Another expensive black farming project tanks

President Jacob Zuma handed over 85 new tractors to the Masibuyele Emasimini project in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal in June 2010 to encourage small-scale farming.

The The R500-million for the project is wasted it seems. The project was intended to help “emerging black farmers” but is on the brink of collapse with only six of 32 tractors allocated to the DrJS Moroka municipality still running.

The government has meanwhile proposed that commercial farmers give half of their farm land to black workers.

The rest are idle because of lack of maintenance, timeslive reported.

Tractor drivers in Machiding, who battle to get diesel fuel and broken tractors repaired, went on strike early this month because, they say, they have not been paid.

In Mmametlhake and Marapyane, more than 30 farmers missed planting 65ha of sunflower seeds this season because 17 of the tractors allocated to their area were either broken or did not have fuel.

The African Farmers’ Association of SA said a total of 185000ha of once-productive, redistributed land in KwaZulu-Natal was standing idle as farmers waited to benefit from the project.

Emerging farmer Abios Maloka said 25ha of maize went to waste last season because the fields had not been ploughed in time .

“Instead of assisting farmers, [the programme] brought devastation and hopelessness. Before, we would plan in advance to get the fields ploughed but we were given a false sense of hope. Now we are sitting with heaps of fertiliser and seed that has not been used.”

Job Mthombeni, president of the African Farmers’ Association of SA in Mpumalanga, said the association had told the government of its concerns.

He said at first the project ran efficiently, with the shortage of tractors being the only shortcoming.