‘Redesigned PESI Vouchers must benefit farmers’

The DA said it welcomes the temporary suspension of the Presidential Employment Stimulus Initiative PESI vouchers meant to benefit smallholder farmers.
This is after the Department of Agriculture; Land Reform & Rural Development (DALRRD) released a statement yesterday announcing the temporary halting of the vouchers.

The department’s move follows a barrage of complaints for recipients who said they are being overcharged up to 40% by suppliers when redeeming vouchers.

There were also allegations that some of the recipients were selling vouchers for cash.

DALRRD spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo said: “It is unfortunate that the department has received endless complaints from the PESI beneficiaries and the South African community at large, regarding various challenges on the PESI implementation.

“These implementation challenges cannot be left unattended, hence the decision by the department to temporarily halt the current implementation.”

Noko Masipa (MP), DA Member on the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform & Rural Development said while the DA has always advocated for governmental support for the farmers when necessary, the PESI vouchers have been fraught with complaints and seeming corruption from middlemen.

“We therefore welcome the announcement that it would be “reviewing, reengineering and redesigning PESI implementation, to address all challenges experienced”.

Masipa said the DA has long tried to highlight the challenges of the current system which only served to embolden those trying to scam farmers and were of minimal benefit to those who were desperate for the support.

The DA said that to ensure that farmers benefit from the next iteration of support it recommends that the middlemen be cut out and allow farmers to purchase their inputs directly from agricultural retail stores, that the 5000 agricultural interns be used to roll out the programme.

Masipa added that DALLRD must apply science in solving farmers’ problems.

“Financial aid and stimulus can only play a small part in the solution. The Department must take care to understand the specific scientific agricultural needs, and support of subsistence farmers must become the focal point.

“For instance, one of the many challenges facing subsistence farmers in rural areas are the many livestock roaming the streets often causing car accidents and spreading unchecked diseases. These farmers need government’s assistance to address these issues.”

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