Mpuma farmers welcome skilling programmes

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Nelspruit - Agricultural bodies have welcomed a commitment by the Mpumalanga Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Administration to address a critical skills shortage in the farming sector.

Women in Agriculture and Rural Development (WARD) chairperson, Nomvula Maya said the steps taken by the department to improve skills of female farmers in the province, was a great initiative.

"We need skills to develop rural areas especially female farmers so that they can become competitive in the sector," said Ms Maya.

She said emphasis must be placed on providing young livestock farmers with the necessary skills to take over from their parents' farms one day.

Department MEC Meshack Malinga announced last week that the department would introduce two skills programmes that would focus on animal production and forestry.

He said this was important considering how much livestock farming took place in the province, as well as the fact that 41 percent of the total hectares of forestry in South Africa are in Mpumalanga.

"We will also continue to support bursary schemes and other capacity-building programmes," said MEC Malinga.

He added that the department would spend R25 million to train 212 college students and upgrade the skills of 140 extension officers, while another R3.5 million will be spent to pay 45 graduates who are part of internships.

"Through the Vula Ematfuba programme, the department is supporting 76 students at higher learning institutions who are currently studying scarce skills such as veterinary science, crop and animal production and agricultural economy," he said.

Nkomazi Agricultural Development Organisation (NADO) chairperson, Petrus Sithole, said while it was good news that farmers would be equipped with skills, the department should also support farmers financially to make farming more viable.

"If the department doesn't fund farmers, then providing them with skills will be a waste of time and money. The department must balance its support," said Mr Sithole.