A government programme which makes tractor services available free of charge to small-scale farmers has stalled, apparently because a service provider has not been appointed.
That’s according to complaints by members of the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (AFASA) in the Ehlanzeni district municipality in Mpumalanga, as reported by the African Eye News Service (AENS).
The farmers complained that the provincial agriculture department has failed to hire a service provider to manage the 33 tractors allocated to the district as part of the Masibuyele Emasimini programme, which makes tractors and implements available to emerging farmers.
The provincial department, however, claimed that a service provider has been appointed, and that preparations are underway for the planting season. “We are told that the service provider has been appointed, but there’s nothing happening,” said Petrus Sithole, AFASA leader in the Ehlanzeni district municipality.
He added that the farmers are running late in terms of preparing their lands and planting. Zanele Shabangu, the Mpumalanga agriculture department’s acting spokesperson, told AENS that the delay in servicing smaller farmers was caused by the need to re-advertise the tender after the contract of the previous service provider lapsed.
“New tender invitations were advertised in national newspapers and the tender bulletin but, after the tender closing date, only two companies responded,” she told AENS. She added that the tender had to be re-advertised, which delayed the original plans to appoint a new service provider by the beginning of August.
The Masibuyele Emasimini programme services two other district municipalites, Gert Sibande and Nkangala. In these districts, service providers have been appointed and farmers are utilising tractors and implements to plough and plant, according to Dr Job Mthombeni, AFASA’s president in Mpumalanga.
However, in Nkangala district municipality, complaints have been raised that there aren’t enough tractors and implements to service small farmers. According to Thokozile Mathelela, AFASA chairperson in the Nkangala District, only four tractors have been allocated to farmers who are farming on a larger scale of 60ha to 150ha, while the rest are allocated to smaller farmers farming on less than 10ha.
“There are about 10 farmers who farm on a scale of 60ha to 150ha and four tractors are not enough for us,” she said. “The service providers in the district only service smaller farmers and we are to do the job ourselves using the four tractors.”
Mathelela added that the larger farmers buy their own diesel and hire their own tractor operators. The provincial Masibuyele Emasimini co-ordinator was not available for comment. – Peter Mashala