Agriculture and food production in South Africa is highly developed. The role of agriculture in South Africa in ensuring a strong food supply has been emphasized in both commercial farming and small scale subsistence farming. South Africa benefits from diverse climatic conditions that range from tropical to Mediterranean, semi-desert to savannah. These weather conditions allow for a large variety of commercial and food crops to be cultivated.
South Africa has become food sufficient and a net exporter of agricultural products. The income of farmers and producers is estimated at over 90 billion South African Rand. The agricultural sector is famed for production of horticultural crops such as fruits e.g. grapes for wines. Cereals and grains are crops that cover most of the agricultural acreage. However, the situation wasn’t always rosy.
From the sixties to late eighties, the South African agricultural industry stagnated and even declined as the manufacturing and mining sectors grew. However, with the growth of the population, food security became a pressing issue and had to be addressed through the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) in 1994. Food security was recognized as a priority policy objective. Government spending was redirected to focus on the role of agriculture in South Africa in ensuring a strong food supply to its citizens.
As there were several food security programmes running concurrently and at times roles beng overlapped, the South African Government decided to launch a more efficient and integrated food security program. It was titled the Integrated Food Security Strategy (IFSS). The vision of the IFSS was in line with the definition of food security according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Its goal is to eradicate malnutrition, food insecurity and hunger in South Africa by 2015.
The strategic objectives of the IFSS amongst others include: – To increase domestic food production and trading – To improve the generation of income and job creation in agriculture – To improve food safety and nutrition. – To implement food emergency management systems. – To improve information management and analysis of agriculture and food production – To have stakeholder dialogue
The ways in which South Africa was to implement this strategy to strengthen food supply in the present and future was to approach several issues simultaneously.
The two major steps that were put into consideration were:
1. Improve Household Food Production and Distribution Rural food insecurity in South Africa is to be overcome by incrasing the number of households that undertake productive agriculture for themselves and for trade. Such households in rural regions are to be empowered by increasing access to small scale irrigation systems, training of small scale farmers on green and sustainable technologies. Such new technologies would enable them to continuously produce food even in lean times. Access to credit and finance is also to be improved. Marginalized groups especially women are to be harnessed in this drive to commercialize food production in rural areas.
2. Enhance food emergency management systems The collection and dissemination of the food situation is critical in ensuring proper planning of the supply. Periodic programme evaluation and studies will be conducted from regional to national level so as to design appropriate measures to counter food insecurity.
The South African food supply has improved and so has food security and nutrition. With further implementation of programmes under the IFSS, the future is bright for South African agriculture.
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