African Agricultural conference: plans to empower Ilembe’s developing farmers
NORTHCOAST COURIER / 22 JULY 2019 - 14.22 / PENNY FOURIE
The conference highlighted the lack of a support system available to previously disadvantaged farmers.
Improved access to domestic, regional and global markets is critical for agriculture to become an important driver of job creation and economic growth.
This was the takeaway message from the recent two day African Agricultural conference hosted by KwaDukuza municipality at Fairmont Hotel.
Dream President Rachel Yomin; KwaDukuza municipality acting mayor Cllr Dolly Govender; Governor of Marahoue Regional Council in Cote D’ivoire, Zamble Bi Zephirin; Loui Kalou Tra and Kohou Bi Faye.
The conference also laid the foundation for a programme aimed at promoting agricultural entrepreneurship by encouraging South African youth to consider various careers within the agricultural sector.
The conference theme “Solving problems in the African Farming Industry” was attended by more than 200 delegates and heads of states from various African countries active in the agricultural industry.
Ilembe development farmers Phumzile Ndlela, Winnie Chili and Nozipho Khuluse at the African Agricultural conference hosted by KwaDukuza municipality at Fairmont Hotel.
Critical issues highlighted during the panel discussion was the unavailability of foodstuffs required for hospitals, schools, correctional facilities and facilities managed by the Department of Social Development due to challenges cooperatives and smallscale farmers faced in not being able to meet the demands of their specific markets.
With a combined annual food budget of R7 billion, the Department of Correctional Services, Education, Health and Education was a captive market for small-scale farmers who were not equipped to supply their daily demands.
While the KZN provincial executive council resolved this captive market be reserved exclusively for historically disadvantaged groups they faced challenges in supplying the required goods. Another challenge that limited migration from subsistence to commercial farming was poor physical infrastructure.
While staple foods such as mielie-meal and samp were in great demand production could not be met due to a lack of a mill required to process the maize.
The conference highlighted the lack of a support system available to previously disadvantaged farmers, preventing them from taking advantage of the various opportunities the South African government has been instituting.
Ways to address the challenges were agreed upon and focused on among others specialist training supplied by African Dream and ACIF JDS Inc, in the areas of plant rotation, production planning and financial management.
The meeting also agreed on the establishment of an abattoir for cooperatives involved in livestock farming.
To this end training will be conducted for goat and cattle farmers.
According to Cheryl Peters from Enterprise iLembe’s Economic Development Agency there are a number of cooperatives who are small scale farmers under the agency’s umbrella involved in supplying produce to the National Schools Nutrition programme and are maintained by Enterprise iLembe through a mechanization programme, that inputs supply and technical support.
“Their businesses have developed from being subsistence to somewhat commercial, these cooperatives have also managed to generate employment within their communities.
“Enterprise iLembe uses the strategy of working with local farmers to stimulate local economic development,” explained Peters.
According to Peters in order for Ilembe farmers to become economically productive they require resources like maize planters to enable farmers to produces quantities that will meet market needs.
“Plant production skills are in place as farmers are already producing maize in abundance in the district, however access or provision of processing facilities and other necessary infrastructure will also require certain upskilling.
“However it’s always prudent to secure the market first before one could encourage farmers to focus on certain produce.
Enterprise iLembe has limited resources and is unable to engage all possible markets that exists and is therefore dependent on partnerships with other sector departments as well as private sector partners,” she said.
The conference highlighted a number of shortcomings in the emergent agricultural sector in South Africa but also showed the potential it has to contribute to the growth of rural areas, the reduction of unemployment and poverty.
The potential for emerging farmers to participate in this sector remains untapped but without relevant stakeholders and government agencies stepping in to assist cooperatives to develop skills and capacity for agro-processing it will continue remain a challenge
Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER