Fetsa Tlala Integrated Food Production Initiative

Address by His Excellency President Jacob Zuma at the launch of Fetsa Tlala Integrated Food Production Initiative, Kuruman, Northern Cape Province
24 October 2013

Honourable Premier of the Northern Cape,
Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries,
MECs, MPs and MPLs, Executive the Mayor of John Taolo Gaetsewe district,
Members from House of Traditional Leaders
Religious leaders,
Fellow South Africans

We greet you all on this important day.

We are happy that you have joined us to celebrate yet another milestone in government’s programmes to fight poverty and hunger.

Cabinet has proudly approved the country’s national food security programme, the Fetsa Tlala Integrated Food Production Initiative. The thrust of Fetsa Tlala is to produce enough food to meet the population’s food needs now and in the future.

There was a time in our history, not too long ago, when households had gardens and grew their own vegetables and fruit. They kept chickens and livestock. That is what Fetsa Tlala seeks to revive.

Through Fetsa Tlala, all underutilized agricultural land must be put under production.

We are encouraging people to go back to farming.

We are encouraging every household to develop a food garden. We want to see women’s cooperatives and community groupings focusing on vegetable production, livestock or chickens to earn a living and fight hunger and poverty.

We live in difficult economic times. We have to do more with less and the poor and the working class feel the difficulty more.

You heard this from Minister Pravin Gordhan when he presented the Mid-Term Budget Statement on our behalf as Cabinet in Parliament yesterday.

We still have the scourge of poverty and hunger staring us in the face and we have to do more.

According to the Stats SA General Household Survey, the percentage of households that  were vulnerable to hunger declined  from 29,3% in 2002 to 12,6% in 2012.

We are encouraged that the overall food insecurity figure is declining due to government programmes.

However, we still have families that live in poverty and our country also remains a net importer of food instead of being a major food producer.

This makes such a programme critical.

Compatriots

I trust that you are aware  of the National Development Plan, the country’s new socio-economic development programme.

The Plan expresses a vision that every family must be able to confidently state and reaffirm every day that: There is food on the table.

It then outlines various methods and targets to eradicate poverty, reduce unemployment and eliminate inequality by 2030.

These include the expanded use of irrigation, security of land tenure, especially for women, and the promotion of nutrition education.

By this launch today, we are implementing the National Development Plan.

Compatriots

We have seen the impact of a mass-based food security programme.

During 2012, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries together with the Department of Rural  Development and Land Reform implemented an accelerated agricultural production programme in seven provinces.

These are the Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and North West.

Through this initiative we managed to mobilise additional resources from different government departments.

As a result, about 135 000 hectares of underutilised agricultural land was put under production with maize and beans being the main commodities.

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.

We are making an amount of R2 billion available for this programme, as part of comprehensive support to farmers, for distribution to provinces.

The initiative intends to put one million hectares of land under production of maize, beans and potatoes. There is a significant amount of land that still lies fallow especially in rural areas and some of the land that has been acquired through land reform.

Smallholder farmers, communities and households will be assisted through the provision of mechanisation support and distribution of production inputs and technical services.

In some provinces, the focus will be on livestock instead of vegetable production, for example here in the Northern Cape.

Ultimately we want to see an increase in the food production capacity of both subsistence and small holder producers. We want to increase the availability and access to locally produced food products . We also want to create opportunities for SMME development at local level.
More especially, we want to create job opportunities within the agricultural sector.
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 which can impact on our efforts.

Compatriots

Fetsa Tlala forms one aspect of our food security policy.

Another aspect, which is non-productive, is the Household Food and Nutrition Security Strategy that is driven by the Departments of Social Development, Health and Basic Education.

This non-productive aspect focuses on social assistance safety nets like food parcels, food banks and soup kitchens.

It also includes nutritious meals to children between the ages of 0- 4 years through the early childhood development centres and for more than eight million children in schools.

Government assists chronically under-nourished households with food parcels.

We also have the Food Fortification and Nutrition Education Programme and the introduction of “micro-nutrient sprinkles” which can be added to food that is already prepared.
Let me add that the food security interventions do not replace the transformation processes that are underway in agriculture and land reform, which remain key imperatives

We know that for most communities land remains a scarce resource as this question is still being resolved. Another issue is the development of black commercial or small holder farmers.

South African 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 hactares of farmland, while 1.4 million black farmers have access to about 14 million hactares of farmland.

Much of the worst poverty is concentrated in the former homelands. The homelands, which occupied 13 percent of the country, were home to half of the black population of South Africa before 1994.

These areas are still characterised by low incomes and high rates of infant mortality, malnutrition and illiteracy.

These areas have remained extremely poor and underdeveloped, and are heavily dependent on remittances from workers in industrial South Africa.

Thus, land reform programmes aimed at changing the land ownership patterns are continuing under the leadership of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.

In the meantime, government proceeds with promoting food production amongst communities and households, under the leadership of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

In rural areas, government will work closely with traditional leaders as land in the former homelands is almost entirely held under communal tenure, controlled by traditional leaders. The traditional leaders will be key partners in promoting community food production.

Compatriots

Today we are also making a call to the youth that they should consider taking up agriculture as a career so that they can manage the country’s food security programmes as envisaged in the National Development Plan.

Our schools should also promote agriculture as a school subject so that we can popularise food production at an early age amongst our children.

Ladies and gentlemen

With Fetsa Tlala, we also intend to shift perceptions about agriculture and farming in general.

There appears to be a perception that commerce and industry are more important and that this is where the investment of time and resources should be.

That is because of the view that commerce and industry generate significantly more jobs per hectare, more rates and more taxes, more multipliers and GDP contribution per hectare.

The impression that agriculture is regarded as less important is wrong. Agriculture is a key priority for our government.

Agriculture forms part of the six job drivers that we identified in the New Growth Path. The other five are mining, tourism, the green economy, manufacturing and infrastructure development.

 

This demonstrates the seriousness we attach to agriculture for both food security reasons as well also job creation and economic development.

Compatriots,

Achieving food security is in our hands, all of us. We must get back to the land and start working to produce food.

It is my honour and pleasure to launch Fetsa Tlala, the government integrated food production programme.

I thank you.

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