by Rizel Delano


A necessity for economic growth

Certain secondary schools across South Africa offer agriculture as a formal subject, and various special agricultural high schools offer learning opportunities with a balanced economic farming unit which provides sufficient agronomic and livestock material for demonstrations and training purposes. 
At most of the agricultural high schools the choice of subjects is wide enough to enable scholars to obtain university entrance qualifications. Agriculture higher education is provided at most universities across South Africa with various agriculture segment faculties.
Industry bodies, such as the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) regularly presents various specialised training courses and information days which are attended by farmers and delegates across South Africa and neighbouring SADC countries. Specialised exhibitions, training courses and open days with practical demonstrations are used to reach the small-scale farmer.
In the 2011/12 financial year, 15 000 smallholder farmers were targeted, including small-scale foresters and fishers. A grant of over R1-billion was allocated to the nine provinces. 
Casp has been reprioritised to respond to the demands of the Land and Agrarian Reform Project (LARP). The LARP is a joint project of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, the DAFF, provincial departments of agriculture, agricultural state-owned enterprises, and sector partners. 
The LARP is aimed at accelerating and aligning land and agrarian reform providing various support services. It focuses on redistributing five million hectares previously white-owned agricultural land to 10 000 new agricultural producers, thereby increasing black entrepreneurs in the agribusiness industry.
It also aims to increase agricultural production by 10% to 15% under the Ilima/ Letsema Campaign. In the Campaign, the DAFF encourages household food production through backyard gardens and programmes such as the Household Food Security, with the main objective to motivate communities to plough, plant and produce their own food. 
The LandCare programme is a community-based and government-supported approach to the ecological sustainability management and use of agricultural natural resources through proper environmental management.
The programme implies that cultivation, livestock grazing and harvesting of natural resources should be managed in such a manner that no further degradation such as nutrient loss, soil erosion, loss of components of the vegetation and increased run-off occurs.
The LandCare programme continues to perform a significant role in reversing soil and land degradation through support provided to community initiatives. This programme contributes significantly to green job creation, poverty eradication and food security.
During 2010/11, the programme directly and indirectly benefited 28 161 land users. A total of 66 272 hectares were rehabilitated in all provinces through the construction of soil conservation works, range-land use and protection works, and the eradication of declared weeds and invasive plants.
As part of the LandCare programme, about 15 000 job opportunities were created through rehabilitation and land-use activities with a total expenditure of R57.7-million.
The LandCare programme has been expanded into sub-programmes of WaterCare, VeldCare and SoilCare. WaterCare manages and restores irrigation schemes and promotes development of water-resource management techniques.
The VeldCare programme promotes best grazing systems and erosion-prevention practices to improve production and maintain viable grazing areas. The SoilCare programme encourages rural farmers to build innovative structures to combat soil erosion and reduce the depletion of soil fertility and acidity. 
The Conservation Agriculture (CA) approach encourages the proactive and sustainable use of agricultural natural resources. It integrates the management of soil, water and biological resources to maintain and enhance land productivity and reduce risk levels. 
Junior LandCare encourages young people to develop a sense of responsibility towards the land and other natural resources, and conserve these for future generations. 
The objective of Junior LandCare is to empower previously disadvantaged youth by providing training in facilitation and leadership skills. This includes promoting food security at home and in schools, enhancing awareness of sustainable agriculture, and stimulating the formation of youth clubs and projects.
Since 2011, the Junior LandCare programme reached 22 166 young people with a total of 14 815 green jobs being created through rehabilitation works related to soil, water and veld management.
The South African market-led Smallholder Agricultural Development Programme works in the poorest areas of local municipality across South Africa to eradicate poverty. The programme targets poor rural people that are unemployed or whose livelihoods revolve around agriculture. Particular attention is given to women and youth.
Apart from the programme’s community empowerment component, it also provides financial support services to smallholders and rural Small, Micro and Medium Enterprises (SMMEs). 
This project is the first IFAD-supported rural poverty reduction initiative in South Africa. The programme has been designed in response to a request from the government for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) assistance to deal with the issue of persistently high levels of rural poverty in South Africa. 
South African farmers are faced with a challenging global economic and trade environment and rapid advances in information and communication technologies. Main factors that will help promote the competitiveness of farmers, and the agricultural sector in general, include good governance at all levels of government and industry. 
More in particular, the country needs institutional innovations for commercial and small-scale farmers, and improved quality of school education particularly in mathematics and science, research and skills training.
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