The Gauteng branch of the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (AFASA GP) welcomed the budget proposal tabled by Morakane Mosupyoe, member of the executive council (MEC) of the Gauteng Department of Economic, Agriculture and Rural Development.

In her virtual address on 23 June this year, Mosupyoe tabled a budget proposal of just over R1 billion, of which R461 million will be directed towards agriculture and rural development, R297 million for the environment and R263 million for administration. She also outlined her department’s plans for supporting agricultural and economic growth in the process, putting a lot of emphasis on agro-processing.

Support pledged to smallholder farmers

AFASA GP commends the plans as well as the support pledged by Mosupyoe to smallholder farmers and rural businesses. Her recognition of farmers’ and small businesses’ plight, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is commended and appreciated. Mosupyoe’s plans are welcomed and supported, but at the same time AFASA GP cautions her to not exclude stakeholders in her planning and implementation of such plans.

History has shown that, if the current state of agri-parks can be taken as evidence, planning and implementing programmes without consultation with relevant stakeholders can turn into a large-scale failure and a waste of taxpayer’s money. Although AFASA GP admits that the agri-park idea was a good one, agri-parks remain white elephants.

Agri-parks are not the only projects that have failed; there are several government intervention plans that have been implemented without proper consultation. Across the country, projects such as feedlots, abattoirs, processing facilities, and land reform farms are failing due to either beneficiaries who are wrongly identified or projects that are not aligned with the realities or needs of the existing farmers or intended beneficiaries.

Developing agro-processing hubs

The idea of developing agro-processing hubs and all the programmes Mosupyoe mentioned are welcomed; however, the success of such programmes depends on a solid foundation at primary production level and distribution (retail) of processed goods further up in the value chain. The biggest mistake would be to implement these plans without consultation and buy-in from relevant stakeholders. We caution against the same mistakes which could lead to potential wastage of taxpayers’ money.  

From its inception, AFASA’s plea to government has always been that nothing should be for the farmers without the farmers themselves, hence the motto ‘Nothing for us without us’. Since Mosupyoe’s appointment as Gauteng MEC for Economic Development, Agriculture and Rural Development, AFASA GP has on numerous occasions tried to reach out to welcome and introduce her to the organisation that is the mouthpiece of smallholder black farmers in the province.

Unfortunately, after numerous letters written to her since March, AFASA is yet to receive any feedback, let alone an acknowledgment of receipt of such letters. Nationally, AFASA enjoys a great consultative relationship with the Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform, Thoko Didiza, the same with some other provinces.

AFASA, however, remains hopeful that it will have an opportunity to engage with Mosupyoe and make inputs in the future plans meant for provincial agriculture and farmer development. Furthermore, the organisation hopes to create a fruitful working relationship with Mosupyoe that will benefit smallholder farmers and all Gauteng citizens, by ensuring food security and job opportunities for all. – Press release, AFASA