Agriculture, land reform and rural development minister Thoko Didiza has called for a “serious intervention” to increase the contribution of black commercial-scale farmers in Mzansi’s agricultural economy.
During her budget speech vote today, she acknowledged “the low levels of inclusion”. The livestock industry has seen considerable growth, though, with black farmers now contributing 11%.
Didiza’s interventions will be built around a number of pillars, including the roll-out of infrastructure, increase in local production, employment stimulus to create jobs and livelihoods, and rapid expansion of the country’s generation capacity.
With regards to the Presidential Employment Stimulus Initiative, the minister reported that her department was allocated R1 billion to support 70 000 subsistence farmers “whose operations are of the size of a soccer field. Currently, 53 000 subsistence farmers have been approved.”
Also, more than 1 400 unemployed graduates and youth involved with the National Rural Youth Service Corps were enrolled to assist in the verification of applicants. A total of 1 209 of them will continue to do monitoring and evaluation of the programme.
Furthermore, Didiza foresees a massive increase in local production.
She said, “In agriculture, this will require a combination of interventions as well as different support systems. Some of these interventions are [the] increase [of] land under production. This will mean cultivating land that has been given to individuals and communities through our land reform programme and those in communal areas.”
Mass employment of extension services
This year, extension and advisory services will also be strengthened, vowed the minister.
“In the seminars that I conducted in the nine provinces in April and May 2021, I was able to meet over 2 000 farmers and agribusiness people, and in all these seminars, there was an emphasis on the importance of extension services and the visibility of these officers.
“As committed by the minister of finance, the department and the provinces have crafted a strategy on the employment of extension officers, and we will employ 2 447 in this financial year.”
Securing the Land Bank’s future
Didiza also highlighted the importance of strengthening agricultural financial services to support production.
With regards to the Land Bank’s financial woes, she said, “…we will do anything possible to secure its future. My department is working closely with National Treasury to work out a sustainable financial model that will ensure that the bank continues to fulfil its mandate.”
Finance minister Tito Mboweni earlier announced R7 billion over the 2021 medium-term expenditure framework period to support the Land Bank.
Didiza believes this will help to resolve the bank’s current default and re-establish the development and transformation mandate.
“My department will also ensure that additional resources are diverted to the Land Bank. All of these efforts will complement the efforts that are in place to support emerging farmers. Food security is key,” she said.
Further financial relief
Didiza also prioritised the finalisation of a blended finance scheme “to leverage private funding to support investments that will unlock and enhance agricultural production, agro-processing and comprehensive land acquisition by black producers through deliberate, targeted and well-defined financial and non-financial interventions.
“This approach will enable the department to collaborate with development financial institutions, private financial institutions and commodity organisations to mainstream the participation of black producers along the agricultural value chains.”