by Taryn Springhall

Adapting farming practices

Farmers need to adopt sustainable farming methods

New farming strategies are required for SA farmers
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According to AgriSA, South Africa’s largest farming body, farmers themselves must adopt sustainable farming practices that make an impact not only of production costs and profits but also on the environment and maximising land use in an environmentally friendly way. 

Research conducted by the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAF) for the Maize Trust warned that a clash of interests between miners and farmers could cost the country millions of tons in maize production every year until 2020. The research was presented at the launch of BFAP’s Baseline Agricultural Outlook 2012 – 2021 and aims to offer an outlook on Southern  African agricultural production, consumption, prices and trade for the period. 

Mpumalanga province was cited as an example of a productive mining area, rich in coal, gold, iron ore, chrome, alusite, magnetite and vanadium amongst others.

Added to that, 46% of the country’s arable land, as well as wetlands and ecologically sensitive areas are also located in the province and it is the heart of SA’s maize producing area.

In a pilot study of one small area in Mpumalanga, researchers estimated that mining activities could result in the loss of 400 000t/y of maize within the next 10 to 20 years in the same region.

And while mining is more profitable in the short term, agriculture is more sustainable in the long term, leaving a huge concern over which will win out and what effect the result will have on food security. 

Currently, economists fear that the maize crisis will be felt the world over, however not immediately and not as severely in SA as other neighbouring countries but that the true impact will be felt in the  households of the country’s poor.

Despite the recent predictions, food security has been a priority for the government since 1994 and was an important component of the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) in 1994 where both commercial and small scale subsistence farming were emphasised as part of a strong food supply. 

Gaps in production and supply led the government to launch an integrated and more efficient food security program, entitled the Integrated Food security Strategy (IFSS). The goal of the IFSS is to eradicate malnutrition, food insecurity and hunger in South Africa by 2015.

The strategic objectives of the IFSS include the increase of domestic food production and trading, to improve the generation of income and job creation in agriculture, to improve food safety and nutrition, to implement food emergency management systems, to improve information management and analysis of agriculture and food production and finally, to have stakeholder dialogues. 

One of the major steps in creating equal food security on a national and household level is the improvement of household food production and distribution to address rural food insecurity.

By increasing the number of households involved in productive agriculture, together with increasing access to small scale irrigation systems and training for farmers on green and sustainable technologies, the IFSS aims to eradicate food insecurity and empower marginalised groups to drive commercial food production in rural areas. 

Overall, the country is actively engaging in creating a food secure state, from empowering individual and communities to feed themselves to harnessing commercial farming and export opportunities to build a healthy economy and a thriving nation.

While working together is proving successful in overcoming food insecurity, it is still true that the country needs to strive towards an even more vigorous approach to planting the seeds that will lead to food security well into the future and afford us the opportunity to harvest a new era in South Africa where no one goes hungry. 

 

 

 

 

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