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Free State targets job creation in agriculture



Staff Reporter

The Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development says it will use conditional grants to roll out several projects and programmes to support farmers and make their operations more viable.

Agriculture MEC William Bulwane told the provincial Legislature during a virtual sitting Tuesday that despite significant cuts to their initial allocation, the department planned to implement over 30 projects.

He said for the 2020/21 financial year, the province initially received about R176.2 million under the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) but this has since been revised to just under R143.4 million following some reprioritisation to address COVID-19 related matters.

“With this allocation we are planning to implement 31 projects and eight programmes,” Bulwane said in his supplementary budget vote speech.

“We will create 584 jobs (295 permanent jobs and 289 temporary jobs) benefiting 1 082 beneficiaries,” he added.

The MEC said at least 538 females and 441 males will be supported.

About 102 youths have also been earmarked as well as one person with a disability.

Overall, 1 242 farmers are set to benefit, of which 943 are subsistence and 299 smallholder farmers.

The other conditional grant, Ilima/Letsema, was reduced from about R68.4 million to R51.3 million.

“We are planning to implement 37 projects and five programmes and create 309 jobs,” Bulwane said.

About 98 of the jobs to be created will be permanent while 211 will be temporary.

The total number of beneficiaries is expected to be 26 122, made up of 13 096 females and 13 026 males.

About 7 015 youths and 30 people with disabilities are also set to benefit.

The grant will support 11 503 farmers of which 11 416 are subsistence, 76 smallholder and 11 commercial farmers.

A further 12 LandCare projects and an Expanded Public Works Programme will also be implemented.

The two are funded separately to the tune of R8.4 million and R2 million respectively.

Bulwane said the department will also focus on the completion of infrastructure projects, commonage development and Solar Solution Feed Growers to enhance fodder flow management.

In terms of promoting the district development model, the provincial agricultural department will prioritise supporting farming and agri-business projects in all districts.

“In Mangaung Metro we have set aside R34.174 million for the implementation of livestock and vegetable projects,” the MEC said.

“In Xhariep we have set aside R13.6 million for the implementation of livestock, irrigation, fish, game, fodder and vegetable production.

“In Thabo Mofutsanyana we have set aside R7.6 million for the implementation of dairy, poultry, grains, fruits and livestock projects.”

Lejweleputswa has a budget of just over R15 million for the implementation of poultry, grain, sorghum and vegetable projects.

Fezile Dabi has R29.5 million for poultry, goats, grains and vegetable projects.


Free State contains foot and mouth disease



OUTBREAK CONTAINED . . . The Free State now has the foot and mouth disease under control

The Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development says it has managed to bring under control the foot and mouth disease which broke out in the province a few weeks ago.

“MEC . . . Thembeni Nxangisa would like to inform all farmers, farming communities and stakeholders in the sector that the department has successfully controlled the foot and mouth disease outbreak in the province,” read part of a statement issued by the department.

It said the farm in Viljoenskroon that tested positive has been cleared of the disease.

“The disease was minimised through the removal of positive animals by veterinary personnel who have been on the ground since the outbreak,” it added.

The department however warned that the risk of re-infection remains high if auctioneers who facilitate in the selling of livestock do not adhere to strict control measures.

The province initially recorded three suspected cases of the foot and mouth disease following movement of infected animals from Limpopo province to Gauteng, the North-West and subsequently to the Free State.

Nxangisa applauded the swift response of veterinary personnel who worked tirelessly to contain the disease outbreak.

“I would also like to acknowledge the role played by our stakeholders, particularly Sparta-Beef and the South African Feedlot Association who made resources available to help curb the further spread of the disease in the province. Together, we can restore the FMD free status of the province and country,” said the MEC in the statement.

He urged the farming community to remain vigilant and report any possible signs of the foot and mouth disease within their livestock.

Nxangisa said the department’s field personnel will continue carrying out routine disease surveillance to detect the possibility of new cases. – Staff Reporter

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Use of advanced technology expected to ease stock theft



Staff Reporter

Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development MEC William Bulwane believes the use of drones and digital trackers to monitor the movement of livestock could help improve security on the farms and allow emerging farmers to grow.

According to the MEC, most farmers along the SA border with Lesotho have struggled with stock theft and farm attacks for a long time and he anticipates a new initiative launched by his department on Friday to reduce the high crime rate and allow farmers to focus more on their operations.

“We felt it important to help farmers improve security on their farms using drones and trackers for their livestock,” said Bulwane during the launch of the Risk Management Solution Programme near Wepener.

The programme is aimed at assisting farmers to minimise the loss of livestock, crops and different equipment through the use of technology.

Bulwane said farmers around Wepener, Ladybrand, Thaba Nchu, Botshabelo as well as areas along the Caledon River, Fouriesmith up to Bethlehem have been complaining a lot about stock theft.

The Intelligent Animal Tracking System is expected to help curb the growing problem of stock theft.

“We have been looking at ways to address this . . . at times we did spontaneous patrols using a police helicopter but it didn’t help much,” said Bulwane.

“We wanted something that could give a permanent solution to these problems.

“We then decided to use the drones so that the farmers are able to check on their cattle on their own.

“The system is linked to their cellphones and they keep track of their livestock from wherever they are.”

The drones will not be given to individual farmers but will be allocated to groups and operated by a qualified drone pilot.

The first beneficiaries of the initiative are emerging and large-scale farmers in the Mangaung Metro.

These include farmers in the commonages around Thaba Nchu and Botshabelo as well as commercial farmers from Wepener and Bainsvlei.

About R4.5 million has been allocated for this programme to support 156 farmers.

They will be provided with about 1 706 solar-powered livestock tracking devices.

At least 32 vehicles will also be fitted with the anti-hijack tracking devices.

The programme is set to be rolled out to other parts of the province soon.

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Deadly bird flu hits Free State



Staff Reporter

The Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has confirmed an outbreak of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI).

A statement released by the department’s spokesperson, Zimasa Leputla, says three cases were reported at three poultry farms in the province.

“Laboratory tests conducted gave a positive result, confirming the HPAI was found on those farms,” read part of the statement.

The virus was also recorded as an H5 virus which is known to be a high pathogenic strain.

The farms where the cases have been recorded are in Villiers, Parys and Wesselsbron.

“Whilst this virus is known to cause mortalities of up to 100 percent among susceptible poultry, not all of the current outbreaks are consistent with this scientific fact, as on some of these farms the mortality of birds was relatively low,” the department explained.

It said it had deployed its field veterinarians to attend to this outbreak and urged other field personnel to increase vigilance to ensure early detection and rapid response.

Poultry facilities across the province have also been advised to step up their biosecurity measures in order to help contain the spread of the disease.

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