Small-scale farmers are eager to help communities eat better, but first they say they need the support to grow more food.

“This is sector can solve many challenges in communities, such as job creation, access to healthy food and fighting crime,” said Simon Moagi, the secretary of the Letsitele Agri-Corp. “But that can only happen if government can [give] me more hands and encourage people to take an interest in farming. They must teach people on what are the benefit of farming.”

Based in Tzaneen, Moagi is part of a team planning an Agricultural Indaba in the Mopani district. Set for March next year, it will mobilise small-scale farmers, and help them access the support they need so in turn can help communities. Moagi is enthusiastic about the role farmers can play in providing healthy, affordable food that could help prevent diseases like diabetes.

“There is also the issue of funding because it not easily accessible, and people need access to land which is critical when one needs to be productive. The availability of market is also critical because you cannot have all products and have no where to sell,” said Moagi. “And again the farming materials such as the irrigation system are also important and if you don’t have those how will you grow your crops?”

Government support crucial

Emerging farmer, Dakalo Muvhali has farmed his father’s plot for five years but has dreams of expanding.

“Look, I’m working alone in my father’s two hector’s land, and had I more support, I would have employed other people,” he told Health-e News. Financial assistance would allow him to buy seedlings and upgrade his irrigation system. Muvhali says small-scale farmers also need business support.

“Even the market is not there. I rely on selling in my community because when you approach big supermarkets, they already have their own people they buy from,” adds the 37-year-old.

“We will not only create jobs but make sure people eat healthy food. Sometimes people eat unhealthy because there is no place to purchase those. And as we are close to people that means we can solve such problems,” said Muvhali.

An Indaba to bring farmers together

Mopani District Municipality’ spokesperson, Odas Ngobeni believes the Agriculture Indaba set for March 2021 is a good start.

“Mopani Agri Indaba and Food Festival will be a platform for networking, sharing best practices, identifying challenges that farmers, in particular black farmers, are facing and propose long lasting solutions,” said Ngobeni.

Under the theme ‘Growing local economy, building trade markets and embracing locally produced products,’ the Indaba aims to organise and support small-scale farmers in the district.

“The Indaba will outline broadly the challenges and opportunities that we together with other government entities and the farmers community need to pay particular attention to,” he explained. “But, at the level of the local government our immediate interest is to see the sector growing in line with our vision to be the food basket of Southern Africa.”

The event will include established farmers, emerging and aspirant farmers and support organisations and companies.

“It’s important to have these big players to share their experiences, which will guide our longterm plans in support of the sector,” said Ngobeni.—Health-e News