22 July 2013
South Africa has secured a deal with the World Food Programme to buy maize from the country’s smallholder farmers as part of a R180-million South African humanitarian donation to Lesotho, which is in the throes of a food crisis.
Following Lesotho’s recent request for international assistance, South Africa responded by announcing a R180-million donation.
“One of the conditions of this agreement from the South African government’s side was that at least 40 percent of the white, non-GMO [genetically modified] maize must be purchased from smallholder farmers in South Africa,” Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said last week.
Joemat-Pettersson said South Africa’s aid would help provide up to 22 months of food security for 227 000 children and pregnant and breastfeeding women in Lesotho.
She said that when the World Food Programme and her department had audited the maize availability from South Africa’s smallholder farmers, they found that the country had surpassed their expectations.
“It is the first time [that] smallholder farmers have produced such a huge, quality export maize crop in this country. We have, for the first time in 100 years, produced 35 000 hectares of maize, beans and potatoes.
“We’ve produced quality and quantity and have markets,” Joemat-Pettersson said.
World Food Programme (WFP) executive director Ertharin Cousin said the WFP was doubly pleased to be working with South Africa on fighting food insecurity in Lesotho while helping to advance smallholder farmers.
Joemat-Pettersson said that, while South Africa was generally a food secure nation, there were still 12-million South Africans with poor access to food. The country produced sufficient food for its population, but skyrocketing prices prevented the poor – most of them in urban households – from getting adequate nutrition, she said.
On Wednesday last week, President Jacob Zuma attended the launch the 1-million hectare Integrated Food and Nutrition Security Initiative for South Africa’s 2013/14 crop season in Ngcingwana village in Dyutwa in the Eastern Cape.
The initiative is part of an extensive strategy aimed at supplementing the services rendered by provinces as a direct response to higher levels of household food insecurity in the country.
Through this initiative, the government mobilised additional resources across all spheres of government, allowing over 40 000 ha of under-used agricultural land to be put under production during the previous production season, with maize and beans being the main commodities.