When it comes to the Gauteng economy, agriculture has a direct contribution of only 0.5%.
However, in terms of its overall contribution to the province in terms of economic development, the figure moves closer to 25%. This is according to Nandi Mayathula-Khoza, member of the executive council (MEC) for agriculture and rural development in Gauteng.
“To a large extent, this is due to the partnerships the Gauteng department of agriculture and rural development (GDARD) has established with stakeholders in the manufacturing sector.
We have also partnered with the department of economic development, the department of trade and industry and the Industrial Development Corporation,” she says.
GDARD has certainly been making a case for additional budget, with the shift starting in 2005 when the Gauteng provincial government started paying more attention to agricultural development.
Mayathula-Khoza says that her department has been continuously motivating for additional funding, which has resulted in other MECs starting to change their mindset about the importance of agriculture in the province.
“Out of all the provinces, Gauteng has the highest rate of immigration, with more than 250 000 people coming in annually from neighbouring countries.
Suffice to say that the 11-million population of the province is growing at a steady rate with no signs of abating. In truth, we probably need approximately R3.8-billion to do everything we need to at a departmental level. As it stands, we are focusing on doing as much as we can across a broad range of projects,” she adds.
Mayathula-Khoza says that the partnerships which the department has forged have mitigated the lack of budget to a certain extent.
“There are stakeholders who come on board with in-kind contributions. An example of this is the SA Flower Export Council (SAFEC) which has worked with us on a project in the Cullinan area. This project would have cost us more than R2-million to run, but thanks to the contribution of SAFEC, the costs ran well below R800 000.”
Other partnerships come by way of the agricultural expos in the province.
“The department works with organisations to provide us with funding to use the expos as platforms to engage with the private sector.”
She says that the department also brings smallholder farmers to the expos and actively engages with them there.
“Ultimately, we want to create platforms that provide farmers and private and public sector stakeholders with networking opportunities to identify areas where they can work together and collaborate on projects,” she says.
On a national level, the department of agriculture provides all provincial departments with opportunities to come together under a comprehensive agricultural support programme.
These meetings take place quarterly and are where departments develop business plans, present their approaches and challenges and receive advice from other provinces on how they overcame similar issues.
“The inter-provincial meetings tie all the departmental elements together.
For example, one of our recent discussions has been around the impact the electricity price will have on the farming sector.
The departments also monitor food prices and coordinate input around that,” she says.
It is also not uncommon for the national department to call people from provinces to join them on benchmarking trips to other developing countries and looking at how they are solving similar issues.
“What has been good to see is that South Africa is doing a lot in terms of food security.
This was one of the issues raised at the COP-17 talks in Durban last year.
In the sub-Sahara region, we are one of the key countries addressing this requirement to empower our people in terms of subsistence farming.”
Mayathula-Khoza feels that there are also a number of success stories in Gauteng agriculture that do not get a lot of attention.
Examples of this are the feed lot in Heidelberg and the fresh produce market in City Deep, both of which are considered the largest on the continent.
“We just need to learn to market ourselves and our success stories more effectively. However, the ingenuity we have shown to date will definitely stand us in good stead for the road ahead where we will continue to grow Gauteng as a province that benefits from agriculture in a very direct way,” she concludes.