SA focuses on small scale farmers to boost food security

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister, Thoko Didiza, says the department aims to double investment in local food value chains to benefit smallholder and subsistence farmers who struggle to penetrate formal markets.

During this year’s World Food Day commemoration held virtually, Didiza said the department will use infrastructure development and agricultural markets as stimuli to localise the country’s food system for local economies.

“Cementing our intentions in this regard, and as part of advancing agro-processing and the agro-food system, the team in my department has developed the Agriculture and Agro-processing Master Plan (AAMP).

“At the heart of this blueprint is deliberate attention given to transforming agriculture value chains, which provides bursting possibilities to remove some of the reform,” Didiza said on Friday.

World Food Day is commemorated annually to promote global awareness and advocate collective action to assist those who suffer from hunger. The day highlights the need to ensure a healthy diet for all.

This year’s World Food Day is observed under the theme, ‘Our actions are our future. Better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life’.

Identified strategic actions 

Didiza said South Africa has identified four strategic actions to drive its pathway towards food systems transformation.

The strategic actions include:

  • Enhancement of sustainable local production for local consumption of safe, nutritious and indigenous foods;
  • Promotion of social, economic and environmental resilience;
  • Facilitation of inclusive, sustainable and competitive value chains, and
  • Promotion of integrated food systems policies, legislation, planning and governance.

The Minister said after the United Nations Food Systems Summit was held, countries need to implement their pathways towards transformed food systems.

Climate variability

Didiza said climate variability and change continue to affect agriculture in more fundamental ways, and present extra layers of stress to already constrained agricultural production.

“The agricultural sector is the most sensitive of all sectors after biodiversity, and must adapt to the variable climatic conditions by adopting climate-smart agriculture,” the Minister said.

She said the Paris Climate Deal raised hope for agricultural mitigation and adaptation, and could lead to improved agricultural productivity, income generation and job creation.

“The deal conveys a powerful statement of intent, which could have an enormous footprint on the food security landscape,“ said the Minister.

While admitting that the department could not have wall-to-wall coverage to assist farmers through the Presidential Employment Stimulus Initiative, Didiza said the department is able to provide disaster relief to about 53 000 beneficiaries, of which 40 884 are women.

Effective policies securing food for all

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Deputy Minister, Thembisile Nkadimeng, said government must continue to implement effective and efficient policies that enable an environment with secure food supply for all.

“Overcoming hunger is the most basic requirement for developmental achievement because inclusive growth, social equality, long-term development [and] social cohesion cannot occur when our people are hungry,” Nkadimeng said.

Nkadimeng stressed the need to assist local farmers to better connect with the agriculture value chain, as this will improve the distribution of food.

She said municipalities continue to promote policies that advocate for the purchasing of food that is produced and prepared in closed proximities of consumers.

Poverty line 

North West MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development, Desbo Mohono, said poverty and unemployment remain stubbornly high in the country, especially in North West province, which currently has 1.7 million people living below the poverty line.

“COVID-19 exacerbated the situation and as the province, we were left with no choice but to see how best we can ensure that food security in rural districts is taken care of. Amidst the current strain, the department continues to drive its food security programme to ensure that we feed our nation and stimulate the economy that is hit hard by COVID-19.

“Our people in the province have welcomed the programme. We have partnered with other government departments. We have also partnered with the private sector to ensure that food security is being taken care of,” Mohono said. – 

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