Speech by the Honourable Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ms Tina Joemat-Pettersson at the World Food Day commemoration in the Gauteng Province at Bronkhorstspruit, Kwa-Sokhulumi Village
16 Oct 2012
Theme: 'Agricultural cooperatives – key to feeding the world'
The Programme Director,
Honourable Premier of Gauteng province, Ms Nomvuyo Mokonyane,
Honourable MEC, Ms Nandi Manyathula-Khoza,
Honourable MMC Councillor, Ms Petunia Mashaba,
Honourable Members from the House of Traditional Leaders,
Honourable Country Representative for the FAO,
Invited delegates from various institutions,
Ladies and gentlemen.
Today we mark yet another World Food Day – bearing cognisance to the 33rd anniversary of the World Food Day Commemorations, and the 66th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation in 1945.
The aim of the World Food Day is to heighten public awareness about food security.
Ladies and gentlemen, as we gather here today we are reminded of the painful reality that 12 million South African citizens have no access to food. Even more distressing is the fact that while these South Africans suffer, South Africa is a generally food secure country.
The right to access to adequate food is a fundamental right. During the World Food Summit in 2006, various heads of state and government reiterated that citizens have the right to be free from hunger. Furthermore, the declarations enclosed in the Millennium Development Goals of 2000, and the World Food Summit of 2002, additionally accredited these commendable efforts by reaffirming their will to eradicate poverty and hunger.
Our Constitution states that every citizen has a right to have access to sufficient food and water and that the State will ensure the realisation of this right. President Zuma has challenged us to actively take part in the ending of the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality by adopting policies that prioritise the basic needs of our people, particularly in rural areas.
Yesterday, South Africa joined other global voices to celebrate rural women’s contribution to food production and for being brave in the face of difficulty. Rural women are amongst the hardest hit by poverty and a lack of opportunities. The Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programmes of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is designed to assist people in rural areas to grow their own food so they can sustain themselves and their families.
Our department has set itself a target of establishing 15 000 smallholder producers with a particular focus on women. We have seen many inspirational stories of women who are doing it by themselves. I would like to tell these women that I am proud of them and their efforts to be sustainable producers for both themselves and their communities.
Ladies and gentlemen, is because of these reasons that we have converged here at Sokhulumi Village in Bronkhospruit. We stand here as a united front against hunger and poverty and have brought our international partners from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Our fight is not confined to South Africa but our dream is to rid or country of hunger, and poverty. The question we are all grappling with is: how we can eradicate poverty and bid hunger and starvation for good?
How are we going to make sure that no child goes to school hungry, that our gogos do not spend their golden years fighting off hunger while they should be enjoying their golden years? Poverty is much higher in rural areas compared to urban areas. It is also in rural areas where unemployment is higher, and where our people endure more hardships.
According to the National Agricultural Marketing Council’s Quarterly Food Prices Monitoring reports: from Jan 2008 to October 2010, consumers in rural areas on average paid R16.74 more than consumers in urban areas for the same basket of foodstuffs.
The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries plays a critical role in ensuring that agricultural production by means of promoting entrepreneurship and providing support to emerging and commercial farmers.
How can the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries overcome the challenges we face and how can we ensure that food security is not just another topic of discussion? Each day we are inundated with media reports of the unstable food supplies owing to unstable weather conditions. What are we doing?
Our government, and particularly the department, has been at the forefront of the mantra: “One family, one food garden” to get every church, school, clinic and community space to establish food gardens. Small steps must be undertaken to ensure that we produce our own food.
In August this year, Walmart/Massmart invited us to witness a graduation ceremony for twenty smallholder farmers. The company had taken the farmers through training, built a pack-house and storage facilities and supplied them with transport to take their harvest to Massmart stores for sale. 50% of the graduates were women. This initiative not only restored my hope in partnerships but it demonstrated the kind of assistance that smallholder farmers are so hungry for, and one that each corporation should seek to emulate when assisting us with food security and food production.
I am very proud that my colleagues from the Gauteng province have taken the issue of agricultural cooperatives, and the entire sector, with gusto and a determination to ensure that practical assistance is provided for small-scale farmers. I am confident that our collective small steps will lead to good, visible results.
We have to move away from thinking commercial farmers are the only ones who are responsible for producing food. To ease the pressure on farmers, we must cultivate and nurture a small-scale farming sector and cooperatives to assist us in firstly, creating employment, and, secondly help us to create sustainable small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs).
The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has devised policies that recognise the roles that small-holder farmers and cooperatives can play towards diversifying food production from commercial farmers. There have been good opportunities for commercial farmers. There are opportunities for South African farmers to import their businesses to other countries.
This expansion of South Africa food producers to other parts of the world does not mean we are losing them, it is a nod for our country and we should be proud that their skills can be harnessed in a good way that ensured agricultural production and food security on the rest of our continent and abroad.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Department of Trade and Industry has an established co-operatives unit whose design is to facilitate the establishment of Small-scale cooperatives. The total number of small scale cooperatives promoted and assisted with registration support for the 2011/12 period is as follows: 33 in the Eastern Cape, 18 cooperatives in Gauteng, 13 in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal (KZNROSS ) has 111 cooperatives.
A total of R12 574 082 has been spent across nine provinces on 18 large-scale cooperatives. These are cooperatives that have been identified to have the potential to create more than 50 jobs each, with the primary aim to direct resources and efforts towards sustainable projects that have a high potential to meaningfully create jobs.
A breakdown of the total distributed amount is as follows: the Eastern Cape received R1 282 800, Free State received R450 000, Gauteng received of R730 000, Mpumalanga received R837 506, North West was the beneficiary of R2 436 200, Northern Cape received R3 020 000, the Western Cape received 750 000, KZN was a recipient of R682 576 and Limpopo received R2 385 000.
The total amount that was disbursed to agriculture added to R36 689 091.36.
The New Growth Path has identified the sector as an area with potential for growth and employment. We are told that although the contribution of agriculture to gross domestic product is just below 3%, the total contribution including industries dependent on agriculture is around 23%. This makes it a key cornerstone of the economy, notwithstanding the perceptions of decline.
A major task facing the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has been the provision of assistance to SMMEs. There is growing concern that the people who need development and assistance the most are not receiving it because it is entrenched in the hands of a select few. In the Fisheries branch, the small-scale fisheries policy seeks to address this. For many decades, the fishing industry has been dominated by a few companies at the expense of small-scale fishermen and fisherwomen. From an economic point, families who have depended on fishing are unable to access the ocean.
Policies from our own government have prevented them from accessing a natural resource and from an income to feed their families. The results of these policies and this lack of income is palpable in the destroyed lives of many young people who have turned to drugs and who are at the mercy of organised crime. Poaching has stolen millions of rands from the poor and it has robbed the ocean of valuable resources.
The development of our country’s Food Security Policy is an attempt to find solutions to food insecurity.
Feeding the nation is not just about providing food, but is also about providing the means, through policy, for citizens to take part in the production of their own food. We cannot sit idle while scores of people are kept out of the economy just because we are too afraid to challenge the status quo. There is a time and place for us to talk, but we must not be silenced into wishing the problem away. Corruption eats at the very core of our society and robs the poor of services that they deserve. We should strengthen our fight against corruption.
Cooperatives can play a very important role in curbing current hunger and food insecurity situation in South Africa.
South Africa, as any other developing country, is faced with challenges of poverty, unemployment, climate change, crime/safety on farms, increases in the cost of living, economic recession, HIV and AIDS pandemic, surging food prices, to name but a few.
These create instability which manifests in a variety of outcomes. One of which is the growing food insecurity at both the national and household levels. In some countries the above-mentioned factors had led to riots and political unrest.
In closing, food security will only be through inter-linkages between other government programmes, the agri-industry, the agro-processing and retail sectors, the research based institutions, the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society.
Countries with equivalent economies as ours such as India, Brazil have managed to reduce the levels of income inequalities, and have reduced hunger up-to zero levels. We should ask ourselves what it is that they have done that we are not doing, and put our shoulders to the wheel to ensure that the Freedom Charter proclaims, 'food shall be plentiful and no one will go hungry.'
It is our collective responsibility to ensure that the vision that our foremothers and forefathers had for our country are turned into a reality. We are not fail them, ourselves and our future generations. Together we can, and will defeat the challenge of hunger, starvation and poverty.
I thank you.
Issued by: Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
16 Oct 2012
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