Saturday 2017-12-16

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COW DUNG MANURE COULD AS WELL BE LAUGHING AT SWANKY FERTILISERS

By Ackel Zwane | 2017-12-08

WHEN Ludzeludze farmers staged a protest at the Rural Development Areas depot this week to demand fertilisers they paid for with hardearned savings and taxes through the poverty alleviation programme, the joke that is the ministry of agriculture was no longer a funny one.

The farmers want to take advantage of the promising rains and plant early after Minister of Agriculture Moses Vilakati made the clarion call on them to start planting now that the rains have come but with what if the fertilisers are coming in drips and drags first with carefully selected areas of choice instead of having made available to the farmers the package in time to avoid the stampede.

This very last week the minister made the bold announcement that even though there were hiccups with the issuance of the fertilisers they would otherwise be coming soon and soon the fartilisers came but in such speed the trucks could not stop at Ludzeludze.

Farmers

We do not know exactly how many farmers were outraged save for that those at Ludzeludze could not take the joke anymore, more especially because they do not control the rains, only God and Moses do.

The E300 million loan to finance the programme was signed in October 2012, which included tractor but today, December 2017 Swaziland is not able to  manage this programme with all the cash that is accompanied by expertise brought about by Indian mechanics who service the tractors. By this time conservation agriculture farmers who were duped into dumping their time tested methods and methods in the modern fertilisers are now blaming themselves because time is not in their favour, the uncertainity does not make matters any easier.

In March the minister gleefully announced that farmers who previously yielded four tonnes of maize per hectare would now get eight tonnes of maize per hectare due to the fertiliser that government gives to farmers through the subsidy programme and even suggested that India could outsource its agriculture production to Africa, especially now that focus was on agro-processing and value addition.

The one thing that farmers do not want is an apology or some lame explanation because by this time all the logistics would have been in place for the rollout of the programme if the minister was certain in his projections, unless he was offering the easily available cheap lip service.

Chickens returned home to roost at the ministry given these political pronouncements, what with the parliamentary elections around the corner in October. The political correctness could be a major undoing but farmers are not interested in all that at this time of the year, they want to put seed into the soil and hold the breath in the already scary threats of climate change.

We are aware that on the eve of an election politicians are preoccupied with positioning themselves to appease voters leading to the upcoming elections and forget their present duty in the office, that of cracking the whip on their charges and making sure every success counts in their favour as a plus in the campaign equation. Clearly things are lax at the ministry for a programme that is fully funded to fail to deliver on the populace or else Moses will come out guns blazing with his staff on his charges and make sure every government truck is on the road delivering fertilisers to the people in the same way they do when they distribute plastic wrapped blankets from Asia coupled with packets of 5kg mealie meal and 500ml cooking oil to Ntondozi hungry mouths.

The loan from India is money borrowed on the strength of taxpayers who might not even be around when the last instalment is repaid with interest but the future generations. Interest on loan and a loan itself is eating from the future and therefore must be handled with caution because by any means it must be repaid one way or the other, whether the ministry of agriculture is inefficient or not.

 When the country went for this loan it was because smallholder farmer could no longer afford the cost of farming inputs and it was to assist them, assisting them is not by failing to provide fertilisers or dishing out pockets of lime, fertilisers, or seeds at intervals best suiting the ministry of agriculture.

Moses is lucky that Members of Parliament have not strayed into his territory to claim the agricultural aspect of poverty alleviation for their political leverage by lambasting him. It is because they are still busy regrouping around Winnie Magagula over study loan repayment exercise where no doubt will bite the dust. But he must be careful that he would be next because they are spoiling for a fight and desperate to clutch at every straw that would make them appear concerned about the welfare of the people. If Moses is not careful the MPs will turn their wrath on him and start a fierce storm in a tea cup to cover the face from swallowing the Winnie humble pie.

But Moses is both a Member of Parliament and a cabinet minister who, on the one hand plays the watchdog for service deliver while at the same time also spearheading service delivery by heading a crucial ministry, the ministry of food. He is already fresh from spanking by Lavumisa livestock farmers for failure to provide water for animals in the drought stricken, an area that was on brink of running out of entire stock in the recent drought that cut across Southern Africa at the height of the elusive El Nino.

 

“We’re very apologetic to all the farmers that have been affected by the shortage of the fertiliser, especially at the time when we are seeing impressive rainfall. I can now safely report back to the farmers that our supplier, Farm Chemicals, has managed to source the much needed ingredient in the production of the fertiliser.  The production of the fertiliser started last week and I can safely state that the supply of the product will be in full speed soon. We are aware that farmers needed to apply the fertiliser before planting the maize, but this has been beyond our control. Everything is still on course and no farmer should think that they have been left behind in the ploughing season,” he was quoted as having said last week, now another apology?

 

If only Swazi farmers did not lose their cattle to the drought they would probably be forgetting Moses and returning to the olden methods of manure fertiliser than to queue at the RDA to attract confrontation with the police.

 

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