After a communication gap of almost a year between the minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, and the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (Afasa), the organisation expressed its satisfaction with a recent meeting that took place in Pretoria.
The minister even undertook to meet with farmers’ unions at least four times a year. The meeting came after Afasa had complained that it was disturbed by what it called a lack of commitment and direction from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
Mike Mlengana, president of Afasa, said although they had had to attend the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries before meeting the minister, they were pleased to have achieved good results.
“Our problem was that our relationship with the department and minister was not where we wanted it to be,” he explained. Mlengana said that Joemat-Pettersson had been very positive during the meeting and had committed herself to working with Afasa.
“Among other things, we’ve discussed issues such as access to markets, our dissatisfaction over the current state of extension services and the farmer register programme. We’ve managed to share our plans with the minister,” he said.
The National Emergent Red Meat Producers’ Organisation (Nerpo) also attended the meeting on the basis that it supplies secretariat services to Afasa. According to Langelihle Simela, Nerpo CEO, there has been a lack of communication between farmers’ organisations and the department.
She said they had discovered at the meeting that the department had been working on many programmes that farmers’ organisations knew nothing about. “The department has been restructuring and putting together strategies without consulting farmers’ representatives,” she added.
Simela said the minister had promised to set up a delivery forum comprising agricultural unions and provincial departments of agriculture. According to Langa Zita, director-general of the department, the forum had been introduced by President Jacob Zuma to monitor government departments.
He said the department saw farmers’ unions as important parts of the delivery forum. “We were able to share with Afasa all our programmes and invited them to be part of the implementation process of the Zero Hunger strategy,” said Zita. – Peter Mashala