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Gauteng increasing fight against hunger
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Pretoria - The Gauteng provincial government intensified its fight against hunger in the Tshwane area by distributing agricultural starter packs to needy beneficiaries in Pretoria on Monday.

In an exclusive interview with SAnews after handing over the agricultural starter-packs, Gauteng MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development, Nandi Mayathula-Khoza said the provincial government is committed to fighting hunger and poverty through its food security programme.

“Remember, food security, agriculture and rural development is priority number four of this current administration, so what we are doing is to roll- out the programme we call Siyazondla (we are feeding ourselves).

“As government, we are bringing an idea to our people that they can feed themselves to avoid the soaring food prices. We don’t want our people to keep on buying things that they can grow in their own food gardens,” she said.

The ten beneficiaries, who are mainly young women, each received agricultural starter packs which include one pack with tomato, beetroot, onion, spinach, beans and carrots as well as tools such as spade, fork, rake, hoe, a watering can and compost.

“Our message as government is clear that let’s use any unused piece of land to grow vegetables so that we can eat nutritious food, live a long healthy life.

“We see no reason for our people to keep on buying everything from the shop that they can actually grow themselves. We want to encourage them to grow different types of vegetables in their homes, church, clinics, schools as well as old age homes,” she said.

The MEC said people of Gauteng should know that one way of alleviating poverty and hunger in the mostly urban province is to engage into food and community gardens.

Mayathula-Khoza could not hide her excitement about the involvement of more young people in the fight against hunger through food gardens.

“I was so touched and excited when I realised that the majority of beneficiaries are young people because we hear others saying, young people are a lost generation and I don’t believe in that, I think young people want to be involved, they need information on how to start their own food gardens.

“The Freedom Charter says we should provide fertilisers and (agricultural) tools to our people for them to grow their own food. It was really exciting to see these young people showing us their passion for eradicating hunger in their respective areas with the view of making South Africa a better place to live in.

“We are going to work very closely with them. We will work side by side with them so that they can achieve their goals in agriculture.”

The MEC said the department is fully committed to establish an Agro-Processing in Winterveldt, so that a local citrus farm can start producing both lemon and orange juice.

She said in 2009, the provincial government set a target to establish 45 000 food gardens and so far they have established a total of 38 503 food gardens across the province.

“In terms of school food gardens we’ve achieved our 500 target and we are continuing to establish more and in terms of community gardens, our target was 160 and we’ve so far established 144,”she said.

Beneficiary Peter Gabriel of Salvokop said: “As beneficiaries we welcome this programme and we believe that it will help us to bring food for our families.”

Another recipient from Salvokop, Anikie Maholi said: “With this important initiative from government, what is needed is land to grow vegetables as it is our wish to grow and become commercial farmers.”

In 2009, government started the Ilima/Letsema campaign, which aims to distribute agricultural starter packs to poor households, with R1.2 billion.

The purpose of the Ilima/Letsema Campaign is to mobilise communities to utilise the ploughing fields in order to ensure that no land lies unplanted and that all land available is used productively to ensure food security.

As part of the campaign the department encourages communities to turn the emphasis back to the land and in response to the fight against food insecurity, unemployment, high food prices and rural development.

The provision of agricultural starter packs for domestic and communal food production is currently being rolled out.

Government has been urging South Africans and stakeholders in the agriculture sector to grow their own food in the face of soaring food prices. - SAnews.gov.za
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