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Joemat-Pettersson: World Food Day 2009
Speech by the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Ms Tina Joemat-Pettersson at the World Food Day commemoration in Muyexe Village, Giyani, Limpopo province
16 October 2009

Acknowledgements: FANRPAN acknowledges that this speech was issued by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries: http://www.daff.gov.za/


Today we commemorate the 30th anniversary of World Food Day and the 64th anniversary of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Thirty years ago the FAO marked 16 October as the World Food Day with the aim of reflecting on and increasing awareness around global food problems, hunger and malnutrition.

According to latest report published by the World Food Programme (WFP) the number of people in need of food aid in the world has reached a record first time figure of more than 1 billion people. Many of these are in the developing countries with many African countries making implied.

Yet Africa is the wealthiest continent with its endowment of mineral wealth, oil reserves, diversity of wild life, various types of livestock, fish, vegetation, kilometres of rich fertile lands and almost one billion hard working people. Somehow we must rethink our approach to food security in order to get it right.

For the past two to three years, the global demand for food increased with the need for the world to produce and feed 6 billion people. This was compounded by the changing weather conditions which in some places resulted in dry spells that affected crop especially wheat production and in others floods that washed away crops. The tide of bad news continued with the economic recession which hit hard especially among the poor and most vulnerable communities.

Programme Director; addressing these issues, FAO’s 2009 World Food Day theme is "achieving food security in times of crisis." As stated in our Constitution Section 27, 1 (b) that, “every citizen has a right to have access to sufficient food and water” and government must with all available resources protect this fundamental right.

For our people, this addresses availability and affordability of basic food products therefore calling for increased monitoring of food prices and appreciation of the work done by the competition commission. To ensure food secure among the most vulnerable groups, it has now become evident that government must stimulate agricultural production, invest in agricultural research and stimulate economic growth within the agricultural sector including aquaculture in order to achieve food security.

Programme Director, the people of this country mandated us to effect change on land and agrarian activities to ensure support to subsistence food production, expanding the role and productivity of modern small-holder farmers and maintain a vibrant and competitive agricultural sector.

We listened and prioritized government programme of action to focus on five areas: creation of decent work and sustainable livelihoods; education; health; rural development, food security and land reform; as well as the fight against crime and corruption, especially livestock theft.

Our approach is responding to your communal needs and therefore recognised that labelling your efforts as emerging is not the correct approach. We have therefore categorised enterprises into subsistence, smallholder and commercial. Subsistence farmers will be supported through agricultural starter packs that will include seeds and seedlings, fertiliser and livestock. To protect your crops and livestock, we will continue to roll-out the fencing project that will safeguard livestock. Already, we have rolled-out 50km fencing costing 3.5 million for vegetables and crop, grazing land and the Buffer zone in Muyexe. We shall not rest until we come up with a mechanism for facilitate trade in animals and animals’ products within this foot and mouth buffer zone.

Over the past 20 years, cereal production in developing countries has increased by 78 percent and fish production by 113 percent while meat production has risen by 127 percent. Even so, many people in developing countries cannot afford animal products, as a result of which per capita consumption of meat is only 17.7kg per year as compared to 81.6kg per year in developed countries. About 60 percent of dietary protein is from animal products in developed countries, compared to only 22 percent in developing countries. There is, therefore, substantial room for expansion of livestock production. Our primary intervention will therefore be support to farmers, enabling them to produce at levels that are able to keep our food prices low, and internationally competitive.

Within the rural areas, our key driving project is the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme (CRDP) which was launched by our Honourable State President on 17 August 2009 here in Giyani. This programme which has a holistic approach towards rural development is developed to ensure integrated participation of all spheres of government to ensure improvement in livelihoods and thus reduce food insecurity of both individual households and communities. This holistic approach will also ensure coordinated planning taking into consideration all challenges facing the area like inadequate water resources.

Today we return to Giyani on World Food Day to further demonstrate our commitment towards combating hunger, poverty and unemployment and to say to the people of Giyani and the rest of South Africa, that we will not rest until we see the face of rural areas changing for the better.

Together with agricultural research institutions, local governments and provincial departments, we will empower rural South Africans to become participants and owners for the stimulation of agriculture forestry and aqua production in the area. Research institutions will also provide sufficient technology to support this initiative. Today, we are showcasing an innovative approach of food production that uses grey in the production of food in the villages.

This veggie tower approach, has already been rolled-out in Muyexe targeting 300 households where already 60 households have received their. Through this approach, we have succeeded in creating a nursery and a net tunnel covering one hectare to grow vegetables.

Furthermore, we are looking into other technologies that will include possibilities of water harvesting and production enhancing alternatives to improve crop and livestock production. Many other initiatives will be supported through the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ national agricultural production strategy.

We are approaching agriculture, forestry and fisheries in a strategic and systematic manner and are determined to increase the overall production of commodities for food security and to contribute to the economy in a meaningful way.

Our approach is responding to the communal needs and therefore recognised that labelling your efforts as emerging is not the correct approach. We have therefore categorised enterprises into subsistence, smallholder and commercial. Subsistence farmers will be supported through agricultural starter packs that will include seeds and seedlings, fertiliser and livestock. We believe that farmers should graduate to different levels to ensure sustainable production and food security.

We have further partnered with the Food and Agricultural Organisation whom have approved two telefood proposals to an amount of about 20,000 US$ for the poultry and vegetable production initiatives here in Muyexe. Thank you very much Madam Kwirijila. Through our partnership we shall work together to strengthen this initiative and ensure that this does not become a once off event, but our communities will be encouraged to produce food throughout the year.

Working together with the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), provincial Departments of Agriculture and other stakeholders, we have improved existing food security initiatives to allow them to quickly respond to unemployment and poverty alleviation. These include amongst others the community seed production schemes which are already implement in Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces. We are also finalising the revitalisation of indigenous seed security saving. Limpopo communities of Thulamela and Sekhukhune have delivered a valuable service of conserving indigenous species of bambara groundnut, cowpea, sorghum, melon, pumpkin and maize. Our approach will be to have communities own these initiatives to ensure sustainability of the projects.

The importance of these indigenous seeds if now, more than ever valuable because of their adaptability to the scarce rainfall and drier climatic conditions that is experienced due to changing weather.

Ladies and gentlemen, food security, especially in Africa, is linked to the prevailing climate. South Africa’s agriculture is particularly vulnerable to climate change, as farming depends to a great extent on the quality of the rainy season. Increased droughts in combination with higher temperatures require that we approach food production and conservation differently. We need to work together.

The current drought that has ravaged the western part of the country and the region since 2002 has impacted heavily impacted on rural communities. We must, work together, to strengthen our efforts to produce more. This is a call to zabalaza against being hopeless and waiting for government to allocate grants. Muyexe is an example of government and the people working together, hand in hand with the national department, the province and local government, we can do more. I am hopeful that within the coming year we shall improve participation of all stakeholders including the women and the youth.

We are not alone; we have our mothers (not forgetting our fathers) who will stand firm to ensure that there is food security. Today, we are proud to announce our First Lady, MaKhumalo as the Ambassador of Food Security in South Africa. MaKhumalo will champion the household food production programme, which aims to bring experiential training; infrastructural and technological support to both the households which are engaged in activities for subsistence production and smallholder farmers who need encouragement to produce commodities for a more meaningful economic contribution.

We need you the community to work with us. "Se dikwa ke ntsa pedi ga se thata." (Means if two dogs are together they will not be overcome by anything) Ons moet saam werk.

This role includes the collection of food parcels as you see them here today, and also forms part of the comprehensive rural development. A detailed programme for MaKhumalo will be finalised and shared with both our provincial and local governments. I would like to call upon the stage MaKhumalo to join me and distribute the food parcels. I would also like to call upon Dr Phaahla and Ms Rosebud Kwirijila to come and participate in the distribution of food parcels as well. All this, begins to address achieving food security in times of crisis.

I thank you!!

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