By Luke Daniel/ Image:Getty Images

  • Government will deliver R1 billion in funding to more than 75,000 small-scale farmers in 2021.
  • Support for fruit, vegetables, poultry, and livestock will range from R1,000 to R9,000.
  • Applications, done via mobile phone, will open on 10 December and close on 22 December.

South Africa’s small-scale farmers and community gardeners, who play a vital role in ensuring local food security, can now receive financial assistance from government. A new financial aid scheme unveiled by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development looks to distribute R1 billion among 150,000 subsistence farmers.

Minister Thoko Didiza announced that applications for this part of the Presidential Employment Stimulus will open on Thursday 10 December. Women, youth, and farm dwellers will be favoured by this initiative, which aims to provide once-off support, depending on the applicant’s need, of up to R9,000.

“The subsistence producers package aims at sustaining and increasing employment within the agriculture sector,” explained Didiza during a press conference on Monday 7 December. “We want to make sure that through the support of farming inputs, which they [successful applicants] will receive through vouchers, we will retain employment in this sector while supporting food value chains.

Didiza reiterated that this relief scheme was set against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has adversely impacted small-scale farmers and threatened food security in vulnerable communities.

“These are producers who utilise land in the backyards of their homes [and] gardens in communal areas which are more or less the size of a soccer field,” said Didiza. “It is these producers who create a bulwark against the fight for food insecurity at household level [and] do not receive any other income.”

The minister admitted that these small-scale subsistence farmers had been overlooked by government and defined as “unbankable” by the financial sector at large.

Subsistence farmers, community gardeners and backyard planters have been urged to apply via the automated USSD code offered to all mobile phone users. This is the same, free menu-based message system used by many to load airtime and check balances.

“This is a free application process and application forms will be accessible within the cellphone once you’ve entered the USSD code,” explained Didiza. “The forms will be available in all 11 official languages.

As part of its initial rollout, the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development will process mobile applications on a first come first served basis.

The USSD code used to apply for this programme is *134*4536#.

All applicants need to be at least 18 years of age and must possess a valid South African identity document. Applicants must also:

  • Not be employed by government
  • Not have received support from the department in 2020
  • Be actively involved in agricultural production

Additionally, only one application per household will be permitted.

“Subsistence farmers must note that the type and quantities of support provided will be limited to the commodity applied for and the size of the current operation which would have been verified,” noted Didiza. “The amount of support will range between R1,000 and R9,000… we are targeting the smallest within the agricultural sector.”

Department official Clinton Heyman detailed the scope of support according to commodities, which is divided into the following:

  • Fruit and vegetables (farmed under one hectare of land)
  • Poultry (between 40 and 100 birds)
  • Small stock (less than 25 units)
  • Large stock (less than 5 units)

The application window will close on Tuesday 22 December and successful applicants will be notified within the first two weeks of January 2021.

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