BLOEMFONTEIN– A government farming project initiative has changed the lives of the small farming community of Diyatalawa situated between Kestell and Harrismith in the eastern part of South Africa’s Free State Province.

The government pilot site for a comprehensive rural development programme was established in 2009. Millions of rand have been invested in the project since its inception.

More than 2,000 hectares of land are allocated for agricultural projects and pockets of success have been realised on the farm.

Various farming projects are being cultivated for the community. More than30 families are beneficiaries of the government’s land reform programme.

An oversight visit by members of the Democratic Alliance (DA), South Africa’s main opposition party, to the farm believes more is needed to help emerging black farmers.

At this farm we found that the department (of agriculture) has assisted with planting orchards. By the end of this year they will have six hectares of apple orchards but they need a very small tractor. Now apparently the department tells them you are big farm all you can get is a big tractor. They have successfully planted sunflowers but for them to harvest they travel up and down between Harrismith and the farm, says DA Member of Parliament Annette Steyn.

The communal property association at the farm says more funding is needed to maximize farming at the land.

And government can assist us to plant the whole farm as they did before, because the money we got we bought tractors. So we are now not able to plough back at the same volume. We think government can assist us and also give us more dairy cattle so that we can continue with milking the cows, said Community Property Association (CPA) chairperson Fanyani Maduna.

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has provided the beneficiaries with 50 houses with solar panels, paved roads, a creche and a farming school. The department says it is committed to assist beneficiaries to learn more about farming business.