14 May 2014
Construction work has begun on a R60-million multi-purpose training and development centre at the Agricultural Research Council in Roodeplaat, Pretoria. The facility will boost the government’s drive to reinvigorate black commercial farming in the country.
Speaking to SAnews after the sod-turning ceremony on Tuesday, Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti said the objective was “to rekindle that class of commercial farmers destroyed by the Native Land Act.”
The event coincided with the handing over of certificates to 2 000 graduates who successfully completed a programme in vegetable and livestock production at the Roodeplaat training facility.
According to Nkwinti, the new facility will complement the department’s flagship programme for young South Africans, the National Rural Youth Service Corps (Narysec).
The Narysec was established in Thaba Nchu in the Free State in 2010 to give young people in rural areas the skills they needed either to find employment or to start their own businesses. More than 14 000 people are enrolled in Narysec.
“We are creating a class of black people who are going to run the country’s economy over the next decade,” Nkwinti said.
“It will actually anchor them, because scientific training will be done here. They will go to Thaba Nchu to implement the theoretical part they have learnt at the new facility.”
Nkwinti said the biggest challenge facing South Africa was the threat to food security.
“We don’t seem to appreciate the challenge because we can go to the market and buy whatever food we want to eat. However, there are many people who cannot afford it. I’m talking about people who go to bed without having a meal.
“We need to produce young farmers who can grow vegetables, produce meat, and those who can also look after the environment to ensure that the environment around us can carry us through the next 100 years.
“Again, if we continue to import food that we can also produce ourselves – then it means we will be exposing ourselves to a serious challenge of food security for the next 50 years. As [the] government, we want to reverse this,” he said.
The centre will be built through a partnership between the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and the Agricultural Research Council (ARC).
Council CEO Shadrack Moephuli said: “As the ARC, we do research and development for new scientific solutions and technologies. Part of our challenge is finding the best ways in which we can deliver these technologies, the information and the data to the people who are going to use it.
“We saw it appropriate that we contribute towards the success of agriculture, particularly land reform,” Moephuli said. “We will provide them with the training so that they can be productive themselves, understand the use of technology, how to respond to the needs of consumers, but also how to ensure to identify the diseases at their respective farms and solve the problems on their own.”