Pretoria – Smallholder farmers affected by the drought in Tshwane, have received a helping hand from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to sustain their farms.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Deputy Minister Bheki Cele visited Hammanskraal, Stinkwater and Winterveldt on Monday to hand over a borehole, animal feed and garden equipment to help residents start up community gardens.
Deputy Minister Cele’s visit is part of an ongoing stakeholder engagement forum and follow up visit to areas affected by the drought.
He started the day by visiting a farm in Dilopye, where a borehole has been installed with the help of the packaged goods company Tiger Brands.
The Dilopye Farmers Association had sent an application to the department asking for assistance with a borehole as their animals in the grazing field were dying due to the drought.
The water, which is drinkable, is also being used by community members who do not have access to water.
Elias Ntube Mokone, who is the coordinator of the Dilopye Farmers Association, said since the installation of the borehole in January, animals have started gaining weight and are no longer dying.
“We approached the department in October and asked for assistance. They responded and installed a borehole in January this year. We are pleased that the department managed to meet our needs.”
He said now they were looking to allocate one hectare for a community vegetable garden project to feed families because food is expensive at the shops.
The Deputy Minister said the national department decided to visit smallholder farmers in all six provinces affected by drought.
He explained the Gauteng province has allocated about R33 million, working with the national government, to assist farmers.
“The drought is upon us and we have to come up with new methods like harvesting water. The department and other departments, including the Human Settlements Department, are working on making sure that every household has a tank,” said the Deputy Minister.
He added that the country has to buy 3.8 million tons of maize from other countries in order to feed South Africans.
“The relief is here but it’s going to take [a while] for it to be felt by everybody.”
He encouraged the farmers to use the available land for both grazing and gardening.
“We will … see how we can assist you to do both grazing and gardening,” the Deputy Minister told the farmers.
At his second visit on Monday, the Deputy Minister went to a community garden in Stinkwater. He helped plant seedlings in the garden and handed over gardening starter packs, which included shovels, seeds, fertilizer and wheel barrows, among other things.
He urged residents to involve the learners from a nearby school – who are studying agriculture as one of their subjects – when they start harvesting.
“You must also plant fruit trees inside the schools and when I come back for a follow-up visit I want to see fruit hanging on those trees.”
The Deputy Minister ended the day by holding a meeting with stakeholders in agriculture and farmers associations. He handed over animal feed to over 400 smallholder farmers and food parcels to 200 needy families. – SAnews.gov.za