By: Tebogo Mokwena
The North West’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has admitted that poor planning resulted in it not adequately supporting small-scale farmers in the 2021/22 financial year. This was revealed when the department’s officials met with the North West legislature’s portfolio committee on economic development, tourism, agriculture and rural development this week. They presented the department’s 2021/22 annual performance report.
Departmental HOD Thupi Mokhatla revealed that they could only support 244 out of 443 small-holder producers. Mokhatla also said that the department was sitting with R200 million in irregular expenditures. Portfolio committee chair Bitsa Lenkopane criticised the department for failing to support districts that requested financial assistance for farmers. She said that the committee conducted an oversight visit in the Bojanala Platinum District and found that the expenditure in the district was not in line with the situation on the ground.
“Bojanala requested R10 million (to assist small-scale farmers), and they only received R5 million,” she said. “While the report indicates that 97% of the targets were reached when it comes to addressing the actual needs of the farmers, it is something else.” Lenkopane also noted that the district had done due diligence by profiling their farmers and preparing business plans. “It becomes worrying when the province is unable to respond to their needs,” she said.
“You have deprived the farmers of Bojanala opportunities.” Agriculture and Rural Development MEC Desbo Mohono said that poor planning by the department had resulted in shoddy support. “I accept that it is unacceptable for the department to have a rollover and return money from the budget when there are farmers in dire need,” she responded during the meeting. “The planning was poor. I have wondered why we should wait for money when we can start with planning and the allocated money can go straight to these systems because they are ready.”
Mokhatla noted that there was insufficient time to conduct feasibility studies on whether funded projects for small-scale farmers would be successful from the time farmers were invited to apply for funding and their applications were assessed, to when the department sent their business plans to the national Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development.
Mokhatla said they were now in discussions to have planned small-scale projects developed for a period of three years to ensure that the farmers would be ready to utilise the funding. “In the past, farmers would send applications (for funding) and get approved, but when it was time to implement the projects, they would not be ready, so we are trying to eliminate that,” he said.