THE Department of Rural Development and Agrarian reform (DRDAR) recently announced an agricultural economic transformation strategy which will help to radically transform the agricultural sector in the province and create equal opportunities for black and white farmers who will grow the economy together.
DRDAR MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane said the focus of the strategy was to ensure proper use of available land for commercial production through partnerships with commodity groups and farmers. He said it was to revive rural economy through growing primary production, improving rural infrastructure such as road networks and to ensure value addition and create market linkages for the farmers.
“Through this strategy we want to enable rural communities, that is, targeted small- holder/ subsistence and communal farmers to derive optimal economic value out of their agricultural activity through customised government supported partnerships with organised commercial partners,” Qoboshiyane he said.
“We want to unlock private sector investment through facilitation of partnerships between smallholder/ communal farmers and private partners. One important aspect of this strategy is to promote the use of public procurement of agricultural produce from primary producers and thereby stimulate sector growth and employment.”
Qoboshiyane said his department would encourage systematic coordination and implementation of the provincial development plan, establishment of agri-parks and broad based black economic empowerment economic policy instruments to unlock the agricultural growth and creation of jobs.
Some of the challenges faced by these farmers included inability to obtain financial support from financial institutions or markets owing to the lack of track records, differences of opinion among the community members, slow adoption of technology, limited skills and training as well as lack of infrastructure investments.
“Lack of market access, coordination, weak intergovernmental relations, duplication across departments and spheres of government and consequently, scarce resources are mis-allocated and allocated inefficiently are some of the challenges to be addressed by this strategy,” he said.
The Eastern Cape has the smallest commercial agricultural sector.
The key challenge was how to make smallholder and communal farmers commercially viable through partnerships, specialised extension support and expansion.
DRDAR would seek to unlock agricultural potential, smallholder/ subsistence farmers must be capacitated to regard agriculture as a business and enable the private sector to intervene and invest alongside with government as partners.
This would turn smallholders into agro-entrepreneurs and subsistence and communal farms into profitable businesses.
“The key elements of this agricultural economic transformation strategy include commodity and cluster based partnership models to drive value chain growth, ensure incubation, infrastructure development, create market access, grow agro processing and improve extension support,” Qoboshiyane said.