Food security is key for Gauteng agriculture
The Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Developemt (GDARD) needs to sell itself better. It needs to show that agriculture is more than a rumour in the province and something that is the key to its development requirements, with sustainability and empowerment being vital components.
This is the view of Nandi Mayathula-Khoza MEC for the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
“While agriculture is the main aim of the department, there is a bit of grey area in terms of rural development.
In the end, the agriculture branch supports rural development but you cannot have one without the other,” she says.
Within the department, agriculture has three directorates namely: farmer support and development; technology development and support; and agricultural economics and marketing.
Farmer support and development
This directorate aims to provide an integrated provincial agricultural management system to render agricultural support services for sustainable agricultural production and improved household livelihoods towards a quality of life for all.
Its strategic priorities include
Changing race and gender patterns of asset ownership in the agricultural sector,
Improving levels of food security especially on a household level,
Skills development within the agricultural sector,
The optimal and sustainable use of agricultural land for primary production and
Developing a provincial integrated food security strategy.
Farmer support and development has several sub-legs, including farmer settlement support and advisory services. Mayathula-Khoza says that the department is supporting farmers who have been the beneficiaries of land through either reform or private acquisition. Farmers are assisted in a number of ways, with all the branches of the department providing support in their respective focus areas. This is also the biggest sub-component within the agriculture branch.
The directorate also provides extension and advisory services that include sharing new technologies and advising farmers on the benefits of using those technologies. It also deals with specific issues that farmers may face and works with them to come up with potential solutions.
“At the heart of agriculture lies food security. This aspect links all branches within the department. We have developed strategies around this, such as the Gauteng integrated food development strategy, which outlines exactly what needs to be done in the province,” she says.
Nesidoni says that food security specifically targets the poorer areas of the province. This is implemented through programmes like homestead food gardens and school gardens. Essentially, this sub-leg of the directorate deals with all issues around food security, such as financing and marketing.
Technology development and support
This directorate provides an integrated provincial agricultural management system to render an effective agricultural technological development and support service to role-players and stakeholders in agriculture towards a quality of life for all.
Its strategic priorities include:
Zoning of high potential agricultural land for exclusive agricultural use,
The maintenance of high quality agricultural information services,
Skills development in the agricultural sector and
The development of an agricultural information decision support system for the branch.
This sub-leg comes up with new technology and [manages] the research agenda. We support farmers with all the developments around new technology. It has become an important support function to them,” she says.
Agricultural economics and marketing
The final piece of the puzzle is the directorate of agricultural economics and marketing.
It provides economic support to internal and external clients around marketing and statistical information, including financial feasibility and economic viability studies.
Its purpose is to render specialised support services to the line functions of the directorate and to farmers in Gauteng. Its activities include :
Agro-processing and promotion of value-adding
Ensuring successful mainstreaming of informal to semi-formal and emerging SMMEs into agriculture,;
Promoting the efficient marketing of agricultural products,
Ensuring increased market access by all market participants and optimise export earnings, and
Agri-business promotion through capacity building and access to micro finance.