All you need to know about government’s input vouchers for farmers by Maile Matsimela

The minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza has announced that the government will offer famers support through input vouchers.

The announcement was made on Thursday in Cape Town, as part of the government’s economic stimulus package. It follows a joint sitting of the National Assembly and the National House of Provinces, called by president Cyril Ramaphosa on 15 October to announce the Presidential Economic Recovery Plan. Didiza said the department will provide input vouchers to subsistence farmers in order to retain jobs.

The minister said the target will be those subsistence producers who are producing at household level in peri-urban and rural areas with a maximum land size between a quarter to one hectares.

“As part of our contribution to the Presidential Economic Recovery Plan, today I wish to announce the Presidential Economic Stimulus package for the agricultural sector. The president requested our department to support employment in the country, through a short-term (6-months) support intervention in the agricultural sector. Following that request, we initiated a producer relief fund for subsistence producers that would help them retain self-employment and support food value chains. On 23 September 2020, National Treasury confirmed R 1bn to fund the initiative and the allocated fund to be used before 31 March 2021,” said Didiza.

The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) will use Extension Officials in all provinces, as well as a contingent of approximately 9000 youth from the constituted of agricultural graduates, and the NARYSEC youth.

The initiative seeks to provide subsistence producers with non-financial input vouchers that are to be used to retain their livelihoods and support household food security.

The qualifying criteria for applicants are as follows:

  1. The applicant must be a South African, with a valid identity document and currently be actively involved in agricultural production.
  2. Subsistence producers (excluding smallholder producers) of all genders will be supported, and priority will be given to 50% of women, 40% youth and 5% persons with disabilities and the applicant must be farming in the following places:
  3. either in rural and peri-urban areas (urban areas are excluded for purposes of this initiative);
  4. Backyard gardens or balconies or planters;
  5. Communal lands, commonages, school gardens, clinic land, community hall land, etc.
  6. Vulnerable subsistence producers such as child-headed households, farm dwellers, farmworkers will also be supported proactively.
  7. Military Veterans, involved in subsistence production will be supported.
  8. The 1000 Narysec youth, recruited through the Khawuleza District Coordination Service Delivery Model (3 Districts) will be supported.
  9. Subsistence producers that did not received DALRRD support in the past financial year.
  10. No government, salaried employees will be supported.
  11. One application per household will be permitted.
  12. Award sizes range between R1000 and R9000 and are dependent on the commodity type applied and current verified production scale.
  13. The maximum size of production allowed will be the following:
  14. Vegetable and fruit growing: 1ha (smaller than 100 meters x 100 meters or two soccer fields);
  15. Maize/soya/cotton/sugar/other production: 1ha (smaller than 100 meters x 100 meters or two soccer fields);
  16. Layer Chickens:50 layers or less;
  17. Broilers:100 broilers for less;
  18. Small Stock Units (SSU):25 or fewer animals; and
  19. Large Stock Units (LSU)5 or fewer animals;
  20. The department will, at its discretion, determine the final award sizes based on the number of successful applications received.

Farming commodities to be supported:
The following farming commodities will be supported under this initiative:

  • Vegetable and fruit growing;
  • Maize/soya/cotton/sugar/other production
  • Poultry: Layer Chickens and Broilers
  • Small and Large livestock.

The size of the non-financial awards will be determined by the scale of current production, after an intensive physical verification process

Application and voucher redemption process
The application process will be done through the electronic-platform.  If an applicant can load airtime, then they will be able to use the system, using any of the 11 official languages.

The system provides a cost effective and rapid method for applications to be received and to be registered. The electronic system will, furthermore, have the functionality to screen applicants based on preloaded rules, as per the criteria developed. The system allows for live tracking of applications, verification visits and issuing of electronic vouchers.

The applicant will go through a two-phase verification process. The first phase will be completed when an applicant meets all conditions, as it relates application criteria set out above. The second phase, the verification phase, will be done through physical site visits, to verify the applicant’s current production, the size of land and the number of livestock the applicant currently has. 

During this physical verification phase, important information that will be collected from the applicant this will include: the making available of a copy of an identity document, medical confirmation to verify claimed disability points and documentation proving military veteran status. It must be emphasised that applicants that are unable to provide the necessary information will not be considered for an award.

Electronic vouchers will be issued to successful applicants only.  The vouchers will be used to collect inputs at suppliers registered by the DALRRD. The vouchers will be used to redeem the required production inputs in line with the commodity support applied for. The vouchers will be valid for a period of three months, but must be used before 31 March 2021. A successful applicant will have the opportunity to use the voucher up to five (5) times over the three-month period, this will allow for inputs to be purchased when there is a need it will also facilitate easier transportation of inputs, particularly heavier items such as feed and feed supplements.

Monitoring and evaluation will consistently take place.  Visits will be made to applicants to monitor the use of inputs received. The suppliers will also be monitored to ensure that they supply the correct quality inputs and at the right quantity. Any supplier or individuals found to be misusing the voucher and or inputs will not receive support for the DALRRD for a period of 12 months. The innovate use of a USSD code will make the application process easily accessible to the largest number of small producers. The process will be quick and save money.

On the advert that will be advertised by the DALRRD, there will be a USSD code.  The USSD code will constitute a number that you will be required to dial on your phone.  You do not need a smart phone; a normal cellular phone will work. Applicants in rural areas are encouraged to get to an area where signal is available to make the application. The entire application process will take you no more than ten minutes, and you can complete it in your own language. If you or any of your family members has loaded airtime on a cell phone, you/they can do this. The USSD number will work on any network, i.e. Vodacom, MTN, Telkom or Cell C.

They will need to follow the simple steps below:

  • You will need to dial in * then a number * a number # key
  • The phone will prompt you to choose one of the 11 official languages.

There are 12 steps to be followed that will take less than 10 minutes of your time.

Choose your language

Step 1: Does the cell phone number belong to you

Step 2: Enter your ID number

Step 3: Select your farming activity

1 = Vegetable and fruit growing

2 = Maize/soya/cotton/sugar/other production

3 = Layer Chickens

4 = Broilers

5 = Small stock

6 = Large stock

Step 4: Based on the answer to the question on Step 3, the following options will follow:

If you chose any of the following, the system will ask you to indicate quantities.

1 = Vegetable and fruit growing

                1 = planters (pots, bags or trays)                  

                2 = smaller than 0.25ha (50 meters x 50 meters)                               

                3 = 0.26ha to 0.5ha (smaller than 50 meters x 100 meters)

              4 = 0.6ha to 1ha (smaller than 100 meters x 100 meters)

2 = Maize/soya/cotton/sugar/other production

                1 = smaller than 0.25ha (50meters x 50meters)      

                2 = 0.26ha to 0.5ha (smaller than 50meters x 100meters)     

                3 = 0.6ha to 1ha (smaller than 100meters x 100meters)

3 = Layer Chickens

                1 = less than 11 layers                   

                2 = from 11 to 20 layers

                3 = from 26 to 50 layers

4 = Broilers

                1 = less than 21 broilers                

                2 = from 21 to 50 broilers                            

                3 = from 51 to 100 broilers

5 = Small Stock Units (SSU)

                1 = 1 to 5 animals            

                2 = 6 to 15 animals         

                3 = 16 to 25 animals

6 = Large Stock Units (LUS)

                1 = 1 animal                       

                2 = 2 to 3 animals            

                3 = 4 to 5 animals

Step 5: Are you a person with a disability?

Step 6: Are you the head of a child-headed household?

Step 7: Are you a military veteran?

Step 8: Enter your name and surname with a comma between them, e.g. Serame, Mzizi?

Step 9: In which province are you located?

The 9 provinces will be listed and per the extraction below.

1 = Eastern Cape

2 = Free State

3 = Gauteng, etc.

Step 10: In which Municipality are you located?

The 258 municipalities will be listed as a cluster per district municipality, as per the extraction below.

  1. = Mohokare, Kopanong or Letsemeng
  2. = Mangaung
  3. = Moqhaka, Ngwathe, Mafube and Metsimaholo, etc.

Step 11: What town or village is closest to you or are you staying in?

Step 12: Your reference number is (it will be a ‘number # number’)

You will receive an SMS with a reference number after registration that your application has been successfully registered
“Thank You for your application, please note your reference number is as indicated. Kind Regards DALRRD”

Once you have registered, you will wait approximately 2 weeks for your information to be verified. If your application meets the minimum requirements, you will receive another SMS indicating that a representative of the DALRRD will visit your house in the following three (3) weeks to do a physical verification visit. The visits will verify the, size and type of relief applied for. The physical visits will be used to collect ID copies, Medical confirmation, and documentation identifying the applicant as a military veteran, if required. The visit will also identify additional support needed by child-headed-households.

The following implementation methodology will be followed:

  1. Ward extension offices will be the point of farmer verification, support and monitoring. Thusong Centres and Traditional courts may also be used if the ward agricultural extension offices are unavailable.
  2. The district director (DALRRD – lead) will establish a task team that includes the district director (PDA) and they that will monitor and advise on operations in wards.
  3. Any unresolved issues will be escalated to a provincial operation forum constituted by the PSSC head (DALRRD – lead) and the relevant Chief Director (PDA).
  4. Verification visits to subsistence producers by extension officials, teamed up with NARYSEC youth and agricultural graduates will take place at ward level and the information will be captured on an ePlatform.

Local governance structures
Local governance structures will comprise of the following local governance structures:

  1. A Ward-Level Joint Operating Committee (WLJOC) will be established, to support applicants with registration on the ePlatform and ensure that every qualifying applicant is visited and their production status is verified. The extension official (convenor and responsible official) will ensure that Narysec, agricultural graduates and any additional support sourced from traditional leaders, faith-based organisations, civil society, is managed to do accurate verifications in a ward. During the voucher implementation phase, the WLJOC will conduct monitoring and evaluation visits to successful applicants to ensure inputs are used as intended.
  2. A District Joint Operating Committee (DJOC), chaired by the District Director: DALRRD (or identified official) and co-chaired by the Director: PDA, will be established to manage and control operations in wards, and report to the provincial committee.
  3. The Provincial Joint Operating Committee (PJOC), Chaired by the DALRRD PSSC and supported by the relevant Chief Director: PDA, will serve as management and operational control for the province and report to the national committee.

All you need to know about government’s input vouchers for farmers

Post Covid-19, a rural revolution can drive food security for South Africa

20 Jul 2020

JOHANNESBURG – When this crisis is over, we will have a chance to reshape national production through the development of rural agriculture and agro-processing. We must re-instill the old values that communities had for agriculture by making farming skills and self-sufficiency fashionable again.

The reconstruction, growth and transformation in building a new Inclusive Economy must target the development of rural agriculture and manufacturing in Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West and Free State to make it a base for competitive Food Production as a solution for South African self-sufficiency and export.

Food security has declined in South Africa and woes in rural communities that use to be self-sufficient, basic fruits and vegetables are more expensive than before and rural communities are buying fruits and vegetables currently, a new trend that need to be quickly changed.

The recovery must begin by ending hunger and food insecurity locally as that will make South Africa become stronger again and have lower food prices to benefit all families. Developing agricultural infrastructure is the key starting point. Post Covid-19, nothing less than a revolution in rural sustainable development can prevent another crisis.

Decentralizing agriculture and industrial development was highly discussed in South in 1912, it was later topical again in 1960 focusing on agriculture and industrialization in the bantustan regions like Ciskei, Transkei, Gazankulu and Bophuthatswana and the challenges of economic development and decentralization in the bantustan in 1982, with tons of studies showing interventions in agriculture and decentralized industrialization, we have nothing to match our studies as a nation.

Prioritizing strategy execution is a most important culture South Africa needs. Bantustan agriculture and industrial development is not a new theme, a difference now is South Africa has developed economists, agronomists, environmental experts, climate change and sustainability practitioners that must be carefully arranged to assist in developing communities. 

“South Africa remains a highly unequal society where too many people live in poverty and too few workers. The quality of school education for most black learners is poor. The apartheid spatial divide continues to dominate the landscape. A large proportion of young people feel that the odds are stacked against them. And the legacy of apartheid continues to determine the life opportunities for the vast majority.

“These immense challenges can only be addressed through a step-change in the country’s performance. To accelerate progress, deepen democracy and build a more inclusive society, South Africa must translate political emancipation into economic wellbeing for all. It is up to all South Africans to fix the future, starting today. To eliminate poverty and reduce inequality, the economy must grow faster and in ways that benefit all South Africans” citing the ANC Economic Development document accepting that all people in their communities must unite to develop their regional economic development to add into the gross domestic product for the country. 

The primary goal for South Africa’s public and private sector is to solve the youth unemployment crisis and provide a solution for affordable food prices for all people. 

For decades, thinking and strategies around food have developed in silos, with little coordination between communities working on nutrition, agriculture, food, environment, water, health, climate, employment, trade or transport. This has generated serious problems – from policies that provide cheap calories but lead to high rates of diet-related diseases, to market innovations that prioritize efficiency above all and production systems that contribute to climate change and biodiversity loss.

Families at rural communities have land for agriculture, however, families stopped using their farms because of a breed of family members who loved urban living and neglected small scale farms that their grandparents used to self-sustaining their families and communities. In recent years, we started to witness Good Friday celebrations without harvesting tons of vegetables, which was a norm or culture in rural areas. What we left thinking is not attractive, now is the most needed sector to resolve global food challenges. 

Municipalities in rural communities must work positively with kings and chiefs to allocate land for rural development, to give our municipalities and communities a competitive advantage to produce high-quality food for industrial processing purposes and exporting. Special Economic Development zones will need different agricultural products mainly at Limpopo, Mpumalanga, as the industrial development zones in those areas will have majority agro-processing smart factories and smart industries. 

Maize farming is important for the South African economy because it is the bread and butter of thousands of commercial and small-scale farmers. Most of the maize produced in South Africa is consumed locally. Maize farming in South Africa has been one of the occupations of most indigenous people in Southern part of Africa.

The South African maize industry was deregulated in 1997 and is operating in a free-market environment. This means that producers may sell to whomever they wish and prices are determined by supply and demand. The Mpumalanga, Limpopo and North West provinces being the largest producers. The maize industry is also an important earner of foreign exchange for the country through exports of maize and maize products.

South Africa can have a competitive advantage in Maize, Wheat, Tomatoes, Potatoes, Citrus fruits and other vegetables and fruits to support agro-processing industries domestically and exporting to global markets. Creating Access to markets for smallholder farmers and established farmers needs to be prioritized to assist farmers with off-take agreements and funding for framers. Although maize farming requires knowledge and skill, maize is quite easy to produce compared to many other crops. 

The changes of agriculture functions into the new Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), while the forestry and fisheries functions were incorporated into the new Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries. A purposeful Division of Revenue Formula must be carefully designed to benefit Agriculture and rural development in the inland and coastal regions.

Socioeconomic development and production capacity will require a change of attitudes and discipline, the transformation will never take place overnight, it requires our full attention, knowledge and wisdom, continuous critical and analytical thinking and solves as many problems weekly to close the whole gap of bantustan underdevelopment. 

Rural agricultural production will add value in decent employment through inclusive economic growth, creating more cooperatives in rural communities to manage agriculture and agro-processing, training for farmers and operational management for farms as attractive businesses. Every Mayor, municipal manager and Counsellors in rural communities must report on the agricultural and agro-processing production in their wards and municipalities, while other sectors are prioritized as well. 

According to Statistics South Africa’s (Stats SA) General Household Survey (GHS) of 2018, only 14,8 percent of South African households were involved in some sort of agricultural production activities during the reference period. While 37.1 percent of households in Limpopo and 29.3 percent of households in Eastern Cape engaged in some agricultural activity, participation was much lower in Western Cape (2.5 percent) and Gauteng (4 percent). Of the households that were involved in agriculture, 10.1 percent cultivated farmland while 90.3 percent created backyard gardens.

Nationally, more than three-quarters (75.6 percent) of households that were involved in agriculture were involved in an attempt to secure an additional source of food. Provincially, 88.7 percent of households in Limpopo, and 78.8 perrcent of households in Mpumalanga were engaged in agricultural activities as a way to augment their existing sources of food. Of the households that were engaged in agricultural production, 50.6 percent cultivated grains, and 53.3 percent grew fruit and vegetables. Livestock was produced by 48.7 percent of the country’s households while 36.6 percent produced poultry.

The United Nations research shows that as farming systems have modernised and intensified, the amount of land available for farming has been growing ever more slowly. On current trends, arable land will grow at a rate of 0.4 percent in countries for which data is available, despite improvements in irrigation and farming technology. The Food and Agricultural Organization calls for nations to strengthen local production and shorten food supply chains.

Resetting a Division of Revenue formula in favour of Rural Development can produce better outcomes for South African economic development and growth, prioritizing investments in agriculture, manufacturing technologies and introducing standards to improve (Antswisa) farming systems and management of farms with better monitoring using modern technologies.

The Recession and Covid-19 crisis open an opportunity to accelerate food system transformation and new business models are needed. It is the time to speed-up e-commerce in agriculture and food systems across the South African provinces to link to the global economy for better market access and share that’s inclusive and shared for all farmers.

Rural development and lower population density can be compatible with continued economic growth and sustainability. Developing agricultural infrastructure will create employment opportunities across the skills spectrum and will sustainably deploy the natural capital of less-developed countries. The homeland’s use to have attractive agricultural fields in areas such as Giyani and Nkowankowa where I come from, the farmer’s use to harvest stunning crops such as corn, bananas, mangoes, citrus, tomatoes, potatoes, pawpaw’s, sugarcanes, avocados at the back of their homes and also beautiful farms, but now it’s all dry like we are in drought while not.

A delayed restructuring of the South African economy can cause the country to experience an L-shaped economic recovery. We still have major global risks with the top five being environmental risks, that need strategic mitigation to manage them for lesser impact. 

We must call on national leaders, the provincial government, regional leaders, Chief’s and Kings to have a solution for food security in South Africa and we must all reflect on the environmental and Covid-19 challenges, we have to clear our minds, listen to nature and environmental challenges and continuously ponder on what we have learned in this crisis. Teamwork is needed to address South Africa’s water and climate change challenges, our future is in our hands and we must take responsibility for economic development, unless it will not happen. Project preparation in agriculture and agroprocessing will encourage collaboration, innovative funding solutions and Market access.

By: Miyelani Mkhabela

Original article here

2020 winter season by Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development

Drought conditions persist in the western parts of the country. On the contrary, the majority of summer rainfall areas reported reasonable conditions to good crops, veld and livestock as a result of good rains received during the 2019/20 summer. The average level of major dams has increased in most provinces.

According to the Seasonal Climate Watch issued by the South African Weather Service, dated 02 June 2020, above normal rainfall is anticipated in parts of the winter rainfall areas and other southern regions of the country, but elsewhere it was below normal. Temperatures are anticipated to be above normal. Minimum temperatures are likely to be below normal for the north-eastern parts of the country.

The May 2020 Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) report states that over Southern Africa, the ongoing harvest is generally stabilising household access to food and many areas are in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are present in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Lesotho, where conflict has impacted household’s ability to engage in normal livelihood activities or consecutive years of drought have impacted agriculture production.

Humanitarian food assistance is preventing worse food security outcomes and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) is present in parts of southern Madagascar and much of Zimbabwe. Moreover, in many urban areas where movement restrictions are in place, many households are facing difficulty accessing some of their food and non-food needs, which has led to an increase in urban food insecurity.

FEWS NET further stated that while COVID-19 lockdowns are positive in managing the spread of COVID-19, they have adverse economic impacts as this negatively affects income-earning activities such as petty trade and informal employment. Many urban households have been exposed to increased levels of food insecurity as they cannot afford market foods due to the disruption of their income sources. Staple food prices have shown mixed trends across the region.

Maize grain prices are starting to seasonally decrease as harvests start reaching markets in some areas of the region. In mid- to late 2020, household food availability is likely to remain seasonally stable in the post-harvest period across much of the region. Although, in areas with a poor harvest, household food availability will most likely atypically decrease and be limited.

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) is a set of standardised tools that aims at providing a “common currency” for classifying the severity and magnitude of food insecurity.

Winter crop farmers, in areas that have not been receiving rain for some time, should wait for sufficient rain before planting and stay within the normal planting window. Although above normal rainfall is anticipated in winter rainfall areas, soil moisture and dams levels are critically low, and not all areas might receive the expected above normal rainfall. Farmers are, therefore, advised to be conservative in their planting, i.e. planting density/cultivar/area being planted. In addition, they should consider drought tolerant cultivars where possible. Irrigation farmers should reduce the planting area in line with water restrictions in their areas. Farmers should follow the weather and climate forecast regularly so as to make informed decisions.

Farmers are advised to keep livestock in balance with carrying capacity of the veld, and provide additional feed such as relevant licks. They should also provide enough water points on the farms as well as shelter during bad weather conditions. The risk of veld fires remains in all areas. Maintenance of fire belts should, therefore, be prioritised as well as adherence to veld fire warnings in all areas. Episodes of cold spells and localised flooding resulting from frontal systems remain likely during winter and measures should be in place. Farmers are encouraged to implement strategies provided in the early warning information issued.

All farmers should check continuous updates from the South African Weather Service.

Link : https://www.gov.za/speeches/agriculture-land-reform-and-rural-development-2020-winter-season-9-jun-2020-0000
Media enquiries:
Media Liaison Officer
Mr Reggie Ngcobo
Cell: 082 883 2458

Over 15,000 Farmers Approved for COVID-19 Fund in South Africa

26 May 2020

More than 15,000 small-scale farmers in South Africa have been approved for the COVID-19 Agricultural Disaster Fund, says Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister, Thoko Didiza.

Didiza said that 55,155 applications were received from smallholder and communal farmers, with the highest number of applications received from the Eastern Cape Province, followed by the Northern Cape and North West.

The R1.2 billion fund intervention aims to address the effects of Coronavirus and ensure sustainable food production post the pandemic.

“To date, 15 036 applications have been approved, valued at just over R500 million in favour of smallholder and communal farmers. Of the 15,036 approved applications, 5,494 are women, 2,493 youth and 224 people living with disability and males at 9,542,” said the Minister.

Speaking at a virtual media briefing on Sunday, Didiza said livestock has been the most requested commodity by farmers, followed by vegetables, poultry and fruits.

“Each of the approved farmers will receive inputs in line with the size of their farming operations up to a maximum of R50,000,” said the Minister.

The application process opened on 8 April and closed on 22 April 2020, with 33,000 manual application forms distributed through the department’s provincial and district offices, commodity and civil society organisations.

She added that the department will finalise its decision on the remaining applications.

R400 million allocation

The Minister said a further R400 million is being channelled to farmers within the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy (PLAS), who were already approved for the department’s Stimulus Package.

She said she was “saddened” that many farmers fell by the sideway because they lacked the proper documentation to prove they are farming.

“The registration of farmers on the Producer Farmer Register will enable government to locate farmers so that targeted support can be provided,” the Minister said.

She also urged farmer organisations to assist farmers in formalising their operations, especially insofar as record keeping is concerned.

Click here for the original article

Protecting food security in Africa during COVID-19

17 May 2020

Even before the global COVID-19 pandemic broke out, food insecurity was a serious concern throughout sub-Saharan Africa. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, 239 million people in the region were undernourished as of 2018. Since long before the COVID-19 pandemic, these chronic food crises have been driven by a variety of factors, including economic shocks, climate, and conflict. Indeed, areas that are severely affected by climate change—particularly the Sahel region, the Horn of Africa, and southern Africa—have many food-insecure people. In East Africa, intercommunal violence and armed conflicts are perpetuating instability and tensions, particularly in South Sudan, and are the driver of large refugee populations in neighboring countries, such as Uganda. In Nigeria, the region’s most populous country, the number of undernourished people was estimated at more than 25 million in 2018—up by 180 percent over the past decade.

This year, an unprecedented locust outbreak that’s ravaging parts of the Horn of Africa could result in $8.5 billion in crop and livestock losses, severely reduced harvests, and less food in markets. Climate shocks, which have been increasing in number and severity in recent years, could also hurt agricultural production. These multiple crises, unfolding at the same time, threaten to swell the ranks of Africa’s hungry and vulnerable people. Refugees, internally displaced people, and people living in areas marked by conflict and fragility like the Sahel are especially at risk.

Now, COVID-19 poses challenges on top of this picture of risk and vulnerability.

For starters, border closures, lockdowns, and curfews intended to slow the spread of the disease are disrupting supply chains that, even under normal circumstances, struggle to keep markets well stocked and farmers supplied with necessary agricultural and livestock inputs such as quality seeds, fertilizer, and feeds. These disruptions could have a much larger economic impact in Africa—where farming accounts for about 60 percent of total employment—than in other regions of the world. In fact, agricultural production in Africa could contract between 2.6 and 7 percent if trade blockages persist.

Another notable factor is that most African countries rely heavily on food imports—the region imported more than 40 million tons of cereals in 2018—which makes the region especially vulnerable to the export bans that a few major food exporters have imposed in the wake of COVID-19. At the same time, currency depreciation—coupled with low foreign currency reserves, falling prices for export and cash crops, and plummeting revenues from stalled industries such as oil and tourism—is affecting several countries’ food purchasing power. African countries are also reporting shortages and price spikes for domestic food crops such as millet, sorghum, and maize. Rising food prices will contribute to lower purchasing power among both rural and urban consumers, given the rising share of food that is purchased (rather than grown) even by smallholder farmers—about 60 percent of the food consumed in the region is purchased from traditional and modern retail outlets in both rural and urban areas.

On April 16, the ministers for agriculture of African Union member states publicly committed to minimizing food system disruptions and ensuring food security and nutrition for all their citizens—especially the poorest and most vulnerable—during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. In their statement, the ministers urged governments to “prioritize the food and agriculture system as an essential service” and “recognize that all types of food systems—modern, traditional (open markets, small stores) and informal (street vendors)—play critical roles in serving different markets.” In doing so, they joined the ranks of other countries and organizations, such as the G-20 and ASEAN, that have recognized that essential steps must be taken to keep food moving in this exceptional moment.

The ministers called on partners to step up their support to avoid a potential humanitarian disaster. Helping African countries withstand the crisis and strengthen their food systems in the long run will require a range of immediate and longer-term actions. Policymakers should make supporting livelihoods through expanded safety nets and productive programs a high priority: After all, people need income to buy food. Policymakers should also remove artificial barriers to domestic trade and facilitate links between farmers and markets

Responding to food emergencies, ensuring that food needs are fully met, and restoring livelihoods should be an immediate focus for policymakers. In some places, policymakers are already taking these steps: In Chad, a government project with support from development partners is providing food kits, setting up cereal banks, and distributing seeds for future harvests to help households that may go hungry due to COVID-19. Interventions like these will help address not only the immediate need for food but also preserve the productive capacity of smallholder farmers who might start eating their seeds to stave off hunger—ending up with nothing to sow in the upcoming agricultural season. In Zambia, the government is taking advantage of the country’s recent bumper maize harvest to boost its emergency food reserves. Zambia’s Food Reserve Agency (FRA) will procure around 1 million metric tons of maize from farmers—more than double the annual average of the last several years—so that it has a reliable supply in the event of a food emergency.

In the long term, it’s critical that countries take the steps to build resilient, climate-smart, and competitive food systems. In Uganda, a government project is being refocused to provide hired tractors and ox-plows to communities that have traditionally relied on hand hoes. In Senegal, an upcoming program aims to build producers’ resilience to climate change and market shocks by increasing the productivity of groundnut-based agricultural systems; it also aims to diversify agriculture by supporting the development of other value chains. And, in Kenya, digital technologies are being leveraged through ongoing partnerships with 15 AgTech startups to transform the delivery of inputs, soil testing, crop insurance, credit, extension advice, and market linkages. Projects like these can enable farmers to overcome temporary COVID-related constraints and ensure better targeting and more effective service delivery, especially in remote areas, over the long run.By taking action now, countries can build more resilient and productive food systems in sub-Saharan Africa that will support food security during the pandemic and beyond.

Story by: Simeon Ehui,

SADC Regional Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

20 Apr 2020

Since its outbreak in December 2019, COVID-19 has spread exponentially, and was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on 11 March 2020. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) recorded its first case of COVID-19 in early March, and since then, the numbers have been increasing. As of 15th April, 2020, fourteen (14) of the sixteen (16) SADC Member States have been affected by COVID-19 – Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. 

In addition to the measures put in place by Member States, SADC has put, and will continue putting in place regional measures that are critical in responding to the COVID-19. So far, SADC has undertaken ten (10) regional coordinated actions to contain the spread of COVID-19 and mitigate its social and economic impacts on the region. These regional actions can be found on this link: SADC regional response to COVID-19.pdf

These regional actions pertain to strengthening Disaster Risk Management; suspension of regional face-to-face meetings; coordinating and monitoring the implementation of the SADC Protocol on Health, utilization of the SADC Pooled Procurement Services for pharmaceuticals and medical supplies and the adoption of regional Guidelines on Harmonisation and Facilitation of Cross Border Transport Operations across the Region during the COVID-19.

Other actions include, mobilisation of regional support towards containment and mitigation of the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the SADC region; and partnering with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to ensure continuity of education and learning programs. The SADC Secretariat is also monitoring and analyzing the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 on SADC economies as well as providing weekly Regional Status reports and daily updates on the status of COVID-19 in the region.

 

Source: SADC

A timely relief for farmers

The Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza has announced the department’s interventions to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19.

The department has ring-fenced R1.2 billion for assistance to mainly target financially distressed small-scale farmers.

The minister said that of the R1.2 billion, R400 million has been allocated for farmers within the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy (PLAS) programme and the remainder will be channelled towards all other farmers that are mainly within the following commodity sectors:

In the Poultry sector, farmers will be assisted with Day old chicks, Point of lay chickens, feed, medication and sawdust.

In other Livestock, farmers will get feed and medication.

Those farming Vegetables will be assisted with Seedlings, fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides and soil correction.

Didiza said that other commodity sectors will be evaluated on a case by case basis, as the Department continuously monitors the impact of COVID-19 on the sector at large.

Qualifying criteria for farmers includes being South African citizens who have been actively farming for a minimum of 12 months and currently in the production season or cycle, be registered on farmer register, commodity database or provincial database [Those who are not on the Farmer Register will be registered to benefit], Communal farmers, Smallholder farmers with annual turnover between R50 000 and R1 million.

The minister said the adjudication will prioritise women, youth and people with disabilities.

Exclusions.

Didizan said that mechanisation, infrastructure and overhead costs will NOT be supported. “This is not comprehensive support but intervention package amid COVID-19.

“Farmers who are preparing for the 2020 summer production season will not be supported. “The aim is to provide immediate to near-term support to smallholder farmers currently affected by COVID-19 and farmers who are currently receiving support through other programmes of government and its entities,” she said.

There will be no payment for debts.

The applications for this funding will be open from 8 April 2020 and will close on 22 April 2020. No late entries will be accepted.

Application forms will be available on 8 April 2020 on the departmental website – www.dalrrd.gov.za and through national, provincial, district and local offices of both the national Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development and Provincial Departments of Agriculture. Applications will be lodged electronically at applications@dalrrd.gov.za or submitted to the offices as outlined.

The Minister said she wishes to also encourage all stakeholders within the sector to observe and implement regulations as published by Government Notice No. 318 of 18 March 2020, as amended by Government Notices Nos. R 398 of 25 March 2020 and R419 of 26 March 2020. The observation and implementation of these prescripts on health and occupational safety is also critical for the farmworkers, who are the backbone of the food supply system.

“I urge all employers within the sector to fully comply with all the applicable prescripts. Together, as stakeholders within the sector we have a mandate to ensure that there is access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food for our country,” said Minister Didiza.

By Mzansi Agriculture Talk News

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