Weekend Podcast: Free State agriculture MEC going back to the future

This week's episode features co-presenter Duncan Masiwa (left) and new Free State agri MEC Thembeni Nxangisa. Photos: Supplied/Food for Mzansi

This week's episode features co-presenter Duncan Masiwa (left) and new Free State agri MEC Thembeni Nxangisa. Photos: Supplied/Food for Mzansi

In previous years, the Free State province was known as the food basket of South Africa. Recently appointed MEC of the province’s agriculture and rural development department, Thembeni Nxangisa, says the province will once more hold the title.

Nxangisa, joining us on today’s podcast, says that agriculture needs to play its part in the economy of the country. He explains that part of the plans for agriculture in the Free State includes returning the province to its former glory.

“[The] Free State has lost its [status as] the food basket of the country. We must return to that. That’s priority number one. [Our second priority] is to fast track the programmes of smallholders, increase them and capacitate them and grow them. But of course, for food security, [we] would want to sustain the current farmers who are providing food security in the country. Those are the key elements [of our plan].”

Nxangisa emphasises working in tandem with the farmers of the province in order to improve its agricultural landscape. Taking over from Kwekwe Bulwane, he explains that the handover was thorough and provided him with all he needed to know to plan effectively for the future of the department.

Full steam ahead

“We have been able to brief each other on the progress and the work that has been happening [in the province]. Upon arriving at the department, I met stakeholders, I met all sectors, I met all directors. I got an extensive briefing on the challenges of the department, [as well as] on the strides the department [has made], and the kind of support they require. I have gathered sufficient information to say, ‘this is the direction we can take [in] the department’.”

For the department to succeed in their quest, Nxangisa says there needs to be changes in structure and focus. “[We] need to re-energise the department and refocus the resource that [we] have and restructure the budget, so that it supports those programmes. We want to occupy our special space in the country by becoming the food basket of the country [again]. We used to be that, and we are going back there with our smallholder farmers and subsistence farmers, [and] other critical stakeholders.”

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