Sokhulumi: Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson says more needs to be done to curtail soaring food prices for the country to improve food security at household level.
Speaking to SAnews during the commemoration of World Food Day in Sokhulumi village outside Bronkhorstspruit on Tuesday, the minister said food security was a challenge for a number of households across various sectors of the population, more so in rural settings.
She said food security and reasonable food prices played a big role in maintaining a stable, democratic state. She appealed to South Africans to go back to basics to counter the challenge of rising food prices by reverting to gardening.
“We are urging all families to have vegetable gardens. Each family, every school and every church should have one vegetable garden. Every South African must be involved in vegetable gardens in order to fight soaring food prices,” said Joemat-Pettersson.
Although South Africa as a country was food secure, the minister said the country’s exportation of primary agricultural products meant the nation was now contending with high food prices.
She said the foremost goal for the country was to deal with the triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment.
According to the minister, about 20 percent of South Africans were food insecure. “That is about 10 million people in South Africa that are food insecure, and while the rest of the people eat fatty foods, others are starving and those are the contradictions and inequalities we have in our society.
“We cannot fold our hands as government and watch poverty, malnutrition and starvation; this is our response to it (the distribution of seeds in an effort to encourage residents to establish food gardens).
“We are working with non-governmental organisations and other relevant stakeholders to ensure that we feed our people,” she said.
Accompanied by Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane and Gauteng MEC for Agriculture, Nandi Mayathula-Khoza, the minister planted vegetables in the household garden of local resident, January Sibiya, 50.
Speaking to SAnews, the unemployed father of four said: “I’m very grateful for the support I received from government in the form of seeds; nothing will stop me from producing food for my family and other residents.
“We don’t have a water shortage in this village so through this vegetable garden, I will fight high food prices.”
Addressing hundreds of residents, Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane said by empowering women, government was empowering the nation.
The Agriculture Department this week announced that it had set a target of establishing 15 000 smallholder producers, with a particular focus on women.
“Through cooperatives, women are able to unite in solidarity and provide a network of mutual support to overcome cultural restrictions to pursuing commercial or economic activities.
“Empowerment of women and gender equality are important elements in achieving food security. Cooperatives are the most widespread form of organisational networks in many rural areas and give women farmers a chance to enhance their income and economic independence as well as to contribute to food security,” she said.
Mokonyane said 81.5 percent of Gauteng residents were food secure, while 12.6 percent of residents had inadequate access to food and a further 5.9 percent had severely inadequate access to food.
World Food Day aims to inform communities of the ways to mitigate the impact of the rise in food prices through the establishment of food gardens and supporting agricultural cooperatives in attaining food security, job creation and economic growth.
This year, World Food Day recognises the role that agricultural cooperatives play in fighting hunger and poverty through the theme ‘Agricultural cooperatives – key to feeding the world’.