News | South Africa | Government
Alex Japho Matlala
Small-holder potato farmers in Limpopo are reaping the rewards of a collaboration between the department of agriculture and rural development and Potatoes South Africa.
Limpopo is a rural agricultural province with a high unemployment rate, especially among women and youth.
Agriculture, mining and tourism are the province’s three pillars of the economy, but it is still regarded as the poorest after the Eastern Cape. So, efforts by government to create jobs and fight poverty and unemployment are often received with warm hands.
Yesterday, the department of agriculture in Limpopo revealed that its strategy to fight poverty through farming was finally yielding results.
“We took a deliberate view to promote potato production by small-holder farmers for food security, introduced the sector to the community and enhanced production dissemination to the community of Limpopo,” said departmental spokesperson Joshua Kwapa yesterday.
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“As part of the revitalisation of agriculture and agroprocessing action plan, our department, in collaboration with Potatoes South Africa, has identified three small-holder farmers and provided them with potato seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, technical advice, as well as monitoring.
“In these identified farms, situated in Ga-Mashalane and Gemarkte in the Bochum area, planting was done from [26-27] March. Following months of hard work and monitoring, harvesting is finally taking place this week.
“The department remains confident that the harvest will be successful and of high value,” said Kwapa.
Yesterday, MEC for agriculture and rural development Nandi Ndalane was also excited.
“We are working very hard to ensure that we work with the industry, in this case Potatoes South Africa, in an endeavour to introduce small-holder farmers into the big agriculture value chain.
“We believe the potential that small-holder farmers possess, if properly supported, will ensure they play a meaningful role in the provision of food in the province.
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“This can be possible by obtaining food security for all and, importantly, provide job opportunities to our people,” she said.
The department and Potatoes South Africa entered into a collaboration through a memorandum of understanding to develop the sector by focusing on emerging potato growers.
The aim was to provide comprehensive technology transfer and enterprise development support to farmers in supportof the action plan’s commodity focused approach.
Beneficiary Zelda Masoga of the farm Mazeli Farming, in Marobjane village in the Blouberg municipality, could not hide her elation.
“We have started farming in 2016 without any financial aid from government. Today, we have 11 full-time employees, all from poverty-stricken families.
“With the help from government, we hope to employ more people and help fight poverty in our families, communities and the country at large,” she said.
Masoga said the farm produce is exported to countries such as Mozambique, Lesotho, China, the US and Europe.
The MEC said Limpopo accounted for 21% of the total area under potato production in the country and this venture would help its local economy swell.