Minister Senzeni Zokwana: Sheep handover event during Imbizo

Honourable Chairperson;

MEC Shushu,

Mayors present;

Municipal and Provincial representatives;

Dikgosi and their traditional councils

Farmers and representatives of farmers organisations;

Civil society;

Business;

Members of the media;

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen.

Goeie more; dumelang;molweni; good morning, dumelang.

It is a great honour and privilege for me to be here today to discuss matters that relate to food security. Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food.

There is no arguing that food security continues to be a worldwide concern and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future as the world population continues to expand and natural resources are put under more pressure.

Food Security

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that about 805 million people of the 7,3 billion people in the world, or one in nine, were suffering from chronic undernourishment between 2012 and 2014. Almost all the hungry people, 791 million, live in developing countries.

In South Africa, the right to food, among other basic rights, is enshrined in the Constitution. The same Constitution also affords Government the mandate to make provisions, either legislatively or otherwise, to ensure that this right is realised.

At the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit on 25 September 2015, world leaders adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change by 2030.

Sustainable Development Goal number two aims to “end hunger; achieve food security and improved nutrition; and promote sustainable agriculture”. One of the activities identified in achieving this goal is to “maintain genetic diversity of seeds, cultivated plants, farmed and domesticated animals and their related wild species, including through soundly managed and diversified seed and plant banks at national, regional and international levels, and ensure access to and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilisation of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge as internationally agreed by 2020”.

It is widely reported that animal genetic resources for food and agriculture are an essential part of the biological basis for world food security, and contribute to the livelihoods of people.

APAP

In response to these global initiatives, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has established programmes aimed towards the conservation and sustainable use of farm animal genetic resources and agriculture. The department has also developed the Agricultural Policy Action Plan (APAP), which will make a positive contribution in addressing some of the relevant key outcomes set by our government, in particular Outcome 7, which speaks to “vibrant, equitable and sustainable rural communities contributing towards food security for all” and Outcome 10, which aims to “protect and enhance our environmental assets and natural resources”.

Genetic Resources

According to the State of the World’s Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture prepared by Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Intergovernmental Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, the full potential of animal genetic resources is far from being realised and these genetic resources face serious erosion in both developed and developing countries. This erosion is caused by changes in production systems, disease outbreaks, inappropriate breeding policies and practices, inappropriate introduction of exotic breeds, to name but a few. Erosion of animal genetic resources threatens the ability of farmers and livestock keepers to respond to environmental and socio-economic changes, including changing diets and consumer preferences.

Namaqua Afrikaner sheep breed

Regarding our conservation programme, we recognise the need for conservation and sustainable use of our indigenous breeds. The Namaqua Afrikaner sheep breed is one of these breeds, because it not only adds value to South Africa’s rich agro-biodiversity, it also plays a major role in the social, cultural and economic history of our country.

In the past year, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) together with the Northern Cape province, initiated a project on the conservation and sustainable use of Namaqua Afrikaner sheep breed. As part of this project, 23 farmers from Dr John Taolo Gaetsewe District Municipality were trained in conservation strategies for farm animal genetic resources, sheep husbandry (including diseases control) protocols, as well as reproduction and breeding in sheep.

Ladies and gentleman, you would recall that in my budget vote speech earlier this year, I undertook to donate 100 Namaqua sheep to farmers in the Northern Cape.

Today, it is my pleasure to be here in the Northern Cape to fulfil that promise. We know that through this donation, the farmers of this area, as the key custodians of our farm genetic resources for food and agriculture, will continue to play a vital role in the conservation and sustainable use these resources, thereby contributing enormously in addressing challenges around food security. I would like to thank MEC Shushu and his team for working towards realising this donation to the farmers, Siyabulela MEC.

Our focus on this particular breed is specific around its ability to withstand harsh environmental conditions. This unique breed is extremely adaptable to semi-arid and low production input systems which is particular relevant in the current drought situation we find ourselves in.

Impact of drought

Programme Director let me turn my attention to drought. We are all witnessing drought conditions that have adversely impact on affect varous sectors, more especially agriculture. We are battling the worst drought since 1992. The country is experiencing below-normal rainfall and abnormally high temperatures. These persistent above-normal temperatures are the result of an increase in evapotranspiration.

The 2015/16 rainfall season in Southern Africa is supposed to take place from October 2015 to May 2016. The El Niño phenomenon, which brings drought conditions across the region, will have major effects on agriculture with the South African maize belt especially expected to be greatly affected by these drought conditions. Poor rainfall is likely to result in late planning, poor crop conditions and high/increasing cereal prices, all of which could heighten food insecurity and lead to acute malnutrition in some areas.

The worst affected provinces are currently the Free State, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West and KwaZulu-Natal provinces. The provincial departments of agriculture provided drought relief assistance to the aggregate amount of R14,7 million to small-scale and subsistence farmers. This allocation is being used to cater for many affected farmers’ emergency needs such as, but not limited to, providing animal feed, providing water sources and intensifying awareness campaigns.

Declared drought disaster stricken provinces will submit their disaster funding requests to the National Treasury through the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC). To date, DAFF approached the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and the Land Bank for possible assistance and the institutions indicated that they have plans in place that can be used to assist affected farmers. The plans include providing soft loans, among other things.

To ensure drought impact mitigation, my Department continues to monitor conditions in the provinces and will issue updated early warning information/advisories to the sector, which includes strategies farmers should consider in planning their activities when dry conditions are forecasted. Strategies advised are using grey water – especially in food gardens, harvesting water during rainy days, irrigating in the late afternoon/early evening to reduce evaporation, using drip irrigation instead of sprinklers as it saves water and reducing livestock to protect limited grazing land and providing additional feeds.

DAFF continues to coordinate and facilitate the process between the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) and the provincial departments regarding both declarations and funding requests. The NDMC within the Department of Cooperative Governance (DCoG) is coordinating these national response efforts, particularly funding requests to National Treasury. All sectors are affected by the dry conditions and as such concerted and integrated efforts are required to ensure that the effect of the drought is mitigated.

Conclusion

To conclude, I wish to reiterate that we are working hard to ensure that the effect of the drought is mitigated. We will also continue to work within the inter-governmental system to implement the National Policy on Food and Nutrition Security.

Baie Dankie,

Ke a leboga,

Roleboha,

Ngiyabonga,

Enkosi,

SOURCE: SOUTH AFRICAN OFFICAL NEWS