Tackling poverty: investing in agriculture

4 November 2009

South Africa has allocated some R7-million for building silos and milling plants in the Eastern Cape, as part of a crop programme aimed at alleviating poverty in the province’s rural areas.

The plants will produce maize meal and crushed maize as part of a provincial government initiative that is fast-tracking agriculture and agro-processing, including dry-land cropping and livestock farming, as well as forestry.

The initiative falls under the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (Asgi-SA) Eastern Cape.

The initiative’s agriculture and agro-processing project manager, Thukela Mashologu, said that building the silos was the start of an ambitious plan to bring much-needed investment to the former Transkei.

“Silos and milling plants are important to the economy, as these will ultimately lead to diversification for communities who are looking to the programme to help alleviate poverty and improve food security,” Mashologu said.

“The jobs to be created and the small business development are also significant benefits of the integrated cropping programme.”

Increased maize harvest

The initiative has already seen the harvesting of almost 18 000 tons of maize in Butterworth, Matatiele, Mt Frere and Qumbu, while the silo sites are expected to be ready for the second maize harvest in 2010.

This year, Asgi-SA Eastern Cape expects to double its harvest, as the number of hectares under cultivation has almost doubled, from 6 700 to 127 000 hectares.

“Our first maize yield was harvested onto delivery trucks, causing delays in the harvesting process,” Mashologu said. “This method incurred additional costs and affected our monitoring of the exact tonnage of the harvest.”

Maize is the staple food for the province’s rural communities and accounts for nearly 95% of the crops planted in Asgi-SA Eastern Cape’s dry-land cropping programme.

Request for proposals

Mashologu said that Asgi-SA Eastern Cape had embarked on a request for proposals for grain milling and silo management, after which a community public-private partnership arrangement was likely to be formed for managing the grain silos and milling plants.

“The current market conditions, particularly with maize production, create an opportunity to improve the competitiveness of our produce,” he said. “Storage facilities will also help us sell our produce in intervals and therefore ensure we get a fair price. The processing of our produce will boost the province’s market share in this area and create jobs for participating communities.”

Although initial plans were under review, Asgi-SA Eastern Cape plans to plant 100 000 hectares of different dry-land crops, mostly maize, in the rural Transkei over the next five years, expanding this to 500 000 hectares by 2032.

Source: BuaNews