With a poverty rate of 52.2%, hunger in North West remain marginally higher than the national average. However, the provincial department of agriculture and rural development continues to plough into food security programmes.
In recent weeks, primary schools were supported with garden tools, seedlings, shade nets and production inputs. This, says MEC Desbo Mohono, can help impoverished communities to break the cycle of poverty, increase food security, as well as create jobs.
Since the programme’s launch, Mohono’s department has reached over 1 900 households. The food gardens at schools not only feed learners, but community members too. Mohono tells Food For Mzansi she is on a mission to promote agriculture amongst the youth.
Duncan Masiwa: Judging from your Twitter feed, you have been traveling quite extensively with the food security programme. Why have you decided to extend the programme to primary schools in villages?
Desbo Mohono: This is an initiative (by both) the North West department of agriculture and rural development and department of education led by MEC Maphefo Matsemela. Our objective is primarily to empower young minds on food security, as well as helping to provide healthy meals at school. We are also in quest of making agriculture a way of life. Schools are the best foundation to start such progressive initiatives.
How many schools have already benefitted from this programme?
Twenty-one schools have been assisted so far. We plan to cover as many (schools) as possible to ensure that our learners are exposed to farming at an early stage. This initiative will also include learner excursions to farms.
Schools were supported with garden tools, seedlings, shade nets and production inputs. We have also provided training to both learners and parents that would normally assists with these gardens. The district has also provided support through its advisory services by providing regular advisory visits to these schools.
There are quite a number of new agricultural projects in the province…
The department initiated backyard food gardens where over 2 000 households were assisted with seedlings, tools, fertilisers and indigenous chickens across the province. Over 250 smallholder farmers were assisted.
The province has successfully managed to support aquaponic projects that are now reputable at food security-level. These projects are in the rural villages and have sustained themselves so well. We have also managed to provide support to a female-owned vegetable project in Kanana. At present, the project is selling produce at the Klerksdorp Fresh Produce Market.
Also, 21 layer producers were assisted with a total of 50 layers and feed each. They were able to come together to supply tuck-shop markets with eggs from their households.
How would you describe North West farmers?
They are hardworking, tenacious, and skilled. Our farmers are receptive to new innovations and technology. We are very proud of them as they contribute positively towards our country’s GDP and, importantly, assist in curbing food insecurity, unemployment and poverty.