R3bn for rural development

13 February 2009

Finance Minister Trevor Manuel has budgeted R3-billion for increasing South Africa’s agricultural output, supporting small-scale farmers and raising rural incomes in 2009/10, describing these as key elements of the country’s rural development strategy.

Delivering his 2009/10 Budget speech in Parliament in Cape Town on Wednesday, Manuel said that the Illima/Letsema campaign, which distributes agricultural starter packs for domestic and communal food production to poor households, would receive R1.2-billion.

Ensuring food security

Launched in September last year by Agriculture Minister Lulu Xingwana, the campaign urges communities to use all available land productively to ensure the country’s food security.

The government has been urging South Africans, both rural and urban, to grow their own food in fields and vegetable gardens to fight food insecurity, unemployment, poverty and high food prices.

Trevors’ tip

One of this year’s Budget “Tips for Trevor” came from Lazarus Lamola from Polokwane in Limpopo Province. Lamola said that villagers used to plough their land and harvest enough food to last at least a year.

“There was plenty of maize, beans and other vegetables, and except for drastic drought years, we would never go hungry,” he said. “The subsistence farming system has totally collapsed in many areas.

“It is sad to see vast amounts of land go to waste when we have a food price problem.”

Lamola also suggested encouraging partnerships between commercial farmers and villagers to use their land for food production and sustenance.

Boost for female farmers

In his Budget, Manuel also allocated R1.8-billion to the Women’s Agriculture and Rural Development initiative and the Micro-Agriculture Finance Institution of South Africa.

The former is an initiative aimed at highlighting gender-related issues in agriculture and focuses specifically on land policies, programmes and projects, while the latter provides financial services for the development of small agri-businesses.

Both initiatives were implemented as farmers, particularly women in rural areas, still experience problems when they need access to financial assistance as well as land and other relevant information, including their rights regarding land reform.

“Increasing agriculture output, raising rural incomes, supporting small-scale farmers and investing in rural roads are key objectives of [the] government’s rural development strategy,” Manuel said.

Source: BuaNews