STATE OF THE NATION : Rural development and food security a priority

By Nthambeleni Gabara

Parliament - Government is to put in place a comprehensive rural development strategy linked to land and agragrian reform and food security.

This is according to President Jacob Zuma, who delivered his first State of the Nation Address in Parliament on Wednesday.

"Working together with our people in the rural areas, we will ensure a comprehensive rural development strategy linked to land and agragrian reform and food security, as our third priority," he said.

Government is committed to creating an environment that ensures that there is adequate food available to all and it will encourage people to grow their own food and will protect the poor communities from the rising prices of food and eradicate hunger, said President Zuma.

He said this would be done by promoting food security as a way to lessening South Africa's dependence on food imports; introducing a food for all programme to procure and distribute basic foods at affordable prices to poor households and communities and developing an appropriate institutional approach for the implementation of this programme.

The President further said government would introduce measures to improve the logistics of food distribution such as transportation, warehousing, procurement and outsourcing in order to reduce food prices in the long term.

Another priority will be to enforce stronger competition measures against food cartels and collusion, which inflate food prices as well as expanding access to food production schemes in rural and peri-urban areas to grow their own food with implements, tractors, fertilizers and pesticides.

Other government measures will support existing community schemes, which utilise land for food production in schools, health facilities, churches and urban and traditional authority areas; and
An emergency food relief programme, on a mass-scale, in the form of food assistance projects to the poorest households and communities will be instituted.

Government had launched the Illima/Letsema campaign under former President Thabo Mbeki, which aims to distribute agricultural starter packs to poor households and mobilise communities to utilise the ploughing fields in order to ensure that no land lies unplanted and that all land available is used productively to ensure food security.

As part of the campaign, the department encourages communities to turn the emphasis back to the land and in response to the fight against food insecurity, unemployment, high food prices and rural development.

The provision of agricultural starter packs for domestic and communal food production is currently being rolled out.

Government has been urging South Africans and stakeholders in the agriculture sector to grow their own food in the face of soaring food prices. - BuaNews