Cooperatives can sustain SA food plan

2013-10-27 10:00

Sustainable food production is at the heart of every nation’s effort to fight hunger. The South African government’s introduction of Fetsa Tlala – a food-production intervention that forms part of a broader governmental food-security programme – is a step in the right direction.

As an inclusive programme, it aims to ensure food and nutrition security through female entrepreneurship, small and medium-sized businesses, cooperatives and smallholder farmers while intensifying efforts towards the alleviation and eradication of hunger.

As recommended in the National Development Plan (NDP), strategies will have to be developed for economic cooperation or association to give poor producers greater collective market power in value chains, while allowing them to negotiate improved levels of access to markets and better terms of participation.

Critically, the NDP recognises successful implementation of any food-security intervention will be sustainable when policies are reviewed, including that of fisheries.

Though President Jacob Zuma only signed the NDP this year, the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries kick-started the fisheries policy-review process way back in 2007 with a specific focus on small-scale fishing. This policy review placed the department at the forefront of economic transformation, in line with the NDP’s objectives.

The review of fishing policy seeks to create an inclusive economic environment for both the industrial and the small-scale fisher. With the former more formal and organised to be commercially viable, it is critical to support the latter to run sustainable operations in order to stimulate growth.

Because the implementation of the small-scale fishing policy will have profound social and economic benefits for small-scale fishing communities, the best approach will be to create cooperatives.

The Cooperatives Act and Policy clearly outlines the role of government departments to support the development of cooperatives. Most recently, the Cooperatives Amendment Bill was passed into law.

Furthermore, provincial governments have been encouraged to develop their own cooperative strategies that will guide the promotion and development of cooperatives.

Cooperatives in the small-scale fisheries sector are a way of maximising long-term community benefits to deal with the threats of fisheries mismanagement, livelihood insecurity and harsh poverty realities for small-scale fishers.

To effectively deal with the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality, we need to harness intergovernmental support.

The department of trade and industry plans to promote cooperatives by doing the following:

»?Providing a matching grant;

»?Improving the viability and competitiveness of cooperatives by lowering the cost of doing business;

»?Assisting cooperatives to acquire start-up requirements;

»?Building an initial asset base for emerging cooperatives;

»?Providing an incentive that supports broad-based black economic empowerment.

This model is one of the key ingredients in adequately dealing with the triple challenges, with many examples of successful cooperatives to use as references.

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