The birth of the Limpopo Agribusiness Academy is in line with the government's vision of making the sector competitive and relevant in the fight against poverty and underdevelopment, Premier Sello Moloto said yesterday.
Delivering the keynote address at the launch of the academy at Tompi Seleka Agricultural Farmers' Training Centre in Ga-Sekhukhune yesterday, Moloto said there was no doubt about the importance of agriculture in both people's welfare and the country's economic development.
He said agriculture employed the highest number of people in the province and that despite the problems, it had the greatest potential to absorb unemployed people.
The academy is an initiative developed and funded by the Limpopo department of agriculture and the Flemish government, through Flanders International (Fica).
The academy will use the facilities at Tompi Seleka and Madzivhandila farmers' training centres in Venda.
The main focus of the academy is to provide the leverage and support needed to improve the livelihood of small-scale producers and entrepreneurs by providing them with management skills in post-production.
Moloto noted that the agricultural sector continued to be confronted with challenges which included droughts, veld fires and other natural disasters.
"Some of the factors which limit the potential of this sector include the scarcity of water resources and the shortage of arable land," Moloto said.
Fica representative Katrien de Pauw said its partnership with South Africa went back to 1994.
De Pauw said the relationship started with support from Flemish non-governmental organisations to direct government-to-government cooperation.
Fica has donated R7,6 million and the Limpopo government has contributed more than R13 million for operational facilities at the centres and at the head office in Polokwane.
The academy has also bought nine tractors and has put in place irrigation infrastructure at Tompi Seleka at a cost of more than R11 million.