Farmers and agripreneurs in Gauteng can look forward to being on the receiving end of better support from the department of economic development, environment, agriculture and rural development. This according to Gauteng agri MEC Parks Tau.
In an exclusive interview with Farmer’s Inside Track, Tau unpacks his plans for agriculture in the province for 2022. High up on his agenda is expanding the scope in which extension officers can provide more targeted support to farmers in the province.
There will also be a serious focus on urban agriculture and the opportunities in the cannabis industry.
According to Tau, his department aims to improve primary production. Their plan is to focus on targeted land release programmes, transformation and access to opportunities for historically disadvantaged individuals and smaller developing farmers.
“It is critical that farmers can produce but also [enjoy] access to the right markets. We [need to] create the necessary support mechanism,” Tau says.
He adds that they are mandated to ensure increased market access for smallholder farmers through various interventions, such as the establishment of a horticulture hub to support accreditation for market support in the West Rand. This will help ensure that farmers have better access to markets, as well as direct procurement from the provincial government.
“The second strategy is ensuring that there is aggregation of the produce of farmers and to break down the barriers of markets and that the hubs expand the focus and support programmes.
“Farmers will also be provided with cold storage facilities by the government,” the MEC vows.
Extension officer development
Tau explains that they plan to expand the scope in which extension officers can provide more targeted support, particularly production lines.
A shortage of extension officers in the province will be solved through a partnership approach, he adds. This is expected to be done through engaging the private sector to ensure their participation in increasing agricultural development.
“One of the companies through their own developmental enterprise and supply programme has committed to ensure that they provide training as support for particular farmers in their industry. It is a bit premature to mention who they are, but the approach is mainly based on transformation,” he says.
“As we expand the scope of extension officers it also about building appropriate partnerships with role players that can increase the level of support we can provide.”
Cannabis and urban agriculture
What Tau is most optimistic about is the financial prospects of marijuana legalisation and the establishment of a well-structured cannabis business in Mzansi.
“Cannabis is part of an industry that the department and Gauteng province will be focusing on. The department has established an economic report on the industry,” he says.
Moreover, he emphasises the benefits of developing cannabis and hemp products for therapeutic use as well as textile uses, as reasons to accelerate the legalisation process. He tells Farmer’s Inside Track that they are ready to establish incubating cannabis centres.
Tau adds that urban agriculture, such as vertical farming, is clearly on the agenda. They are looking at methods to increase urban agricultural efforts. Furthermore, climate change mitigation techniques will also be implemented to fulfill the 2050 objectives, he points out.
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