Cape Town — Small and emerging farmers will continue to benefit from financial aid provided by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry.
Water affairs and forestry minister Ronnie Kasrils made this pledge while tabling his department's budget vote in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) in Cape Town, today.
'Since 1998, the department has provided financial assistance to emerging farmers, with capital subsidies of R47.74-million given for 867 new small-scale farmers and 506 women (in respect of food gardens) on a total irrigated area of 4 680 hectares.
A further R630 000 was paid as operating subsidies to 10 farmers irrigating a total of 897 hectares, he said.
'This is the kind of investment we need to empower our people and create jobs and we aim to help 500 farmers annually and have budgeted accordingly.'
In response to claims that certain agricultural officials were refusing unemployed people the use of water from streams and boreholes for their home-based vegetable gardens, the minister said water for domestic gardens could be taken without a license except where there was an acute shortage.
'All over the country, groups of poor unemployed people, mainly women, have come together to grow vegetables on small plots of land to provide food for their families and a little income when they produce extra.
'The law is there to prevent a few people from gaining control over the nation's precious water, not to stop people from feeding their families,' the minister said.
He is scheduled to deliver his budget vote in the National Assembly on Friday.