Premier focuses on farms

2010-02-25 00:00

THE KwaZulu-Natal government plans to use agrarian reforms and rural development as catalysts for economic development in view of the recession and spiralling food prices, which are threatening food security for KZN citizens.

Premier Zweli Mkhize said this yesterday, adding that his government’s focus is to build self-sufficiency in agricultural production and to support land reform programmes while creating access to local and international markets for large commercial and small-scale farmers, including agricultural co-operatives.

Mkhize was delivering his state of the province address at the sitting of the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature at the Royal Showgrounds in Pietermaritzburg yesterday.

“It is always important to state that rural development has to be comprehensive and all-encompassing and not just about agriculture, communal gardens, women’s sewing and small poultry projects. It is about creating sustainable economies that will absorb labour and reduce migration to urban centres in search of a better life,” Mkhize said.

Historically, in KwaZulu-Natal commercial farming has been dominated by white farmers, Afrikaners in particular, he said.

After the first democratic elections, many black farmers became “instant farmers” benefiting from the government’s land restitution process. Now, some previously flourishing farms have become unproductive and are on the brink of collapse.

Mkhize said the government has come up with a plan to support emerging black farmers through establishing the Agribusiness Development Agency (ADA).

“The agency will assist the farmers, reduce the skills gap that the land reform process has inadvertently created and negotiate ­re-financing mechanisms to save the farms from sinking into debt and being repossessed by the banks.

“A working agreement has been secured with the Land Bank, which had financed most of the farms and had to be persuaded from liquidating the operating farmers and re­possessing the property.”

So far, the agency has assessed 13 Land Bank farms that were on the verge of repossession

ADA has secured R239 million from the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (Casp) and from development funds earmarked for specific farms from the Rural Development and Land Reform Department.

“With these resources, the agency will create 1 099 additional permanent jobs and 2 538 seasonal jobs in the agribusiness sector. These interventions will also assist in sustaining and growing 1 045 entrant black commercial farmers in the province,” he said.

Mkhize also announced that a working relationship has been established with Ingonyama Trust Board to identify land over 100 hectares under each and every inkosi for massive production along commercial lines and to integrate subsistence farmers into the major marketing outlets.

 

On education, Mkhize said the province must improve its matriculation pass rate to 80% by 2014. Last year, KZN improved its pass rate by 3,5% — from 57,6% to 61,1%. This means that of the 132 176 who wrote the examinations, 80 733 passed and 26 287 qualified to study at university.

“The level of commitment and dedication I observed during our school visits has convinced me that with adequate support, our province will be respected for the high quality of education.

“The departments of Education and Social Development will co-operate to support orphans and destitute pupils with school uniforms and other welfare services.”

Mkhize said devolution of school budget will be done to ensure corruption is minimised.

Mkhize reiterated the importance of strengthening communities, moral regeneration and mobilising civil society in the fight against crime.

The province has adopted a system of reviving street committees to help in the fight against crime, which was recently initiated by the community of Chesterville township in Durban.

“This model has been adopted by the provincial government with the view of extending it to other areas.

“We need to reconstruct our society and make each of us our brother’s keeper.”

The fact that male circumcision is not as widely practised in KwaZulu-Natal as in other provinces suggests that it may be the explanation for its high Aids figures, the premier said.

Mkhize said he believes the revival of the circumcision ritual as proposed by King Goodwill Zwelithini will play a pivotal role in reducing the infection rate.

“The MEC for Health has progressed in preparing for the commencement of the operations.

“It is envisaged that the programme will start this winter.”

Regarding the dilapidated state of hospitals, the premier said the government intends increasing investments to improve the hospitals, starting with the construction of a completely new King Edward VIII Hospital.

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