MEC optimistic about agriculture

THE agricultural sector in Gauteng is on a sound footing with many projects in the pipeline to improve the lives of citizens, MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development Nandi Mayathula-Khoza said when she presented her budget to the Gauteng Legislature.

THE agricultural sector in Gauteng is on a sound footing with many projects in the pipeline to improve the lives of citizens, MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development Nandi Mayathula-Khoza said when she presented her budget to the Gauteng Legislature.

The MEC said Gauteng, as well as other provinces, faces the challenges of poverty, hunger and malnutrition.

"In rural Gauteng these challenges are exacerbated by inadequate and unstable food supplies and overall high levels of unemployment," Mayathula-Khoza said yesterday.

Butvarious projects begun in years past are now bearing fruit. There have been solid gains in agriculture, emergent farming, school gardens, veterinary sciences and environmental conservation.

She said Gauteng received its fair share of rain and was able to use 18percent of its total land area for agriculture. She said the veterinary sector had won accreditation for its quality assurance programme, which facilitates the export of food and animal products overseas.

The Batho Pele principle meant that the sector prioritised animal health, especially the animals of emergent farmers. A huge pet project has also been implemented as the province is highly urbanised, with the increased danger of interaction between animals and humans.

"This strategy has a pet care aspect to ensure the holistic principle of healthy animals and healthy people in the prioritised townships."

Veterinarians are also training emergent pig farmers in collaboration with the University of Pretoria.

"In the last financial year the province introduced the first veterinary biosecurity strategy and structure in South Africa. This should help to reduce the impact of major disease outbreaks," Mayathula-Khoza said.

This is in spite of global warming, porous borders and increased migration of people and animals.

The expanded public works programme had created jobs for women and the youth. LandCare Youth Camps were successful in instilling environmental awareness.

Nurseries in wetlands have produced their first harvest. Gauteng has an increasing niche market in agricultural products such as ground nuts, sunflowers, cotton and sorghum which means growth in food processing plants.

The challenge to reduce poverty by half in 2014 saw the launch of 121 food garden projects with 1876 participants. This was in response to requests for aid in establishing food gardens, boreholes, and irrigation and electricity layout.

School garden nutrition projects handed out 1699 starter packs including gardening equipment and seeds.

The target here is the poorest of the poor in townships and informal settlements.

Another feather in the department's hat is the successful bid for the Agricultural Biotechnology International Conference to be held in Gauteng in 2011.

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