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June 13, 2010

South Africa to support new black farmers

by Lucky Biyase

The South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries plans to spend nearly R500 million (1 Rand = US 13cents) in all nine province to buy farming equipment such as tractors for black farmers.

The programme is part of a four-year programme to help at least 10 500 black farmers run their operations commercially.

The programme, at more than R50m per province, was announced by Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Tina Joemat-Pettersson in Parliament.

National African Farmers Union (Nafu) president Otto Mbangula said: "It is something that we have been advocating for many years but the government has not been willing to come to the party."

Mlungisi Johnson, the chairman of the parliamentary committee on agriculture, forestry and fisheries, said: "The intention is to reach all the millennium development goals such as halving poverty by 2014 and making sure that there is food for everybody".

About 14 million South African households were vulnerable to food insecurity and another 2.2 million were already victims.

Mbangula said the department had not informed Nafu of the plans but they were willing to participate.

"We have made calls for funding to enable our farmers to become self-sufficient commercial farmers. We are however aware that the government was having challenges with funds. But this is one step in the right direction," he said.

Johnson said this was part of the Masibuyele Emasimini programme, a campaign aimed at intensifying food production in the country.

"This will give a chance to black farmers and we are teaming up with all the stakeholders in order to make sure that we make the best out of agriculture," he said.

He said provinces such as Mpumalanga had already made procurements which were signs that the campaign was gaining momentum.

Bennie van Zyl, the general manager of the Transvaal Agricultural Union (Tau), said he had many questions about the viability of the support programme.

"Will this be sustainable and will it make any benefit for all of us in the fight against food insecurity? Or will it be of short-term benefit for somebody?" Van Zyl asked.

Africa Investor

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