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Minister tells farmers to “keep the faith”

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‘Farmers must live from day to day and are at the mercy of the elements. They are subjected to what happens in the fields. They cannot be of little faith and need to look beyond the horizon.’

THE MINISTER of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, urged farmers to “keep the faith”, where they are confronted with tough economic circumstances, climate change and rising costs.

Didiza recognised the difficulties that farmers in the Northern Cape face while engaging with farmers and farmer unions as part of her visit to the Province yesterday.

“Farmers must live from day to day and are at the mercy of the elements. They are subjected to what happens in the fields. They cannot be of little faith and need to look beyond the horizon. One farmer in the Province took his own life while many had to lay off their workers and sell their livestock as a result of the drought. The impact of the drought has been much more severe in the Province. The intervention from government may not be able to satisfy the need,” said Didiza.

She added that contingency measures needed to be put in place in the case of any eventuality.

“Going forward, we will have to think of farming strategies in light of natural disasters and extreme weather patterns. While we have been blessed with some rain, we are not out of the woods. We will have to work collectively to produce and see how we can increase fodder banks and improve livestock. We need to ensure there are sufficient lucerne and reserve crops in times of drought and mitigate the effects of climate change.”

She stated that they were still in the process of identifying state land that was suitable for human settlement.

“We are busy drafting a beneficiary farmer policy, where gender, youth, and capabilities will be prioritised in the selection process. Beneficiaries need to avail themselves for training. We cannot have beneficiaries who sit around doing nothing. The policy will incorporate a support structure for upcoming farmers and market access to the export markets.”

Didiza added that they needed to improve communication lines to prevent the spread of contagious diseases.

“We do not want a repeat of the foot and mouth disease outbreak. Farmers need to report infected herds so that they can be isolated and contained, through an animal identification system. Even infected cattle that are offered as labola are problematic because it can spread sickness. The sale of stolen livestock must be halted because the origin and means of slaughter could be a health hazard. People may become sick from consuming sold illegal meat, without knowing the cause of the illness.”