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Agriculture committee concerned over spending of drought relief funds

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The Northern Cape was allocated R36 million for drought relief and has begun the “administrative processes”.

Scattered skeletons of sheep are visible on a open piece of land on a drought-hit farm. Picture: Henk Kruger / African News Agency (ANA)

THE PORTFOLIO committee on agriculture, land reform and rural development has expressed concern over the low expenditure by provinces on the implementation of drought relief projects.

The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, declared South Africa a national disaster on March 4 due to the persistent drought conditions in many parts of the country.

An amount of R138.5 million was allocated to seven provinces through the National Disaster Management Centre to address the adverse impact of the drought.

The spokesperson for the Northern Cape Department of Agriculture, Environmental Affairs, Land Reform and Rural Development, Zandisile Luphahla, said on Sunday that the Province was allocated R36 million from the national management for drought relief.

“The department has begun the administrative processes such as calling for applications, supply chain processes and contracting service providers. The calls for applications for drought funding from the three drought-stricken districts, namely, Namakwa, Pixley ka Seme and ZF Mgcawu, were closed on October 16,” said Luphahla.

He indicated that once the process was completed, farmers were expected to receive their fodder towards the end of November into December.

The acting chairperson of Parliament’s portfolio committee on agriculture, land reform and rural development, Manketsi Tlhape, stated that the funds were set aside for the drilling and equipping of boreholes, provision of animal feed and fodder production and the rehabilitation of dams.

“The committee expressed its concern over the low expenditure rate for the Eastern Cape and Western Cape. The remaining five provinces have not spent the budget allocated to them to date and the department reported that they are finalising their procurement plans,” said Tlhape.

“The committee further expressed their concerns over amounts spent on awareness campaigns, with the North West Province having budgeted R8 million, of which R4 million has been spent.”

She added that of the R500 000 that was budgeted for an early warning information and awareness campaigns in Limpopo, only R144,000 was spent.

Tlhape added that the department had assured the committee that the second outbreak of brown locust was under control.

“The first outbreak started in January 2020 after an eight-year dormancy period and ended in July. The second outbreak occurred mid-September in the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and Western Cape, affecting a total of 336 farms. The department has assured the committee that there is no infestation on crop lands at this stage and the current locust outbreak is under control.”

She stated that the department would continue to monitor and control the outbreak in these provinces.