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Gauteng's plan to make food secure

By Nandi Mayathula-Khoza | 2012-06-08 09:40:20.0

THE 2012-13 budget allocation for the Gauteng department of agriculture and rural development is R493,976,000.

It has decreased by 4% from R516,658,000 in 2011/12.

We therefore remain resolute to make significant progress towards our related vision of working together to build vibrant, equitable and sustainable communities contributing towards food security for all, protected and enhanced environmental assets and natural resources.

Our budget plans for 2012-13 to support smallholder farmers include drilling boreholes, irrigation designs and installation in 55 community projects, as well as the supply of watertight storage containers and installation of fences and gates on smallholder farms.

A total of 1455 cooperatives will be supported through capacity building, business and institutional support, production support and access to markets and finance. A total of R16798000 has been set aside from the Letsema/Ilima budget. Part of the funding will also come from the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (R48016000).

We also provided other forms of support, including extension and advisory services, training and mentoring of various commodity study groups by large commercial farmers and the Agriculture Research Council. This has resulted in well-equipped farmers who are knowledgeable and well informed. We also launched the West Rand Agricultural Institute to increase accredited training in 2012-13.

We will train 300 farmers this year. We have requested the minister of agriculture to help us refurbish and upgrade the facility.

In our quest to ensure improved access to affordable and diverse food, we are working with the department of social development to reduce the number of undernourished children and to create safety nets for the most vulnerable groups in society through our integrated food security and zero hunger strategies.

Our budget plans for 2012/13 are to provide community groups with food garden starter packs, especially in the 50 poorest wards. We plan to establish 55 community vegetable gardens in churches, hostels, clinics, early child development centres and 11000 homestead food gardens.

All these initiatives are part of Siyazondla campaign of "one household, one food garden, one fruit tree", for our people to grow their own nutritious food to fight hunger and poverty.

On the restitution of land, the national Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) has settled 97% of 11145 claims lodged in Gauteng. Only 270 are outstanding, and of these, 103 claimants are untraceable. A total of 16378 hectares of land have been restored and R635204709 was paid in financial compensation.

For 2012-13 the DRDLR has budgeted R70-million to settle 21 new land claims, and R6-million to finalise 120 outstanding claims.

On the Recapitalisation and Development Programme, in the 2011-12 financial year, 37 farms have benefited through beef production, poultry, piggeries, crop production, mixed farming, livestock, and 129 new jobs were created.

For 2012-13, the DRDLR has budgeted R34-million to recapitalise 26 farms, 14 individual farms and 12 communal property associations in Gauteng. The challenges for the programme include inadequate capacity to deal with all projects due to manpower shortages, red tape and few strategic partners willing to share the risk.

The DRDLR has released the Green Paper on Land Reform for public comments to address the slow pace of land redistribution. The Green Paper proposes a 4-tier tenure system that includes state, private, foreign-owned and communally owned land. It also proposes the establishment of a Land Management Commission, the office of Valuer General and a Land Rights Management Board to address weaknesses of the "willing seller, willing buyer" approach.

In line with Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Gugile Nkwinti's words in his 2012 budget vote speech: "We continue committing ourselves to sharpening our capacity to implement this programme to ensure that all South Africa's people are able to share in the prosperity that this wonderful country has to offer."

On the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme, we have been hard at work with various role-players in the four rural nodes to be piloted in Devon, Bantubonke, Hekpoort and KwaSokhulumi in Tshwane.

Our role is to implement agricultural and environmental programmes in these areas and to coordinate other departments and local government work in the rural areas. While the Gauteng department of agriculture and rural development has budgeted R4773000, other Gauteng departments will contribute R123-million to rural development.

Our plan to promote labour intensity in agriculture will be integrated with government programmes to divert labour to commercial farms. Interns, learners and Expanded Public Works Programme workers will be placed in labour-intensive commercial farms such as organic projects. Soft loans will also be made available by developmental financial institutions to promote agro-processing on these farms.

To accelerate revitalisation of the Maize Triangle, we have budgeted R4.5-million for mechanisation, R3.2-million for production inputs and R2.3-million for another feed-milling plant on the West Rand and two milling plants in Holfontein and Westonaria.

Silos will be provided for farmers in the Maize Triangle for the storage of maize and other grain. We are collaborating with the Department of Roads and Transport to finalise the transport plan on road and rail for the Maize Triangle.

The environment plays an essential role in determining the future opportunities and constraints for growth and development. In the past, development emphasised exploitation and optimisation of the country's mineral and natural resources with little concern for long-term environmental impact and sustainability. As per the outcomes commitments, the government is committed to protect our environmental assets and natural resources. The department has a duty to develop and implement policies, programmes and projects, working together with stakeholders.

Inadequate access to basic services can result in poor health and increasing vulnerability to poor environmental conditions, particularly in marginalised communities. This may lead to problems like increased solid waste volumes or dumping, ground-water contamination, high e.coli counts and cholera.

We developed the Gauteng General Waste Minimisation Plan, Hazardous Waste Management Plan and General Waste Collection Standards. These are aimed at reducing waste at landfill sites, and the provision of consistent, uniform waste collection.

With regard to acid mine water drainage, we continued to support the implementation of the nationally driven response to the problem. Together with the Department of Local Government and Housing, we participate in the intergovernmental structure responsible for coordinating the implementation of the immediate, short- and long-term responses to the problem.

The implementation of the immediate and short-term solutions has commenced (increasing the treatment capacity in the western basin, monitoring of water levels and the ingress of water), the long-term solution is still being investigated. Our goal is to implement a passive treatment project within the Western Basin. This will raise awareness and encourage communities to take part in environmental programmes aimed at addressing the challenges they experience.

Our land care projects include the Traditional Healers' Medicinal Plants Conservation Project wherein 47 traditional healers, mostly women, were trained in an AgriSeta-accredited plant propagation unit standard.

Medicinal plants were distributed to traditional healers on the West Rand, Bophelong, Alexandra, Tembisa, Orange Farm, Fochville and Khutsong. A communal medicinal plant garden was established at Tsolo High School in Bophelong.

The three community-based Medicinal Plant Nurseries Projects in Thokoza, Evaton and Devon are operational. Three-hundred units of potting soil, 6000 potting bags and compost were distributed to 33 beneficiaries.

Our 2012-13 budget plans include implementation of eight land care projects aimed at rehabilitation of land affected by degradation. This is coupled with the implementation of an awareness programme on the impact of mining.