Operation Phakisa calls for transformation in rural economy

Friday, February 24, 2017

Pretoria – President Jacob Zuma has reiterated that true reconciliation will be impossible to achieve if the land question is not addressed.

“If we do not radically change the patterns of land ownership, control and management in South Africa, we will be creating problems for ourselves in future. We need to take bold steps that will transform our economy, including land ownership, very fast,” said President Zuma.

The President was speaking at the launch of Operation Phakisa for Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development held at the Agricultural Research Centre, Vegetable and Ornamental Plant Institute in Roodeplaat, Pretoria, on Friday.

Held under the theme “Transforming the Agricultural Sector towards an Inclusive Rural Economy”, the Operation Phakisa programme will review existing producer support models and develop finance models aimed at fast tracking land reform, given the urgent need for government to make progress in food security.

The programme also seeks to address constraints in ensuring equitable access to land, both towards economic development and agrarian transformation.

President Zuma said that despite many challenges, the agricultural sector has faced over the past few years, recent trends suggest that the country is beginning to turn the corner.

He said that over the past six years, employment in the agricultural sector has risen by almost 300 000, even while farmworker wages were increasing.

“Over the past 15 years, the share of households experiencing hunger has declined by more than half. And there are signs of economic vibrancy in the former homeland areas, including impressive declines in unemployment rates since 2001.

“We seek to build on these achievements, and to strengthen the role of agriculture, and its intrinsic relationship with Land Reform and Rural Development, in further defining an inclusive rural economy for South Africa,” President Zuma said.

He said the challenges they face that they seek to correct with the programme, include the fact that rural areas are still characterised by poverty and inequality, and farm workers still earn the lowest wages among those formally employed in the country.

“In addition, despite increased spending on overall support programmes for smallholder farmers and Land Reform, the overall performance and productivity of the sector remains low. The opportunities for producers to participate in the broader agro-food system are limited.

“Through the Operation Phakisa programme, government has created a platform of engagement for all stakeholders in the agriculture sector to discuss the challenges and find solutions during the five-week Laboratory process through which Operation Phakisa is executed.”

Operation Phakisa Lab

In preparation for the launch, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform has embarked on a six-month consultation process on the Operation Phakisa Lab.

The lab, which constitutes representatives from government, academic and research institutions as well as business, organised labour, private sector and non-governmental organisations, has finalised 27 initiatives across seven work streams.

These include land reform, rural development, labour, grains, livestock, horticulture and producer support.

Participation of youth in farming

Meanwhile, President Zuma said that the participation of young people in farming is also a critical imperative.

“It is the future of agriculture in South Africa. How do we promote agriculture in our schools? How do we support young black farmers and encourage young women as well to take up farming.

“The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries runs a successful annual competition recognising women farmers. Phakisa is an opportunity to take the empowerment further.”

SA, China sign MOU

During the event, Vice- Minister of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) of the People's Republic of China, LI Yuanping, signed a Protocol agreement with Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana on the Export of South African Beef to China and a Memorandum of Understanding on the Entry and Exit Animal and Inspection Quarantine.

Minister Zokwana said the BRICS partnership is beginning to bear fruits. – SAnews.gov.za

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