R1.8bil boost for rural development

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Parliament - South Africans living in rural areas especially female farmers are set to benefit from government's R1.8 billion boost to rural development and smaller farmer support.

"Increasing agricultural output, raising rural incomes, supporting small scale farmers and investing in rural roads are key objectives of government's rural development strategy," Finance Minister Trevor Manuel said.

Tabling his Budget Speech in Parliament on Wednesday, Minister Manuel said the financial injection was seen as a step by government towards ensuring women's economic empowerment through the Women's Agriculture and Rural Development (WARD) initiative and the Micro-Agricultural Finance Institution of South Africa (MAFISA).

WARD is an initiative aimed at highlighting gender-related issues in agriculture and focuses specifically on land policies, programmes and projects.

It was launched nationally in August 2006 by Agriculture and Land Affairs Minister Lulu Xingwana.

MAFISA provides financial services to facilitate the development of micro and small agri-businesses into larger businesses.

Both initiatives were implemented as small farmers, particularly women in rural areas, still experienced problems when they needed access to financial assistance, land and relevant information including their rights regarding land reform.

Minister Manuel further encouraged the partnerships between private farmers and villagers to use the land for food production and sustenance.

He said South Africans should take the issue of increasing food prices seriously and develop their own private vegetable gardens.

The Department of Agriculture has implemented a campaign known as Ilima/Letsema to encourage food production in each of the nine provinces.

As part of the programme government provides starter packs, which include farm implements, to emerging farmers.