20090806PMO:Budget vote speech at the Legislature. PIC:PETER MOGAKI. 06/08/2009. © SOWETAN
20090806PMO:Budget vote speech at the Legislature. PIC:PETER MOGAKI. 06/08/2009. © SOWETAN

AGRICULTURE MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza presented a budget yesterday that will focus on the rural areas of Gauteng to eradicate poverty and boost job creation.

The agriculture and rural development budget of R436million will focus on income generation such as SMME development, sustainable use of natural resources, infrastructure development, the environment and conservation.

Mayathula-Khoza said rural unemployment had led to forced migration of unskilled workers to urban areas.

"Migration does not necessarily contribute to the skills base and the migrants remain the poorest among the urban population," she said.

The MEC said many rural people were forced off the land by landlords and farmers through eviction or abuse.

She cited a case in which 39 tenants from Midvaal were evicted in winter by a municipality. This resulted in a violent protest.

A farmworker was allegedly abused by a farmer who was released by a magistrate on free bail.

"We are now 15 years into our democracy, but our people are still subjected to such cruel behaviour. They deserve better in this new dispensation than what they have been subjected to for more than 300 years of discriminatory rule.

"Together with the national departments and other Gauteng government departments, such as community safety, we are going to step up our campaign to visit farms and farmworkers. These visits will focus on educating farmers and farmworkers and empowering them to respond to this kind of abuse appropriately."

Rural development is a new area for agriculture which is faced with the challenges of food shortages and climate change. The priority will be to create sustainable jobs and fight poverty in line with the directives of the 2007 ANC Polokwane conference.

Emergent farmers who received land from the Land Affairs restitution programme fared poorly because of lack of settlement support. The MEC said the department would devise a programme of support so that land beneficiaries use the land well.

This would also apply to new farmers entering the industry who would be provided with training, capacity building and mentorship.

The department would look at middlemen in the agricultural sector as food prices are high yet farmers get little recompense. The whole food chain would be scrutinised.

Mayathula-Khoza further said the department would develop a new strategy to deal with climate change. Other plans include:

l Finalising the updated conservation plan.

l Implementing the protected areas expansion strategy. This will involve the expansion of nature reserves and the implementation of the biodiversity stewardship programme.

l Hosting of the Mmatshepo Khumbane awards.

l Broadening the impact of all sustainable resource management.