The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (agriculture department) announced recently that more than 75 000 subsistence producers would be supported with farming input vouchers.
The Presidential Employment Stimulus initiative for subsistence farmers was aimed at sustaining and increasing employment in the agriculture sector, said agriculture minister Thoko Didiza in a statement.
In addition, the agriculture department said that the implementation of this programme would employ unemployed National Rural Youth Service Corps people and unemployed agricultural graduates to work as verification officers. It was expected that the initiative would support the creation of more than 6 000 temporary jobs.
Dr Kobus Laubscher, agricultural economist and fellow of the World Academy of Productivity Science, said the support vouchers, ranging in value between R1 000 and R9 000, would allow subsistence farmers to procure much needed inputs. It would also help to retain self-employment in the sector while supporting food value chains.
“The fact that the support comes in the form of [vouchers] means that the funds will be used for what it is intended for, namely the production of food.”
This initiative, if managed correctly by the individual recipients, could go a long way to augment food security on grassroots level, according to Laubscher.
This nevertheless depended on the state’s ability to successfully deliver the promised support to the individual applicants. He said it was crucial that mechanisms be put in place to allow for a transparent tracking system between the department and individual recipients, to ensure that the funds reached the people it was intended for.
The National Emergent Red Meat Producers’ Organisation (NERPO) said, however, that the resources could have been better utilised to further aid some of the farmers who were not adequately covered under the COVID-19 Agricultural Disaster Support Fund.
Aggrey Mahanjana, NERPO group managing director, said in a statement that this latest round of support for subsistence farmers was a mere stopgap and not an actual economic stimulus that would change the wave of poverty.
He called on government to rather focus on the critical role of creating sustainable job opportunities in the country.
The application process for these funds opened on 10 December and was set to close on 22 December.
The following minimum qualifying criteria would apply:
- Applicants needed to be 18 years old or older;
- Applicants needed to have a South African ID;
- Applicants cannot be employed by government;
- Applicants must be currently actively involved in agricultural production;
- Applicants must not have received support from the agriculture department in the current financial year.
Moreover, only one application per household would be permitted. Specific targeted commodities that would be supported included vegetables, grains (maize and soya bean), sugar cane, cotton, poultry and livestock.
Provision has been made for the applications to be made via mobile phones by using the departmental USSD code* 134*4536#.
The department would accept 150 000 applications per province, on a first-come, first-served basis.