Following the cabinet approval for the appointment of Dan Morokane to take over the reins at Eskom as the new chief executive officer early in the new year, agricultural leaders have called on him to prioritise sustainable power supply.
Morokane will take over after the dramatic exit of former chief executive André de Ruyter which led government to start looking for a replacement at the embattled state-owned entity.
Ending load shedding crucial for youth in agriculture
Keatlegile Mnguni, the national youth chairperson of the African Farmers Association of South Africa (Afasa), said it would be of benefit to young people who have ventured into agriculture if power cuts could be stopped completely by the incoming leader.
She said load shedding has had a negative impact which has contributed immensely to the production quality, efficiency and mostly the productivity of agribusinesses.
“Reliability, consistency, and sustainability of power is highly crucial and of importance for youth in agriculture. This is a basic need for agribusinesses to operate and for youth to contribute to the economic growth, food security and development of the country,” she added.
Mnguni said load shedding has only made things tougher for youth-led agri enterprises who are dealing with challenges affected by the power crisis such as bad road infrastructure, failed rail systems, and increases in fuel prices and food prices.
Prioritising renewable energy for farming futures
“We would like the new chief executive officer to focus on prioritising increasing the capacity of renewable energy through solar energy to assist in mitigating the risks faced on power outages which farmers and consumers cannot afford to experience.
“Power stations and plants need maintenance and repairs to avoid larger area power outages for longer periods so as not to add to the unproductive agribusiness business operational capacity which also impacts water supply, food waste, irrigation and machinery damages,” she said.
Mnguni said the incoming chief executive officer needs to take farmers out of this pandemic and assist them in finding stability and sustainability to increase agroeconomic growth and productivity.
“As Afasa Youth, we are prepared to work with Eskom to seek technical alternative energy solutions for the agricultural sector and we want to be part of the solution,” she said.
Urgent calls for streamlined energy solutions in agriculture
Meanwhile, Phaladi Matsole, a farmer and chairperson of the Free State Business Council for Districts, said the new leader of Eskom would need to surround himself with dedicated and knowledgeable people so that he can turn the embattled institution around.
“We hope he will speed up issuing permits and licenses to ready Independent Power Producers that are privately owned to keep the country lights on without interruptions,” he said.
Lebogang Mokodi, who farms in the Ganyesa area of North West, added that farmers who relied on irrigation were the hardest hit by load shedding which was a ticking bomb for job losses.
“For example, lack of heating in cold weather conditions especially for chicks is catastrophic and even on harvesting electricity is needed, so without proper electricity, it’s going to be problematic to ensure quality production,” she said.
Advocating solar subsidies for agricultural resilience
Northern Cape farmer Funeka Kunene said the province with its extreme hot could do with subsidies of solar panels to farmers and households to reduce the impact of load shedding on farming operations and a threat to food security.
“We can use the sun to generate our power, it will be very cheap and easy for us as farmers. I believe that initiative will save South Africa from load shedding disaster,” she said.
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