Reaping the rewards of unity

RURAL communities of Matatiele were excited to be joined by government officials, including Eastern Cape MEC for Rural Development and Agrarian Reform Xolile Nqatha and deputy speaker of the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature Mlibo Qoboshiyane, to harvest maize on Tuesday.

A group made up of 24 women and 15 men from KwaMzongwana village attended the harvest.

In 2013, unemployed men and women from KwaMzongwana shared one vision — to use a vacant piece of land to produce maize in the area. Thomas Maqiniso, from the village, said their first harvest was so big it enabled them to hire more tractors.

In 2016, they were assisted by the Masisizane Fund and, as a result, they produced more maize.

“We produce maize to feed our families and for trading. We also teach our children to use land to produce food,” said Maqiniso.

MEC Nqatha said 2 416 hectares of land have been planted on for the first production, which will see farmers harvesting 8 658 tons, valued at R18.7 million.

He said some fields were hit by floods and hail but, by chance, the
majority of crops from the fields will be suitable for both local and export markets.

According to Nqatha, his department has invested R10 million to aid Matatiele farmers’ production inputs and mechanisation.

“I am excited to be at a harvesting event where government has collaborated with the private sector to support emerging farmers to become commercial farmers.

“The department has been working with Masisizane since 2015, investing more than R1.7 million which was used for production inputs to plant on 560 hectares,” he said.

He added that, in the last financial year of 2017/18, 1 180 hectares of land was planted through the partnership with private sectors.

“Partnerships are the realisation of this strategy which seeks to encourage partnerships between communities, government, and the private sector to maximise the economic benefits of the sector.

“We need the private sector to invest in the expansion of agriculture and this is not the responsibility of the government. We need more money beyond what the public purse can afford,” he said.

“Agriculture remains the prime source of livelihood for Africa’s rural poor and is increasingly being recognised as the sector that may unlock Africa’s full potential by combating its most pressing challenges” he said.

Wandisile Makwabe, the head of Agribusiness and Flagship Initiative said agricultural employment remains far behind its target of creating a million agricultural jobs by 2030, as envisaged in the National Development Plan.

“It is on this basis that we are working together to raise awareness for this initiative to assist in creating jobs that add to the positive socio-economic activity in the area in which it operates by improving the livelihoods of the communities involved,” he ended.