Pretoria: President Jacob Zuma has reiterated his support for the campaign that encourages South Africans to productively use the land to improve food security for millions of citizens.
“In order to reduce food insecurity in rural areas, we are promoting food gardens and other forms of subsistence agriculture, involving civil society. We also have to assist people to market their surplus to augment incomes.
“It is important to make people go back to the land, and not to view social grants, wage employment and non-agricultural informal activities as the only source of income for rural households …” he told delegates at the African Farmers Association of South Africa (Afasa) gala dinner on Monday.
Agriculture is a crucial sector and is one of the six job drivers identified in the New Growth Path, along with mining, beneficiation, manufacturing, the green economy and tourism.
Zuma said the first Afasa annual general meeting was taking place at a time when the international community, including South Africa, was faced with the threat of rising food prices.
“Our people are feeling the effects of the changing international economic climate. A basket of goods is much more expensive compared to what it was a few years ago.
“The poor and the working class are adversely affected by this state of affairs. Malnutrition levels are higher in rural areas and food prices are generally higher in rural areas than in urban areas.”
While being aware of what it took to create an enabling environment for agricultural production, even in difficult financial times, Zuma said support to farmers would need to be beefed up.
“They need financial support, market access, agro-processing and value adding, implements and inputs as well as training and capacity development. These are the essential pillars for successful farmer development.
“As government, we are committed to play our part in the provision of finance, the opening of new markets in our country and in other parts of the world as well as the provision of implements and inputs.
“In doing so, we are delivering on the mandate that is enshrined in the Freedom Charter, which directs government to provide tillers of the land with tractors, implements, seeds and fertiliser that are needed and necessary for farming.”
Government, Zuma said, was also prioritising transformation in the agricultural sector so as to help stimulate food production.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said government was earnest in its efforts of taking agriculture to the people.
“We want every family, every school, clinic and piece of land to start planting vegetable gardens. We don’t want our farmers to remain ’emerging’ or ‘smallholder’ farmers forever. We need them to take part in the economy of our country, to take part in export businesses and to also make money just like commercial farmers.
“We need to develop an agribusiness sector to create more employment for our citizens. We need not restrict ourselves in our thinking. We need to be creative and take small risks,” she said.