Transforming agriculture

Facilitating the entry of black participants

Transforming 5583513831_5dc6d68bf7_b.jpg

The agriculture sector has been identified as a key platform for both transformation and growth and job creation which could create one million jobs by 2030. “Let me emphasise that that such transformation does not mean destroying what we have and what works. It also does not mean that we want to destroy commercial agriculture. We fully support all our farmers, black and white, established and emerging,” said President Jabob Zuma on Monday.

He was speaking at a gala dinner hosted by the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (Afasa) in Boksburg on the East Rand.

To advance this goal in agriculture, President Zuma said government will continue to provide support to smallholder farmers.

“We declare 2017 the year of the commercialisation of the black smallholder farmers.

Indeed government has committed itself to support the commercialisation programme for 450 black smallholder farmers per year,” said President Zuma.

Government is also finalising the AgriBEE Enforcement Regulations to enforce Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment through the government levers such as licenses, permits, concessions, authorisations, grants and incentives.

The AgriBEE Sector Code provides guidelines for transformation in the agriculture sector and some of the significant aspects in the Amended AgriBEE Sector Code is the inclusion of farm workers under ownership scorecard.

Government also recently established the AgriBEE Fund, which is geared towards increasing black entrepreneurs in the sector.

The fund covers the funding of qualifying enterprise development initiatives, which are targeted at creating economic access and participation for black people in the agricultural sector.

Furthermore, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, in partnership with the Forest Sector Charter Council, is working on the development of a Funding Scheme for Black Foresters.

Other existing government programmers include the Comprehensive Agriculture Support Programme, Ilima/Letsema, LandCare, and MAFISA, the Micro Agricultural Financial Institutions of South Africa which all seek to address the financial services needs of the smallholder farmers and agri-businesses.

In addition to these, government has also introduced innovative programmes such as the Agricultural Parks or Agriparks in all 53 District Municipalities which provide much needed markets for emerging farmers.

President Zuma said with all these initiatives in place, they are also aware of the need to invest in recruiting, training and supporting agricultural extension officers, who should be knowledgeable and able to assist farmers.

However, for these interventions in agriculture to succeed, the President said all sectors must work together.

“It is for this reason that we developed the Operation Phakisa in Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform programme in agriculture, which we launched in February this year in Tshwane. It brings together government, business, labour, academia and the agricultural sector to find solutions and boost the agriculture sector.”

President Zuma went on to assure the association that government is committed to rooting out the scourge of corruption to restore investor confidence.

“We remain fully committed to clean governance. Funds that are allocated for public services must be used for public services and nothing else. There must be no deviation in this regard.

“I therefore wish to assure you all that law enforcement agencies have been authorised to deal decisively with corruption and crime in both the private and public sectors,” added President Zuma.

Broadband to transform rural economies

Broadband has the potential to transform rural economies to overcome many of the challenges of distance and isolation, says Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Speaking at the OR Tambo Broadband Project launch in Mhlontlo and King Sabata Dalindyebo municipalities in the Eastern Cape, the Deputy President said the project is of great significance for the country as a whole.

He said farmers are able to check the prices of the goods they produce almost anywhere in the world and to track weather patterns using information technology.

“Broadband provides them with information, access and choice. More than that, broadband creates the potential for the emergence of new industries in rural areas.

“In many of the sectors of the economy that are undergoing rapid change as a result of the fourth industrial revolution, it is possible to provide services to global clients from almost anywhere—be it Mumbai, Mombasa, Munich or Mhlontlo. Broadband provides opportunities to improve the provision of services to communities.

“Universal access to broadband is critical to inclusive economic growth,” he said.

He said the launch of the project marks a milestone in government’s efforts to ensure access by all communities in urban and rural settings to broadband internet and information technology.

“This is a priority for government because technology holds the key to economic freedom. Technology provides us with a powerful tool in our struggle to overcome the legacy of apartheid dispossession and exploitation, to address our skills deficit, to create jobs and to eradicate poverty.”

Broadband rollout will facilitate the delivery of many government services digitally, and it will facilitate the expansion of e-government.

The Deputy President said broadband is being rolled-out first in schools and clinics, and that e-health solutions will be available at all the clinics, improving both productivity and the quality of care.

“We are only beginning to appreciate the massive potential of technology in improving the quality, affordability and outcomes of education.”

He believes that with effective application, alongside a firm commitment to learning and teaching, information technology could trigger a skills revolution.

Progress in transforming Irrigation Boards

The Department of Water and Sanitation is strengthening inter-sectoral planning between land, water and agricultural sectors to ensure rapid transformation of irrigation boards in line with the Constitution, Water Act and National Development Plan (NDP).

The department was briefing the Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation on Tuesday about its progress on the transformation of irrigation boards.

Historically, irrigation boards were established to support farming among poor, white farmers before democracy.

The department said that it has since initiated reforms in the functions of irrigation boards that now ensure that it supports water resources management in the country.

The functions currently include the prevention of unlawful abstraction or storage of public water, among others.

“Currently, there are 278 Irrigation Boards across the country and only 99 of these boards have met the transformation requirements as set out in the Water Act. The core of these transformation requirements include amongst others, access to water for the previously disadvantaged communities and representation in gender, race, youth and people with disabilities,” the department told the committee.

The department also presented its interventions to ensure the rapid transformation of irrigation boards, in line with the Constitution of South Africa, the Water Act and the NDP.

Among the interventions include water allocation reform, compulsory licensing and water user authorisations.

“The department is already strengthening inter-sectoral planning between Land, Water and the Agricultural sectors to effectively address transformation objectives.

It is also developing a pro-active design of a land-water strategy that will support accelerated agrarian reform and integrated funding models for previously disadvantaged individuals,” the department said.

The department added that it is also undertaking a legislative review that will see the repeal of the Water Act as part of its interventions to speed up transformation in the sector.

Barberton youth fight poverty with agriculture

The community of Barberton in Mpumalanga is using its donated land to bring about change especially among its youth.

The 2.5 hectares of land which was donated by the Correctional Services Department in 2015 was meant to be utilised for agricultural purpose, poverty alleviation and developing the settlers of Barberton particularly youth.

The youth from the area went on to partner with the Department of Corporative Governance, which employed the Seriti Institute to assist in transferring agricultural skills to community members.

To date, the project has managed to employ more than 85 community members, among them parolees, probationers and ex-offenders who use the land effectively to produce vegetables.

All employees receive a monthly stipend which is paid by the Department of Corporative Governance.

The produce, which include spinach, beetroot, cabbages and tomatoes were harvested and donated to the destitute, child headed families, old age homes and care centres.

According to the Project Manager, Sarah Mabuza, the project benefitted 25 households and 18 care centres within the borders of Umjindi.

Mabuza further said that they are delighted to see people going to bed with something in their stomach.

“We have managed to harvest and donate more than 500kg of vegetables to the needy, some of the beneficiaries include Umjindi ECD Centre ward 45, Ligcabho Lesive Centre, Ekujabuleni Disable Centre, Sihlulile Mhola Old Age Centre, Busy Crèche, Siyakhula Day Care centre, Siphosetfu Crèche, Thandanani Home Base Care, Happy little minds Creche, Salvation Army Crèche, Masibambisane Drop-In-Centre,” Mabuza said.

Mabuza called on other institutions to continue initiating programmes like this since they contribute to poverty alleviation.

“Poverty continues to strike our community, as a result our youth is turning to crime in order generate income and this cripples the future of our youth,” Mabuza said.

In making sure that the project runs smoothly, the department of Correctional Services ensured that water is supplied to the project, and also availed the tractor which assisted in tilling the land.

SAnews.gov.za

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