PICTURES: Minister Didiza gives hope to North West women farmers

In their original form, Agri Parks were a blueprint for rural economic transformation, conceptualised as one-stop shops for agro-production support, processing, logistics, marketing and training within district municipalities.

The concept entailed a centrally-planned, state funded, three-tiered model consisting of farmer production support units in each local area from where extension services will take place, and an agro-processing hub in each district municipality linked to a handful of rural-urban marketing centres.

Addressing hundreds of women at an interactive engagement session with rural women farmers across the value chain in Mahikeng at The Kgora Training Centre, last week, Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, said some Agri-Parks need reviving.

“From government side, we did not do much consultation with the farmers… the idea was a good one and we are going to revitilise the idea so that it works for the benefit of the farmers… we are going to have service agreement levels with farmers,” said the minister.

Didiza, however, said that farmers need to come on board in terms of their own contribution such as refilling fuel for tractors, helping fixing broken machinery and offering drivers among other things.

“Our extension officers will work with you so that there a system in place,” said Didiza, adding that government has recently went on a drive to recruit 10 000 extensionists to help farmers.

The minister said she was excited about this idea as all big companies stared like this.

“We want to make sure rural areas become a hype of activities so that our young people don’t go look for jobs elsewhere.”

Also present at the event was DALRRD Deputy minister Zoleka Capa said things will change when the voices of rural women in the corridors of our country starting being listened to.

Looking at the difficulties that we inherited from our past, this long road to our actual liberation is coupled with some difficulties hence we decided at the national level that we should listen to you so that whatever is decided at the national level is better understood where it will be implemented.

“We are here to be one-on-one with you and celebrate yourselves that all these years you still kept our communities alive and you are still here

“Together we must defeat poverty, hunger and starvation,” said the deputy minister.

A representative from Food and Agriculture Organisation, Dr Brave Ndisale, congratulated the minister for having such an engagement.

She said the world can only end hunger and poverty when gender inequality in agriculture and agroprocessing is addressed.

“If women and men get similar access in terms of opportunities, appropriate technology and mechanization, the world agriculture production will increase by 20%… this will contribute to poverty reduction and when poverty is reduced farmers adapt better to climate change.

“Improving women access to information and technology will also help… we have supported South Africa in this regard and we continue to support them… to empower in production and agribusiness,” said Dr Ndisale.

North West Agriculture MEC Desbo Mohono said she was proud of the women farmers and agroproccessors in her province.

“You are doing a great job… you know how to feed yourself and your nation.

“We are trying hard to level the playing field in pushing women farmers to the front. We continue to support our women in this province.

“We urge our women to get involved in farming and agro processing. Recently we donated thousands of indigenous chickens to our communities… with this small donation you can grow into being small holder farmers.”

The MEC said that although there’s a challenge of meeting everyone’s needs, she urged them not to give up.

“Bear with us, we will come to you,” she said.

Mohono said that in North West, women are fastest growing group of farmers.

“We want our women to own the farms and hire men… it’s not going to be a walk in the park… we acknowledge the difficulty…. but we appreciate you are still here today.”

The MEC by quoting the saying: ‘If you teach a man to farm, his family will eat. If you teach a woman to farm, the nation will eat.”

At the end of the speeches, women farmers engaged in a long session with the minister and MEC facilitated by DALRRD director general Mr Ramasodi Mooketsa.

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