Eastern Cape MEC sows the seeds of change

2015-01-11 15:00

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There’s a man lurking around the streets in cities and towns in the Eastern Cape, and he’s handing out plants and packets of mysterious seeds to passers-by.

But he’s not a drug dealer. Rural Development MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane is just trying to convince people to start their own food gardens.

Qoboshiyane says it’s time for people in the Eastern Cape to stop relying on food parcels, and start growing their own fruit and vegetables.

“Food parcels are a distortion of who Africans are. They have killed the capacity of human beings to do things for themselves. It has created an impression that we are supposed to be passive rather than do things and produce our own food,” he says.

“There is no reason for able-bodied individuals not to do things for themselves. Instead of giving hand-outs, government must subsidise what people cannot do on

their own.”

Qoboshiyane, who was previously the province’s MEC for local government, took over the rural development and agrarian reform portfolio last May.

He believes it’s his job to make agriculture “fashionable” among youngsters in the province’s urban and rural areas.

Qoboshiyane puts his money where his mouth is. He’s the proud owner of a thriving vegetable garden at his home in Misty Mount near Libode and he shares photographs of it on social networking sites.

When he’s in East London for work, he stops people who are driving or walking past and gives them seedlings.

“Agriculture is contributing so little, yet it is so huge. We want to see the youth owning not only farms but animals too,” he told City Press.

“Instead of giving food parcels procured and purchased from local shops, government should give people equipment and develop their skills.”

He’s particularly keen for the Eastern Cape to start producing its own soil scientists, animal technicians and agricultural engineers.

The MEC wants to ensure that by the time he leaves office, he has established a pool of veterinary services, because the Eastern Cape has more animals than any other province.

There are 3.3?million cattle, 7?million sheep and what Qoboshiyane calls “a good number of goats” in the province.

While these animals are alive, they need vets. When they are dead, they can contribute to the province becoming “a niche exporter of red meat”.

“The red meat hub of the country is Gauteng, despite the fact that the production of animals in that province is the lowest,” says the MEC.

“We are the ones who are taking our carcasses for processing to other provinces. If we can change this, the Eastern Cape can be one of the best-performing provinces.”

For all of this to happen, young people need to get involved. Qoboshiyane says many people don’t realise that agriculture is actually a science, and look down on the industry because they don’t want to get their hands dirty.

“Young people should look at it [agriculture] as a fashionable and adorable thing to do.”

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