Malmesbury – Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana has welcomed an initiative by a group of Western Cape women, who have set up a network of entrepreneurs to help women and youth to get into farming.
In an interview with SAnews, the Minister said the initiative makes it easier for government to work with communities in order to help members of the community, especially women and youth, to organise themselves and become small-scale and subsistence farmers.
He said this when he visited the Business Women Network, including a site visit of three poultry and piggery projects in Malmesbury on Thursday.
“We appreciate [the initiative by the Business Women Network] because it links easier with government. If I were to come here and look for women who are interested in agriculture, I would not know where to start.
“They formed a network, which in itself organises, identifies opportunities and comes up with what is possible and it shows people who have already succeeded,” he said.
The Business Women Network, which was founded by six women earlier this year, now comprises 50 women, who have shown an interest in expanding their network with the aim of contributing positively to the agricultural sector.
The network, which is in a process of being registered as a formal business, gets business women to identify opportunities in the agricultural space in the Western Cape, including training and mentorship opportunities, for those who have never been exposed to farming.
The visit by Minister Zokwana gave the women’s network an opportunity to brief him about the challenges they encounter as they seek a breakthrough as smallholder farmers.
This includes, among others, smallholder farmers affiliated to the network occupying a piece of land that previously belonged to the Housing Development Agency, which was earmarked for human settlements. The business network is seeking assistance to get the land to be rezoned for farming purposes so that it can be developed further.
They also asked the Minister to assist them with access to farming in order for them to increase their farming operations; technical training for farmers for both animal and crop production and farmer-to-farmer mentoring.
The Business Women Network’s Nokuthula Mgwebile welcomed the Minister’s visit, and said she was optimistic that he would assist them with their challenges.
“Right now, there are trucks going all over. The commercial farmers are actively doing their thing right in front of our eyes and we are just tired of this island of poverty sitting here… and there are opportunities for us to tap into.”
The Minister said a team of officials from national, provincial and local government departments would have to be deployed to the area to assist the women with these and other challenges.
“One of the reasons [I came here is] we always appreciate that food security is one of the fundamental programmes of the department. As our Freedom Charter says, everybody has the right to food.
“That right can be achieved when we partner with those who are trying their best to be subsistence, small-scale or commercial farmers.
“Our aim is to create a link between the commercial, subsistence and small-scale farmers so people can be able to do things on their own with government assistance.
“I think my coming here has shown that these things we always think of are possible. People on their own are doing things. What they need is support and guidance,” said the Minister.