Assisting small-scale and new farmers, increasing primary production and improving market access. These are the 2022 agenda points for Gauteng’s department of agriculture and rural development.
Parks Tau, MEC for economic development, environment, agriculture and rural development, says that the department aims to expand on its support mechanisms for the small-scale farmers in the province this year.
In an interview with Food For Mzansi he added that one of the main focus points will be the release of more land to small-scale farmers. “The first of our priorities relates to increasing primary production in the province. Part of that would include targeted land release programmes by the department and targeted support for small and emerging farmers.”
The land release programmes will include support for urban agriculture, with the department looking at how vertical agriculture initiatives can be expanded in the province.
While increasing primary production is important, Tau explained, farmers also need access to markets.
“[The department is] creating market access for small and emerging farmers through various interventions, including the establishment of the horticultural hub and support for the creation of a market in the West Rand.”
Last year, the West Rand hub received a R46 million cash injection and government estimated that the initiative would help develop around 300 000 smallholders and create 145 000 agro-processing jobs.
This year, Tau says one of the support mechanisms planned for this year is the obtaining of raw materials or services on behalf of up-and-coming farmers. “[Support includes] direct procurement by the provincial government for emerging farmers in our province. That would be critical to ensure that people gain access to their ability to produce [along with] access to market.”
Various of the department’s strategies centre around poverty and food security and the creation of opportunities for historically disadvantaged residents of the province.
Extending support for small-scale farmers
Gauteng has various agri-hubs around the province, which Tau says will be on the receiving end of broadened support programmes this year. “We are also supporting farmers with cold storage facilities and different types of support structures that we create for different sectors in the agricultural sector.”
As is the case elsewhere in the country, the availability of extension services is particularly limited. One of the department’s goals is to expand extension services despite the shortage of extension officers on the ground.
“It’s always a budget constraint problem that we have with regard to the recruitment of additional staff. Our approach is about building partnerships, so we are engaging with various private sector partners so that they are also able to provide support.”Gauteng MEC Parks Tau
A private company, to be named later, has agreed to provide these services within their sector, says Tau, a move he is sure will yield results. “One of the companies, through their own enterprise and supplier development programme, has committed to ensuring that they provide training and the necessary support for targeted farmers in the particular sectors that they are in.”
He says that the Agricultural Development Agency (AGDA) has also agreed to put together a set of support mechanisms for farmers in the province. “As we expand the scope of our own extension officers, it is also about building the appropriate partnership with the role players in the sector so that we are able to increase the level of support that can be provided.”
Cannabis industry also on the radar
By June 2021, the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) had issued 11 cannabis cultivation licences to growers in Gauteng. Tau says that the department plans to broaden the industry in 2022.
“We have established an economic war room, and hemp and cannabis are part of the areas that we’re looking at in terms of prioritisation. We’ve [also] been engaging with the sector about what needs to be addressed.”
Tau acknowledges that legislation around cannabis is tricky. But once these issues are addressed at national level, it will open up opportunities for the province to increase production of hemp and cannabis, as well as agro-processing in this emerging industry.
“We have developed two business cases. One is looking directly at medical cannabis and the support systems that need to be in place. But, of course, the support systems are always going to be dependent on the extent to which the regulatory process is addressed. But we are ready from an implementation point of view.”
The second business case involves developing the hemp and related industries, and the setting up of an incubation hub for hemp production.
“We have engaged with one of the major landowners, Sibanye Gold, who has committed… to release 1 000 hectares for an initial production line or an initial set of programmes that we would implement with regard to hemp. It is those sorts of opportunities that we’re looking at, including of course, supporting role players that are currently active in the market.”
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