Sizwe Matshikiza

Sizwe Matshikiza

To help fight poverty and combat the high cost of food, poor communities and pupils from poor schools in Soweto will receive free seeds and equipment.

This is part of the War on Poverty programme initiated by Gauteng MEC for agriculture, conservation and environment Khabisi Mosunkutu,

Launched in Tembisa, Ekurhuleni and Tarlton on the West Rand last month, the campaign moves to the poorest residents and pupils in Soweto.

Relying on the core meaning of the traditional Letsema-ilima, the programme promotes mass mobilisation and mass participation in growing food and increasing the province's food supply.

Participants receive free seeds and gardening equipment. Identified farmers, especially those in the former maize triangle, will also be assisted with seed and equipment, fertilisers, environmentally friendly pesticides and in some instances access to boreholes.

The programme is expected to contribute to food security, help reduce the cost of basic food and promote productivity.

The focus of the programme includes provision of material and technical support to massively increase food production in the province.

The department will also include programmes aimed at rapid development of production of niche market agricultural products, including essential oils.

Animal and poultry farmers will also get assistance.

Working with the Gauteng department of education (GDE), 515 poor schools have been identified.

Reagile Primary in Tembisa, where the campaign was launched, is one such school.

Communities, teachers, pupils and community development workers are being mobilised to take part.

People will come together to work the land and ensure that pupils in poor schools and residents in poor communities produce nutritious food that will complement feeding schemes.

Intensification of community and household food gardening projects will take place simultaneously with the initiation of school food garden projects.

Other disadvantaged farmers, including the 117 farmers who are in the process of acquiring title deeds as a result of interventions by the department, fall within the department's target group.

The department will also assist communities with hiring tractors, planters, harrows and mouldboards.

With the adoption of Agriculture Black Economic Empowerment (AgriBEE) by the trade and industry department, this department is enjoined to promote the objectives of this charter.

The department recognises farm workers and farm tenants as designated groups that should also benefit from the development of the entire agricultural sector.

l The writer is media spokesman for the Gauteng department of agriculture