Emerging Farmers

Emerging Farmer Projects

Municipal government wasting funds on poorly run poverty relief schemes

Collaboration needed to help emerging farmers attain economic independence

It is imperative that the government's poverty relief schemes introduced to emerging farmers are properly implemented and monitored. The lack of infrastructure, service delivery, education, skills development, and ongoing monitoring may mean that millions of rands go to waste, rendering these programmes inefficient and obsolete; severely affecting farmers, their communities, and the welfare of the animals in their care.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan highlighted the importance of funding for employment projects related to smallholder farmers in his 2016 Budget Speech, further emphasising that agriculture plays a major role in the economy, and is key to ending poverty. He also highlighted the fact that funds have been reprioritized to respond to the impact of the drought on the farming sector and water-stressed communities, however acknowledged that NGOs have led the way in responding to the impact of the drought.

Minister Gordhan mentioned that The Land Bank has set aside a concessionary loan facility to assist farmers in recovering from the impact of the current drought conditions. Over the next three years R15 billion is allocated for land acquisition, farm improvements and expanding agro-processing opportunities. Minister Gordhan mentioned that budget allocations for water infrastructure this year take into account the special needs of drought-affected areas and that funds have been provided for feed and support for livestock farmers, and disaster relief measures.

However, funding these projects and a desire to reduce poverty and provide relief alone is not enough. The National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) believes that a collaboration between government, private sector, and animal welfare organisations is needed to help emerging farmers attain economic independence.

The NSPCA is opposed to all forms of farming and animal husbandry practices which cause suffering or distress to animals.

While we commend the government for recognising the importance of developing poverty relief programmes, a proper action plan needs to be included and implemented to ensure their success.

Mr. Senzeni Zokwana, Minister of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), mentions in the Department’s Strategic Plan 2015/16 – 2019/20 that, to address the daily issues in livestock farming, the call is on bringing veterinary health services closer to those who need them the most. He further states that they will ensure animal disease management and access to primary health—care services through the implementation of an integrated animal disease and management plan.

The implementation of compulsory community service by deploying veterinary graduates to the rural areas and delivering primary health-care equipment to the provinces is mentioned in the strategy. Furthermore, rural infrastructure will be revitalised and this will include animal health clinics, dipping tanks and other animal handling facilities. Extension services will also be brought closer to the people who require their assistance the most.

All the ideas have merit, however the implementation of the Strategy has been slow.

Government and municipalities need to engage with stakeholders to discover the true needs of the community, their level of progress, and what does the community lack in order to make the programme a success. When a poverty relief programme fails, the farmer, the community, and the animals suffer.

According to DAFF, the Livestock Development Strategy was developed and is currently being implemented to address this challenge. The aim of the policies and the strategy is to make sure that the livestock industry performs at its optimum capacity, with emphasis on providing support to emerging black farmers to be able to participate in the mainstream activities as per the DAFF website.

As outlined in the Department’s Strategic Plan 2015/16 – 2019/20, as per the National Development Plan (NDP), the focus will be on support to subsistence and smallholder producers to ensure that a third of the food surplus should be produced from small-scale farmers or households. According to DAFF, currently, more than half of all smallholder households live below the poverty line.

Farming by emerging farmers is often characterized by overstocking and poor productivity, coupled with inadequate support structures, this leads to low animal welfare standards.

These poor conditions were highlighted in Clarens, in the Eastern Free State. In 2012, the Dihlabeng Municipal Poverty Relief Scheme apparently provided 1 000 chickens to the local community, all of which are alleged to have died. It is believed that earlier this year the municipality supplied an additional 2 000 chickens to the same community. As of the beginning of August 2013, one quarter of the chickens are reported to have already died. Unacceptable living conditions are believed to have lead to the deaths, including neglect, a lack of access to food and water, dirty housing, a lack of heaters, and broken shades on the chicken housing.

The NSPCA believes that the community alone may not be responsible for the conditions of the chickens, and that the municipality needs to answer for the wasted funds and lack of concern towards animal welfare.

Giving farmed animals as a form of poverty relief may help an emerging farmer to a small extent, but only in the short-term. Without providing the skills development to provide adequate care for the animals, a farm cannot be sustainable. Ultimately, the accountability rests at the hands of the municipality to provide the community with the necessary skills and infrastructure to care for their farm and the animals.

Unfortunately, the poultry industry is not the only one to suffer this fate. In Rooiberg, Limpopo a tilapia breeding project set up by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry is not living up to its potential. The national government department initially supplied a small group of emerging fish famers with tanks and the education to raise and breed the fish. Although in this instance the necessary training was provided by the Department of Agriculture, the local municipality has not allowed the farmers to change the water in the holding tanks. Without adequate filtration, the water quality within the tanks has decreased. The effects are noticeable and severe; because the fish are living outside their specific range of water quality parameters suitable for both growth and reproduction, the fish are growing at a slow rate and reproduction is minimal.

Despite best intentions, a project that does not establish a sustainable agricultural business practice, including a view towards animal welfare, and the aim of creating a self-sufficient community, is destined to fail. Guidance throughout the process – from start to finish is imperative to ensure success of these projects.

Global development drivers such as a rising population mean a greater need for food and sustainability, and agriculture is an industry that can rise up to meet these needs. Addressing the short term pressing needs such as feeding the community is vital but a long term agriculture development programme can ensure success.

The NSPCA is committed to ensuring that all animals have a good quality of life and are treated humanely throughout their lifetime.

South Africa has long been criticised for the inability to meet the target of its 2015 Millennium Development Goals, which includes reducing extreme hunger and poverty by half.

Updated: 03 June 2016

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