declares.
Luphahla says the provincial department also had to deal with other crises, like veld fires, and was able to assist farmers with fodder.
“Sometimes it becomes so political especially when people compare the Northern Cape with the Western Cape. But so far, we have been doing our best,” he stipulates.
He indicates that overall, the government has made funding available to the province of close to R100 million since the beginning of the year to assist farmers in the form of drought and covid-19 relief.