(In the Pic - President Zuma ploughing maize at the Manyeding Cooperative in the John Taolo Gaetsewe District Municipality). President Jacob Zuma launched the Fetsa Tlala, Government's Food Security Programme in Kuruman, Northern Cape. The Intergrated Food Security Production Intervention Programme was introduced last year to afford small holder farmers, communities and households an ability to increase production of basic food. 24/10/2013, Elmond Jiyane, GCIS

Johannesburg - The government would make R2 billion available for distribution to provinces to bolster food security, President Jacob Zuma said at yesterday’s launch of the Fetsa Tlala integrated food production initiative.

The initiative intended to put 1 million hectares of land under production of maize, beans and potatoes, he said, adding that a significant amount of land remained fallow, especially in rural areas and in parcels that has been acquired through land reform.

It is managed by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Zuma said Fetsa Tlala (meaning “end hunger”) was a sequel to an accelerated agricultural production programme implemented in 2012 in seven provinces by the Agriculture Department and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. In this programme, about 135 000ha of underused agricultural land was put under production.

He said: “The programme has been an amazing success. We have worked further on the programme and reached this phase when we are ready to take food production to a national level, and to launch Fetsa Tlala.”

Zuma said smallholder farmers, communities and households would be assisted through the provision of mechanisation support and distribution of production inputs and technical services.

In some provinces, such as the Northern Cape, the focus would be on livestock instead of vegetable production.

He said: “Ultimately, we want to see an increase in the food production capacity of both subsistence and smallholder producers. We want to increase the availability and access to locally produced food products. We also want to create opportunities for small, medium and micro enterprises development at local level.”

Zuma said the government wanted, in particular, to create job opportunities within the agricultural sector.

He said: “While we begin accelerating this journey towards food security, we are aware of obstacles such as disasters. These include drought, veld fires and floods. Government departments provincially and nationally will continue to support households to prevent and deal with such weather-related calamities.”

Zuma said food security interventions would not replace the transformation processes that were under way in agriculture and land reform, which remained key imperatives.

For most communities land remained a scarce resource as restitution issues were still being resolved, he said.

Another aim was the development of black commercial or smallholder farmers.

Zuma said: “Agriculture continues to be characterised by a racially skewed distribution of assets, support services, market penetration, infrastructure and income. Some 36 000 large-scale farmers control over 86 million hectares of farmland, while 1.4 million black farmers have access to about 14 million hectares.”

He said much of the worst poverty was concentrated in the former homelands.

Zuma said: “In rural areas, government will work closely with traditional leaders.” - Business Report