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Millions will be spent by South Africa’s Department of Rural Development and Land Reform after it announced financial support to women and youth farmers, according to government news site SA News.

The department said that R800 million will be made available for these farmers as part of stimulus package, and that land will also be released to deserving famers.

“The government has heeded the call to quicken their rapid land release steps and provide financial support to the farming community during this planting season,” said the department.

Take Action: Call on Ireland to Support Female Farmers, Improve the Nutrition of Teenage Girls, and Tackle NTDs

The financial support will ensure sustainable food security for the nation, according to Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, during a recent meeting with members of executive councils, mayors, and councillors from the various provinces last month.

“As a country, we are fighting the triple challenge of unemployment, poverty, and inequality,” Nkoana-Mashabane said, adding that government’s greater and deliberate efforts are directed and channeled towards economic empowerment of women and youth.

She indicated that the two phases of the land audit have been conducted, finalised, and published, saying that the “focus was to determine how much land was in the hands of the state in 2013.”

Nkoana-Mashabane said the second phase was on ownership, where the department has discovered that only 4% of the land was owned by black people. 

“The third phase is underway, where the focus is on [race and gender], the unbundling of ownership in trusts, companies, and community-based organisations,” she continued.

According to the ministry, in South Africa, women account for a large proportion of the agricultural workforce, as well as heading up families in rural areas. 

Nkoana-Mashabane said that at women’s representation in farming activities should be reflected in audits, projects, and programmes, while gender responsive budgeting should be done at all levels and be reflected in all government strategies. 

“As a department, we acquire assets in the form of implements, equipment, and mechanisation and give them to communities as start-up packages to kick start them into production,” she said. “For value to be realised and lead to proper beneficiation, this requires further international and domestic investment through properly consolidated partnerships, mentoring, and skilling, opening access opportunities and markets.”

Nkoana-Mashabane emphasised the need to promote skills, saying that it should be government’s priority, as communities also possess indigenous knowledge that should be supported and developed by modern mechanisms and systems.

“[This should be] in line with the fourth Industrial Revolution, which should see communities move from subsistence to commercialised farming,” she said. 

The National Science Technology and Innovation Information Portal describes the fourth Industrial Revolution as a way of finding new technologies that would have an impact on the world.

The first industrial revolution spanned from 1760 to 1840, epitomised by the steam engine. The second started in the late 19th century and made mass production possible. The third then began in the 1960s with mainframe computing and semi-conductors, explains the portal.

The minister said the National Development Plan’s (NDP) Vision 2030, which provides for an integrated and inclusive rural economy, is a vision that cannot be achieved by just one department.

She said government departments should work together in realising this vision.

Earlier last month, Nkoana-Mashabana said the department has played a key role in providing resources to support women’s empowerment and capacity-building in agriculture across the country. 

“As government, we continue to play a role in adding impetus to open up opportunities for women to prosper and during this month of October [Women’s Month], time must be taken to acknowledge and reflect on government programmes that play a role in advocating for rural women and girls’ emancipation,” she said.

The minister said the department has supported these projects to help implement their strategies — including through providing money for fencing, and supporting with skilled labour.

One example of a project that has received support is the Modulaghowa Primary Co-operative Limited — a group of young and middle aged women who came together to form a plant nursery that specialises in producing indigenous trees, vegetable seedlings, and fruit trees in Botshebelo, east of Bloemfontein.

Nkoana-Mashabane said rural women are vital in achieving rural economic transformation, and the environmental and social changes required for sustainable development. 

She said: “The world over, rural women play a role in food security and creating sustainable rural areas, yet they do not have sufficient power to secure land in many instances, or vital resources such as credit, inputs costs of farming, extension services, training, and education.”

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