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Over 8 000 hectares of land earmarked for Free State



Staff Reporter

Free State farmers battling for land over the years are expected to benefit when the government releases parcels of state land across the province for leasing in the coming months.

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza announced on Wednesday that the government will be releasing 8 333 hectares of farmland in the province as part of a countrywide initiative.

Didiza said this when she outlined the process to be followed by those interested in leasing state land.

She said in the coming two weeks, the government will advertise the 896 farms measuring 700 000 hectares of underutilised or vacant state land in seven provinces.

“The advertisement notices will be in the local, district and provincial newspapers, websites and local radio stations,” said Didiza.

“Application forms will be made available in the district offices and provincial offices of the Departments of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development as well as municipal district offices,” she added.

All applicants will undergo screening and interviews to determine their suitability.

Both the successful and unsuccessful applicants will be informed of the outcome in writing within a period of about three weeks.

The leases will be 30 years long with an option to buy.

In the Eastern Cape, at least 43 000 hectares of land will be available for leasing while KwaZulu-Natal will have 3 684 hectares; Limpopo 121 567 hectares; Mpumalanga 40 206 hectares; the Northern Cape 12 224 hectares; and the North West 300 000 hectares.

No land will be available for leasing in Gauteng and the Western Cape.

All beneficiaries allocated state land and signed lease agreements will be subjected to a compulsory training programme.

The training programme will include entry-level training on the commodity of their choice, basic record keeping and basic financial management as well as enterprise development.

Since February, the government has released 135 117 hectares of land to 275 farmers nationally.

In the Free State, only 501 hectares have been allocated.

Meanwhile, Tankisi Masiteng has been appointed the head of the Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Agriculture MEC William Bulwane made the announcement on Thursday and said Masiteng, an agriculturist by profession, comes with extensive experience in the public sector as the department focuses on strengthening governance.

Before his appointment, which is effective from October 1, Masiteng was the acting head of the department.


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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