Mbizana – President Jacob Zuma says government is making strides in improving the lives of people especially those in the rural areas.
“We have committed ourselves to developing our rural areas. We want all our rural areas to have economic activities so that our people can have jobs and also be able to make a living from the land and from small businesses in rural areas,” the President said on Friday.
He was speaking at the official launch of the Mbizana Rural Enterprise Development (RED) Hub, an OR Tambo Centenary Project at Dyifani village, in Mbizana, in the Eastern Cape.
A total of R53.5 million has been invested in establishing and operating the Mbizana RED Hub.
President Zuma said there is a need to stimulate growth through agriculture.
“It cannot be that we must all go to the cities to earn a living,” he said.
President Zuma said he is pleased with the creation of the RED Hub as one of government’s efforts to stimulate growth through agriculture and agro-processing.
“This development will alleviate poverty and address low levels of development in the District. We are aware that agriculture is the third highest contributor to the Alfred Nzo District’s economy,” he said.
He said there is an urgent need for major new private sector investments to create jobs and improve livelihoods in the area.
“Our people must make a living from the land, and must also not go hungry when they can produce food from the land. We are thus happy with the partnerships between the local municipality and other stakeholders to embark on massive grain production with the aim of addressing high level of poverty in the area,” the President said.
According to President Zuma, the government has spent R100 million on the Ilima/Letsema national conditional grant projects aimed at eradicating poverty and stimulating the economy.
To date, the total amount invested by government in the RED Hubs over the past three years is R190 million.
“We urge the whole of government to support local farmers by increasing public procurement of agricultural products from our own primary producers,” he said.
President Zuma called on the national government to support the farmers to ensure that they grow and move from being subsistence farmers to commercial farmers.
The locals gave the RED HUB project a thumbs-up, saying it is going to create jobs for the locals.
“I am happy with the project since it is in my area and it is going to reduce the high rate of unemployment in the area,” said Xolelwa Majoni, a local resident.
“The project is not only about food, as the locals we are also going to learn a lot about agriculture,” she said.
Echoing the similar sentiments was Japhter Tsolo, also a local resident, who told SAnews that he is now able to provide for his family.
“I am employed at the project processing mealie mealie and packaging for the market,” he said.
The Mbizana RED Hub is one of the four RED hubs in the Eastern Cape, implemented by the Rural Development and Agrarian Reform (DRDAR)’s agency, the Eastern Cape Rural Development Agency (ECRDA) and covers six wards which constitute 14 villages in the Mbizana local municipality, Alfred Nzo District Municipality.
The RED Hub will service the villages with a strong focus on value addition of grain as well as Hub primary production, mechanisation and establishment of a trading centre for farmers to assist cooperatives in growing the local rural economy to create jobs and sustainable livelihoods.
The funds for the initiative have been provided to ECRDA by the Eastern Cape Provincial treasury and ECRDA is implementing the initiative.
The Mbizana RED Hub planted 986 ha in 2014/15 crop production season at 13 primary cooperatives.
The total white maize yield that was bagged was 317 tons and 226.5 tons was sold to Mqanduli RED Hub.
In 2015/16 crop production season, there were only 488.1 ha planted land with white maize. This was attributed to the dry and hot drought conditions that affected the entire country. In 2016/17 crop production season, there is approximately 1459 ha planted land with white maize.
Among others, who attendant the launch was Agriculture Deputy Minister Bheki Cele, the Eastern Cape Premier, Deputy Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams and senior government officials.