25 October 2013
The government has set aside R2-billion to support the Fetsa Tlala (End Hunger), President Jacob Zuma said at the launch of the food production initiative in Batlharos outside Kuruman in the Northern Cape on Thursday.
Fetsa Tlala seeks to promote self-sufficiency by helping communities to produce food – including maize, beans, wheat, sunflower, ground nuts and potatoes – on communal and under-used land.
The initiative aims to help small-scale and smallholder farmers put one-million hectares of land which has been lying fallow under production over the next five years, as well as to help small businesses process the crops once they have been harvested.
Zuma said that Fetsa Tlala also aimed to shift perceptions about the importance of agriculture and farming in general, noting that agriculture was one of six job drivers – along with mining, tourism, the green economy, manufacturing and infrastructure development – identified in the government’s New Growth Path.
Encouraging people to go back to farming
“We are encouraging people to go back to farming. We are encouraging every household to develop a food garden. We want to see women’s co-operatives and community groupings focusing on vegetable production, livestock or chickens to earn a living and fight hunger and poverty.”
Zuma said that, while South Africa’s overall food insecurity figure was declining, there were still families that lived in poverty. At the same time, the country remained a net importer of food.
The worst poverty is concentrated in South Africa’s former apartheid “homelands”, which account for 13 percent of the country’s land and were home to half of the black population before 1994.
“These areas have remained extremely poor and underdeveloped, and are heavily dependent on remittances from workers in industrial South Africa,” Zuma said, adding that South African agriculture continued to be characterised by a racially skewed distribution of assets, support services, market penetration, infrastructure and income.
“Some 36 000 large-scale farmers control over 86-million hectares of farmland, while 1.4-million black farmers have access to about 14-million hectares of farmland.”
Support, markets for small-scale farmers
Zuma said there was a significant amount of land that still lay fallow in South Africa’s rural areas, some of which had been freed up through land reform.
Smallholder farmers, communities and households would be given assistance in developing this land through the provision of mechanisation support, distribution and technical services.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, addressing a business breakfast briefing in Johannesburg last month, said her department had already brought 200 000 hectares of land under producbtion on seven province – the goal being one-million hectares by 2019.
“Once the food is produced and harvested through Fetsa Tlala, we will then ensure that there is sufficient support for SMMEs [small, medium and micro enterprises] in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries processing sectors to mill the meal or pack the vegetables.”
Joemat-Pettersson said the department would also work with the Department of Trade and Industry to establish markets for small-scale farmers, fishers and foresters.
“This is no dream; it is already happening on the ground, where thousands of hectares have been successfully placed under production – some for consumption, and some for sale, stimulating local economies.
“Government runs hospitals … we have the South African National Defence Force, school feeding schemes, and prisons. Smallholder farmers and producers should have a market in these organisations,” she said.
“Government should be buying food straight from our smallholders and creating viable markets for them. This is what Fetsa Tlala is about. It is about unlocking the economies of rural areas.”