According to farmers in Mmakgabetlwane, outside Brits, extension officers are demanding ‘fees’ of between R100 and R1 000 for their services. The cattle farmers said even though they buy medicine themselves, extension officers charge them for their help in administering the vaccines. “However, there are no receipts or slips for these payments,” said one farmer, who did not want to be named. He claimed this has been happening since at least 2001 (when he started farming full-time).
The farmers said since government doesn’t allow them to administer certain vaccines themselves, they have to call in extension officers. According to the national department of agriculture’s extension officer norms and standards booklet, funding of this service should be provided by the provincial departments of agriculture. The booklet further states that government will fund the advisory service, especially to poorer clients, while farmers and members of producer organisations with the ability to pay for services will be encouraged to seek these from the private sector.
North West department of agriculture spokesperson Bonolo Mohlakoana said that while most services are free, some veterinary services have a ‘component of cost recovery’ as per the tariff list approved by the Treasury. “At this stage the department is unable to indicate as to whether the cost charged by the implicated animal health technicians was in line with the cost recovery list or not, hence the need for an investigation into the matter,” said Mohlakoana. The farmers who have made the allegations have also made it clear that not all the province’s extension officers are involved.