In an Africa where 20 nations are classified as fragile and 28 countries require food assistance, the need for a rural transformation backed by investment and not just words is critical.

Kanayo Nwanze, the president of the UN’s rural development agency, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (Ifad), said investments must be focused on smallholder family farms.

“Small farms make up 80 percent of all farms in sub-Saharan Africa. And contrary to conventional wisdom, small farms are often more productive than large farms,” he said.

“For example, China’s 200 million small farms cover only 10 percent of the world’s agricultural land but produce 20 percent of the world’s food.”

African farming, however, is performing at only about 40 percent of its potential. In addition, if no action is taken by 2030, Africa will account for 80 percent of the world’s poor, he claimed.

In just a few days in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea, at the 23rd African Union Summit, Ifad will join African leaders to discuss this year’s focus, which is on agriculture and food security.

Nwanze said: “Our biggest resource is our people. To squander this is worse than wasteful.

“If we don’t act now, by 2030, Africa will account for 80 percent of the world’s poor. Is this the legacy that we want to leave for future generations?”

According to the agricultural employer’s association, Agri SA, the agricultural sector in South Africa was once again targeted as one that must make a considerable contribution to job creation.

President Jacob Zuma expects it to create 1 million additional jobs by 2030.

“The government will have to look seriously at the labour environment and the accompanying legislation that regulates it. It is clear from the lingering strike in the platinum sector that there are serious shortcomings in the labour environment,” said the organisation.

Platinum mining

Yesterday’s end to the historic five-month platinum sector wage strike that has brought the economy to its knees is a hollow victor for the mining sector.

About 20 000 cash-strapped Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) members voted to accept to end the strike and sign the final settlement at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium situated outside Rustenburg.

Mineworkers who were bussed into the stadium braved the sun and patiently waited to be addressed by Amcu’s national executive.

In his two-hour address its president, Joseph Mathunjwa, described how the workers had made history by being the first union in 20 years to make a mark in the mining industry.

“Those who say we did not get what we wanted are fools.

“Other unions were happy to sign a two-year agreement to increase wages by R400 a month. Amcu has successfully fought for R1 000 a month over three years. This gives us lots of muscle because some of you will get the R12 500 basic wage target within three years.”

However, the losses experienced by employees are substantial.

For example, a staff member who takes home R10 000 a month has lost R50 000 for the duration of the strike.

For others, including rock drill operators and technicians, it is much higher.

The employees will receive R2 000 a month increase while catching up to the R12 500 basic, but it will take them years to recoup the losses.

At the same time, workers possessions, including cars and their homes, have been repossessed and people have had to resort to relying on family members or government grants to get by.

However, Mathunjwa has had a lot of support in the five months.

He thanked, among others Amcu supporters, including foreign advisers, namely the Alternative Information and Development Centre, non-governmental organisations, including Gift of the Givers, the Economic Freedom Fighters and the United Democratic Movement.

Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Ayanda Mdluli and Dineo Faku.