Farm training initiative promotes South African food security

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Farm training initiative promotes South African food security

Farmers, community members and government entities are coming together in South Africa’s Guateng province to tackle food insecurity and train aspiring farmers.

Agri Gauteng Executive Manager Dirk Hanekom spoke with on the potential to uplift communities through self-sustaining agricultural operations.

“Basically the program has been formed because in South Africa the fairly urban areas have become very unsafe and unstable. There’s a lot of agricultural potential over there,” Hanekom said.

“What we’ve seen is that we can help these people and help one another by giving them food security, home gardening projects, as well as capturing the needs of black neighborhoods and so on.”

The idea for the project stems from a national rural development plan. Using a government blueprint, the Guateng initiative has integrated players on various levels, including the municipality, the provincial government, the provincial department of agriculture, police and the South African National Civic Organisation.

Early next year, the program will launch with vegetable gardens in approximately 1,000 households in impoverished neighborhoods near the city of Devon. The initiative is estimated to benefit around 8,000 people living in the area.

“We’re really trying to create bottom up strategies for corporations in South Africa but at the same making the commercial farmer’s life a little bit safer in his community and then obviously, also to help them provide food security for themselves,” Hanekom said.

The community surrounding Devon suffers from around 85% unemployment, he explained. This can equate to desperation for food and robbery of local farms.

“By stabilizing the community inside these poor areas and giving them some food and shelter and so on, we are actually making our own farms a safer place by showing the people we care for them and want to help them solve their own problems,” he said.

Alongside home gardening, the first phase of the project will also teach livestock handling practices and manage a 50-hectare plot of corn for the community. Later, the project hopes to include product processing and value-adding, including a feedlot, a mill, farmers markets, a slaughterhouse and a tannery.

Hanekom explained that these projects will contribute not only to personal development but community development as well.

“We actually are creating a platform for investigating who can really become farm laborers and help us and who can actually become aspiring commercial farmers themselves,” he said.

The project is expected to expand later to other parts of Agri Guateng’s service area.

Hanekom said the project’s secret to success will be the spiritual bond its members have established and their dedication to helping each other through rough times.

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