OPINION: Funding of innovative agricultural projects is vital
CAPE TOWN – It will take the public and private sectors in this country to mobilise and combine their resources to fund critical agricultural projects and agribusinesses in order to stimulate economic growth and sustainable development in this sector.
There are opportunities for making things to happen in the area of commonages, which are pieces of municipal land that could be made available on some or other leasehold basis, or even on the basis of extending registrable land use rights such as the “one household, one hectare" programme of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.
However, access to finance is a major stumbling block for entrepreneurs who might have innovative ideas, but without capital those ideas come to nought.
An example of this opportunity and challenge is an innovative concept, the Petrusville Estate in the Pixley Ka Seme District, 90km north of the town of De Aar, where there is arable land of 5 000ha with water resources.
It is in these small places – where development initiatives, which enhance human rights and human development – must take place.
An agronomist with extensive experience and expertise in agricultural projects has combined his skills with a property developer to come up with a prototype proposal and business plan to develop 15ha as proof of concept, before the later and larger development of 1 000ha involving 1 000 black emerging farmers, both male and female, in equitable proportions.
Part of the proposal is to plant pumpkin seeds, pecan nuts and peanuts. Then to build pack-houses and extract value by making peanut butter and mix it with some nutritious nutrients for feeding malnourished children, not only in the Northern Cape, but throughout South Africa.
Maize would also be planted. There would be fresh maize to feed local schools throughout the year – free of charge – as the other cash crops would make this possible.
The idea will also be to grow the moringa, the “miracle tree" whose leaves are used world-wide in various forms, with highly nutritious content. On a bigger scale, factories would be built in this small town and thus create employment.
But it is a tragedy that this pioneering project cannot even leave the starting blocks with the proof of concept phase due to lack of finance.
As a matter of fact, the government has not been exemplary in maximising the use of its own land for development purposes.
It has vast tracts of state land, falling into various categories.
Commonage land is one such type of state land under the administration of municipalities since the second British occupation of the Cape.
Sadly, in some cases this category of land was alienated, wrongly so, to private individuals, thus corrupting the system, but there is still enough of it to go around.
Properly used, it would go a long way to alleviating problems of land hunger and land use for developmental purposes.
Some municipalities are even ignorant of the constitutional obligations imposed on them to use land for purposes of assisting the poor in their development needs.
The private sector also keeps its distance in matters involving the government, the land and the people. Yet it is inevitable that the public and private sectors must mobilise and combine their resources and expertise in driving development – in a word, sustainable development.
Dr Wallace Mgoqi is the chairperson of Ayo Technologies Solutions. He writes in his personal capacity.
The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.