The Estate also operates three crèches and a pre-primary school for its farm workers where some 90 children receive proper tuition as well as three meals a day. Teachers at one of the crèches are from the left at back Elsie Skippers and Tersia Januarie with company directors Gerrit van der Merwe Jr, Tiekie September and Dirk Dirks.
Africa Agribusiness Media by Alex Hitzemann
Prof Mohammed Karaan delivering his address
Africa is a continent with abundant natural resources and huge market potential but the agriculture sector is in dire need of better management should we want to leave South Africa a better place for our children.
This was the crux of the message delivered last night by noted agricultural economist Prof Mohammed Karaan at a gala event of one South Africa’s leading citrus estates.
In the same vein Prof Karaan pointed out that the South African government’s effort to redistribute agricultural land has not achieved the desired results and their strategy should be revised.
Prof Karaan was the guest speaker at the ALG Estates gala event in the upper Olifants River Valley near Citrusdal. The Estate celebrated their more than 250 years of business in farming with the inauguration of brand new state of the art pack house facilities. He commended the farming operation not only for their investment in their new equipment but also in their people.
ALG Estates manages one of the country’s most successful Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) agriculture programs which is making a profit and expanding. For the past seven years the Estate also passed stringent the annual auditing by Fair Trade an organization which promotes fair labor practices worldwide.
“We decided to stay in the country and re-invest in our business despite the turmoil and uncertainties we experience in South African agriculture today,” says Gerrit van der Merwe, CEO of ALG Estates a family-run business whose ancestors already settled in 1750 in the valley.
Some guests who attend the ALG Estate’s 250 Years and Beyond Gala Event were from left Sean Walsh (CEO Cape Agri), Prof Mohammed Karaan (Agricultural Economist), Tiekie September (Director Cedar Citrus), David Cuff (Head Buyer Fresh Produce: Woolworths South Africa) and Gerrit van der Merwe (CEO ALG Estates).
“By investing in our people through various social upliftment programs we try to be part of the solution for the country’s future. We have a very good relationship with our workers. Many of them have been with us for generations,” says Van der Merwe.
The estates founded their BEE project Cedar Citrus (PTY) Ltd in 1999 as a joint venture with 32 farm workers. It started making a profit in 2010. During 2015 this BEE company exported 1500 tons of citrus from their production unit of 36 hectares realizing a total turnover of R12 million for the year. It has now paid off its startup loan to the Industrial Development Council and expanding its operations with the purchase of additional land using their own funds.
The Estate also operates three crèches and a pre-primary school for its farm workers where some 90 children receive proper tuition as well as three meals a day. It also built several sport facilities and assists workers in their sport programs throughout the year with traveling and equipment costs partly paid by Fair Trade subsidies. The Estate in addition also supports 42 children of farm employees with school bursaries to attend schools in the district.
ALG Estates is one of South Africa’s top citrus producers which commands a leading edge on many fronts. It has 41 different citrus cultivars under production which enables the estate to produce citrus 12 months of the year.
The Estate won the title National Farmer of the Year in 2010, South Africa’s most coveted agricultural award.
Anthony Penderis on behalf of ALG Estates compiled this report.
Gerrit van der Merwe: 082 569 8787; email@example.com
Anthony Penderis: 084 306 0331; firstname.lastname@example.org
“The success of a project like this is dependable on the support of sophisticated packaging and marketing channels that is fortunately available on our farms” says Gerrit. The farms supply all technical support ranging from establishment to computerized irrigation of the orchards. The project is finalized by the Department of Land Affairs and Industry Development.
ALG Estates manages their whole citrus supply line from the orchard to the retailer. This provides work for 120 full-time employers and a further 800 seasonal workers for 8 months of the year.
By Alex Hitzemann
Currently, South Africa’s racially selective Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) policy utilizes a points system to award economic advantages to businesses with a significant percentage of black ownership and/or management. The policy has gone through several major revisions and has been a flash-point for debate in South African political theater. Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) projects in the South African agricultural sector have an alarmingly high failure rate.
However, a BEE citrus project in the Upper Olifants River Valley near Citrusdal in the Western Cape has proved to be an exception. Cedar Citrus started in 1999 due to unique co-operation between 32 of ALG Estate’s farm laborers, where every individual received his own share of Citrus land. ALG Estates is a family operation of 6 farms producing some 18,000 tons of citrus a year mostly for the export market.
In the first year more than 24,000 trees were planted by Cedar Citrus and a further 12,000 where planted in 2002. Cedar Citrus started making a profit in 2010. In 2012 it paid off its startup loan to the Industrial Development Council and is now expanding its operations with the purchase of additional farm land.
The Western Cape government awarded Cedar Citrus’ good performance over the years with a sprayer, 4 crate wagons, a trailer and recently this brand new John Deer tractor.
During 2015, the company exported 1,500 tons of citrus from their production unit of 36 hectares realizing a total turnover of R12 million for the year.
In their next move towards more financial independence the workers jointly decided to plough back their profits and extended their operations by purchasing additional farmland to plant more citrus for the export market. 92 hectares of additional farmland has therefore been purchased on which new citrus orchards will be established.
This of course was only made possible being part of a bigger organization such as ALG Estates. Their employer is an established citrus exporter. “Constant mentorship combined with in-house training and being part of an established value-adding export chain are the necessary ingredients for success in an operation such as this,” says Gerrit van der Merwe, CEO of ALG Estates.
“Cedar Citrus is managed as one of our production units that receives continual expert external advise from professional entomologists and horticulturalists that specialize in citrus management. This is essential for pest and disease control as well as general orchard health. We also handle all their admin such as HR, financial administration and record keeping. External chartered accountants audit the company annually.
Cedar Citrus directors Lena September and Dirk Dirks at a dam under construction which will supply irrigation water to their new 20 hectares citrus block.
“All 32 shareholders are furthermore employed in our various operations such as production, processing, packaging, marketing and general administration. Three of the shareholders occupy middle management positions while two are directors with executive powers. This ensures that they grow with our own operation and establish their own independence.
“Over the last few years the Cedar Citrus patch of 36 hectares coincidentally turned out to be the most lucrative of all the production units on our six farms. They produce mostly popular soft citrus varieties such as Morr and Orr as well as navels, which are exported to North America, Europe and sold locally to the Woolworths supermarket chain. We are especially pleased that the 32 shareholders of Cedar Citrus jointly decided to waive their profit payouts from the company and rather re-invest it in the expansion of their own operation,” says Van der Merwe.
Gerrit van der Merwe and his son Gerrit Junior who is in the process of taking over the reigns of this family-run operation going back some 250 years. The estate is the second biggest citrus producer and exporter in the Western Cape region of South Africa.
The first phase of the company’s extension on the newly acquired land will be to plant 20 hectares of new popular varieties for the export market. This necessitates infrastructure such as a farm shed, farm manager housing on site, electricity, drainage, water supply and a pump house to irrigate the new orchards. It takes five years for a newly established citrus orchard to get into full production and ten years to make a profit on the initial capital outlay. The Western Cape government awarded Cedar Citrus’ good performance over the years various rewards such as 4 crate wagons, a trailer, and recently a brand new John Deer tractor.
“Cedar Citrus is one of the best performing projects of its kind in South Africa and the envy of many farmers country-wide. Not only is the project a financial success, richly compensating the beneficiaries, but a very good example of how BEE schemes should be implemented and managed in South Africa. Congratulations to Gerrit and his team at ALG Estates on this beautiful project,” says Charl Senekal, the country’s largest private sugar producer and chairman of Pro-Agri Forum the exclusive club of former South African winners of the Farmer of the Year Award.
Anthony Penderis on behalf of ALG Estates produced this report. Some portions were edited for publication in Africa Agribusiness Magazine by Alex Hitzemann
Gerrit van der Merwe: 082 569 8787; email@example.com
Anthony Penderis: 084 306 0331; firstname.lastname@example.org
Airtight metal storage silos are helping African farmers prevent aflatoxin contamination of staples like maize
Vongai Musembwa’s eyes light up as she scoops up healthy white grains from a metal bin she uses to store newly harvested maize. Happily, they’re free of a naturally occurring poison — aflatoxin — that can contaminate crops in the field, before or after harvest and during storage.
The metal silo protects the grains from aflatoxin — produced by certain fungi that grow on food crops like maize, millet, sorghum, groundnuts, cassava and rice.
Farmer, Vongai Musembwa from Makoni District in Zimbabwe stores her maize grain in a metal silo, an effective method in preventing aflatoxin contamination, Photo credit, Busani Bafana
Ms. Musembwa is one of more than 260 smallholder farmers in Makoni District, east of Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, who have switched to non-chemical hermetic storage to prevent food from contamination. Musembwa received her metal silo from a local organization, under a multi-partner project seeking to prevent aflatoxins contamination of maize grain.
The Makoni District farmers are participants in a two-year project worth $1.6 million supported by the Cultivate Africa’s Future programme, an initiative funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre and the Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research. Under the project, Zimbabwean farmers are given access to metal silos and thick plastic “superbags” to determine if improved storage can reduce aflatoxin contamination in local maize grain.
Crops contaminated by aflatoxins develop moulds and acquire a dark colour. Livestock and humans can fall sick or die after eating contaminated food grains. It has also been linked to childhood stunting, liver cancer and immune suppression in adults.
Scientists warn that extreme weather is increasing the level of health-damaging toxic chemicals in crops, including staple foods which are key to food, nutrition and trade security in Africa. To protect themselves against extreme weather, plants generate aflatoxins, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.
“Aflatoxins are pervasive in African food systems negatively impacting health of women and children, income from agriculture value chains, and food safety and security of nations,” says Ranajit Bandyopadhyay, a senior plant pathologist at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), where he guides research and development activities on crop diseases and poisonous chemicals produced by certain fungi known as mycotoxins.
Bandyopadhyay, said people fall sick, farmers lose income, grains are destroyed, food prices soar, profitability of animal industries declines, reputation of African exports are tainted and nations become less food secure due to aflatoxin contamination.
“Aflatoxin contamination presents a barrier to trade and economic growth and is a serious obstacle to programmes designed to improve nutrition and agricultural production while linking smallholder farmers to markets,” Bandyopadhyay said. “The extent of contamination varies by seasons, crops and regions and can be anywhere from none to 100% and often hovers around 25%.”
Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, the AUC’s commissioner for rural economy and agriculture said curbing the menace of aflatoxin contamination was critical to improving child and maternal nutrition and health as well as achieving Africa’s goal to transform its agriculture.
Farmers are particularly vulnerable to fungal poisons, according to a 2015 baseline study to reduce maize-based aflatoxin contamination and exposure in humans in Zimbabwe by researchers from the University of Zimbabwe and the international humanitarian organization, Action Contre la Faim.
Dr. Loveness Nyanga, the project principal investigator and researcher at the University of Zimbabwe, notes that the high-level of aflatoxin contamination is a public health concern because Zimbabweans eat maize and legumes on a daily basis.
The existence of aflatoxins has other consequences to Africa’s economy. The continent is losing more than $450 million annually when its commodities are rejected on global markets because of high contamination levels, says the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA), an initiative of the African Union Commission (AUC) whose aim is to protect crops, livestock and people from the effects of aflatoxins.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) confirmed that aflatoxins affect 25% of the world’s food crops and hurt trade. About US$1.2 billion is lost in global commerce annually as a result of aflatoxins, according to IITA. While the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) notes that the World Food Programme has sharply reduced the quantities of maize it has been able to buy locally in Africa since 2007 because of aflatoxin contamination.
Africa also faces a health burden associated with humans’ exposure to contamination.
Harming our health
An estimated 26,000 people die annually in sub-Saharan Africa from liver cancer resulting from chronic aflatoxin exposure, according to a 2013 research by IFPRI.
Globally, 5% to 30% of all liver cancer cases are linked to aflatoxin exposure, with the highest incidences occurring in Africa, according to the Platform for African-European Partnership on Agricultural Research for Development (PAEPARD), an eight-year project sponsored by the European Commission.
In Mozambique, a high prevalence of liver cancer in southern part of the country has been associated with consumption of aflatoxin contaminated food, especially from groundnuts.
Cultivate Africa’s Future is one of several ongoing efforts to contain aflatoxin contamination. If experiments with the plastic “super bags” are effective against contamination, they will be a highly sought after item by Zimbabwean farmers who lose up to 30% of harvested maize every year to pests and poor post-harvest handling.
More than $50 million worth of maize, the staple food, is lost annually during storage alone, says Ringson Chitsiko, the permanent secretary in Zimbabwe’s ministry of agriculture.
To fight aflatoxins contamination and maintain food quality and safety, scientists recommend an integrated approach, including, among other techniques, timely planting and harvesting, proper plant density and managing insects. This is in addition to crop rotation, shelling, enhancement of proper plant health and nutrition, rapid drying of grains in the sun for days, or with driers to reduce the moisture content and proper storage.
Bandyopadhyay leads Africa-wide efforts on the development and scaling-up of the aflatoxin biocontrol technology known as Aflasafe, a novel biological product developed by the IITA to fight pre-and post-harvest aflatoxin contamination.
Already the IITA has a programme to develop Aflasafe in Malawi where between 40% and 100% of the country’s groundnut-based commodities contain unsafe toxin levels. Aflasafe has also been tested in Burkina Faso, Gambia, Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal since 2009. About 30,000 farmers in Nigeria, Senegal, The Gambia and Kenya are using Aflasafe and getting 200 to 500% return on investment, Bandyopadhyay said.
Tanzania in June 2016 announced that it was undertaking field trials in the use of Alfasafe targeting four regions. A 2012 study in Tanzania established high incidents of aflatoxin contamination in maize and groundnuts in the country.
The Africa Aflatoxin Information Management System platform spearheaded by PACA is creating a “one stop shop” database for aflatoxin-related information in the health, trade and agriculture sectors as a way to raise awareness and prevent contamination.
The Aflasafe product has been registered in Senegal and Gambia where aflatoxin contamination is a major deterrent for groundnut exports. Bandyopadhyay said aflatoxin exposure in humans is rampant in West Africa with the toxin found in the body fluids of 100% Senegalese and The Gambian people in a few instances.
In 2005 the World Bank estimated that investments in aflatoxin control can add $281 million to the Senegalese economy from increased export volume and price differential of aflatoxin-safe crops.
A key impediment is the level of aflatoxin awareness among farmers and consumers. Because of poor policing of food safety standards in many African countries, researchers say that many people eat contaminated foods, especially the staples such as maize, legumes and groundnuts, without checking for signs of aflatoxins.
Researchers at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi- Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in June 2016 announced the decoding of the DNA of the ground nut or peanut (Arachis hypogaea), an oil and protein rich crop of global importance with the annual production of 42.3 million metric tonnes.
Rajeev Varshney, the Research Programme Director- Genetic Gains at ICRISAT said in an online interview that groundnuts, though an important crop in terms of nutrition and income in Asia and Africa, face low productivity as compared to Americas. The current pace of developing improved peanut varieties and their productivity may not be able to meet the demand of ever increasing global population, especially in Asia and Africa where in some countries productivity is less than one tonne per hectare. According to the FAO, the world average productivity of groundnuts is 1, 6 tonnes per hectare.
Varshney said the gene resources generated through this breakthrough provide an opportunity for scientists to prepare an efficient road map for developing improved groundnut varieties with increased productivity and quality.
“Peanuts produced from African countries and India have high level of aflatoxin contamination,” said Varshney. “This makes peanut produce unsuitable for export to Europe and Americas. Therefore it is really important to work in the direction of producing varieties with minimal aflatoxin contamination.”
Manish Pandey, a groundnut genomics Scientist at ICRISAT said the availability of the DNA sequence will accelerate basic research to answer important biological questions about groundnuts and help crop improvement programmes around the world.
Africa Rising, Sakata and Eastern Cape Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform partner to promote sustainable development and food security.
This year Africa Rising Foundation held a three day celebration leading up to Mandela Day on July 18, 2016, with a range of community projects in Qunu, the home of Nelson Mandela.
Founded by Nelson Mandela’s grandsons Ndaba and Kweku Mandela, Africa Rising focuses on inspiring a new generation of youth who believe in and work towards an empowered Africa. This year marks their second Nelson Mandela Day Initiative, joining the global call to action for doing good on Nelson Mandela Day and beyond.
The weekend’s activities kicked off with the launch of Mandela’s Community Gardens on Thursday, 14 July. In partnership with the Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform and seed company, Sakata, Africa Rising launched a drive to distribute one million seeds to one million household farmers over the next year.
The initiative promotes sustainable development and food security by giving farmers vegetable seeds to grow their own food in line with the Eastern Cape’s plans to address food security and production concerns in the region.
In addition to seed distribution, 67 plots of land have been made available on Madiba’s farm in Qunu, for companies to sponsor a child in the Qunu/ Umtata area. Children can plant vegetables and access their plot anytime until harvest time. They can also keep the produce for their families to consume or sell and share to other households and people from surrounding communities.
“It is important for us that the 67 children chosen are from this very community so it’s easy for them to commute and take part in the development of their plots from seed to harvest”, said Ndaba Mandela.
The plots are sponsored at R10,000 each with half of the funds dedicated to the child’s education and the other half utilized on the farm to ensure all the necessary resources are available to farm the plots. All the plots are entered into a competition and at harvest time the plot with biggest yield and best quality vegetables will win a prize. Through this project the youth can play a part in curbing food inflation, contribute to a reliable source of food security for themselves and their immediate community, as well as save money which can be spent on other needs.
According to a recently launched 2016 Stats SA Community Survey, at least 464,838 households in the Eastern Cape ran out of money for food in the last year and 17.6% of these households missed a meal. Add to this continuing drought, a growing population and youth with little interest in agriculture or desires to move away to bigger cities, it’s easy to see why partnerships such as these are of utmost importance. According to Agriculture MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane, “We want to ensure that cropping is increased and we are already seeing more land under production. Collaborative partnerships such as these, between local communities, provincial government and private sector play an important role in developing a sustainable approach to the issues of food security.”
In addition to addressing these challenges, Ndaba has high hopes for this project and it’s immediate benefits in the community, particularly for the youth. “A lot of the time kids don’t have anything to do, in Johannesburg there are a lot more facilities and activities for children to immerse themselves in after school, whether it be sport, whether it be music. In the Eastern Cape there aren’t as many options so we’re encouraging the children to spend time in their gardens, cultivating their produce, learning about agriculture and keeping them away from activities of a more harmful nature”, says Ndaba.
MEC Qoboshiyane comments on the sustainability of the project: “The reason we decided to come here and work with young people from their schools is to plant a seed of courage. We want to ensure that young people are creating a new culture of love to plant and love to produce. Everything starts small and then grows incrementally and that is what we want to see from Mandela’s Community Gardens. Young people must be cultivated to be a seed, yielding a crop.”
This initiative focuses on getting the youth involved in agricultural activities to empower themselves and make a difference in the community while making a positive impact on food security in the area. “It’s really inline with the spirit of Nelson Mandela to make sure that young people get involved in doing agricultural work. Once this project is successful we shall try and add other elements like worm farming and cattle farming to the gardens to create an ecosystem that produces enough for the community to start selling to distributors,” comments Ndaba on the project’s future plans.
“Community Gardens play a key role in organising a community to be able to produce everything that they consume, therefore being truly sustainable, saving money and living a more healthy lifestyle. We encourage other provinces and countries to establish similar community initiatives to combat food inflation on a larger scale,” Ndaba adds.
To find out more information about this project or how to get involved with sponsoring a plot on the Mandela homestead to one of 67 children in the community please email email@example.com
About Africa Rising
Africa Rising is a conduit for the New African Generation. Africa Rising is committed to publicising the positive image of Africa in order to instill a sense of pride and purpose in young Africans. Africa Rising is the voice of the African youth worldwide who believe in themselves and their continent and act on this to build a prosperous Africa.
Sakata Seed Southern Africa’s Seeds (Pty) Ltd grew out of C May & Co which was founded in 1931. Over the years the company developed a diverse portfolio including seed production, packet seed, vegetable, forage, turf and flower seed, vegetable breeding programs and specialised products for the home garden industry.
Trial grounds were acquired in 1947 outside Johannesburg, with plant breeding having been started in 1965. 1973 saw the introduction of the revolutionary and very successful hermetically sealed garden seed packets. A decade later, and an important milestone, Sakata Seed Southern Africa’s’s highly sophisticated seed laboratory was officially recognised as a government approved seed testing station.
In the middle of the 80’s the company transformed its distribution into a franchising operation.Today the company is operating with 7 national franchisees and various international francisees throughout Southern Africa with a franchisor complement of 80. In December 1999, the Sakata Seed Corporation of Yokohama, Japan, acquired Sakata Seed Southern Africa’s Seeds (Pty) Ltd. Sakata is one of the largest seed companies in the world with extensive global research programs in vegetable and flower seed.
About Eastern Cape Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform
The mission of the Eastern Cape Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform is to promote, support and coordinate rural development and agrarian reform to reduce poverty and underdevelopment through integrated and participatory interventions.
The three strategic goals of the Department are: a thriving farming sector and access to affordable food; improved rural economic livelihoods and creation of employment opportunities; and an environment conducive to the enhancement of service delivery.
These strategic goals have been identified to reflect critical service delivery priorities. They are intended to ensure that the mission of the Department is achieved; provide a line of sight in the process to achieve the overall mandate of the Department, which is to enhance rural development, land and agrarian reform, and food security; and inspire a cadre of officials and stakeholders to strive to achieve these for the benefit of the rural poor and vulnerable.
Tony Cotterell and Johan Nieuwoudt
After 40 years of commitment to the Land Bank; Johan Nieuwoudt will be joining forces with the Kempston Group in the Eastern Cape. Previously well known as the ‘Area Manager’ for the famous bank, Johan has experience in all aspects of agricultural finance. According to Nieuwoudt he was previously the conveyancer for the Eastern Cape, where he executed deeds in the King Williams Town and Mthatha deeds registries for the Bank.
The Kempston Group ventured into the agricultural finance industry 8 months ago and the department has since grown. With the assistance of Nieuwoudt, the agricultural movable asset portfolio within the Kempston group will be well looked after. According the Nieuwoudt such the company is looking attract blue-chip clients with a healthy nett asset value, good repayment ability and a healthy debt ratio to mitigate the groups risk.
Nieuwoudt’s career began at the age of 17 in the Mother City, where he studied through the Land Bank and soon after started his working career in Gauteng. After 5 years years of employment in Gauteng, 8 years in the Northern Cape and 2 years in the Eastern Free State, Nieuwoudt transferred to East London as the banks conveyancer for the Eastern Cape.
Shortly after his big move to the wild coastline of the Eastern Cape, the company appointed Nieuwoudt as their Area Manager and now an asset to the Kempston Groups Agricultural Finance division.
” The staff at Kempston Finance have made the transition from corporate to a family operated Group as smooth as can be and it feels as though I have been with the Group for a year already. If the first two months is an indication of things to come, then be assured that the already successful Kempston Finance division will become even more successful” shares Nieuwoudt.
The Agricultural Finance division of the Kempston Group look to become the preferred agricultural moveable asset finance entity for farmers in South Africa.
"I know the energy revolution is powering up and ready to take off"
“Everyone who was part of this year’s African Utility Week felt the same passion for the energy and water sectors on the continent and had the feeling that we are on the brink of enormous progress”, says Evan Schiff, event director of the African Utility Week conference and exhibition that took place in Cape Town and gathered a record 6445 attendees from 17-19 May.
“Technology, water and renewable energy were strong themes this year,” Schiff adds “and there’s no doubt that renewable energy as well as smart technology are changing the way power and water utilities operate and deal with their customers.”
There are big plans in the offing for next year: “as the industry evolves, so will the event” says the African Utility Week event director, “our exhibition will be even bigger next year as we grow into the new expo space at the CTICC to reflect the new markets and developments in the sector, including a focus on non-utility scale projects, large power users, rooftop solar installations, energy storage, lighting products, independent power producers (IPPs) and EPCs (engineering, procurement and construction.”
The event featured 250 exhibitors from 40 countries, 299 speakers who addressed the packed strategic conference over three days in six different topic streams while inspiring industry pioneers engaged the audiences in the daily high-profile keynote sessions. The event addressed the latest challenges, developments and opportunities in the power and water sectors: ranging from generation, transmission & distribution, metering, clean energy, finance and investment, water supply and energy efficiency.
“The energy revolution is powering up”
A notable presence at the CTICC in Cape Town this year was Sierra Leone’s Dr Kandeh Yumkella, UN Under-Secretary-General and Former Special Representative of the Secretary-General and CEO, Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All), who not only made a lasting impression during the opening day’s keynote session but also won the Lifetime Achievement category at the African Utility Week Industry Awards. On receiving his award Dr Yumkella said: “I know the energy revolution is powering up and ready to take off. We saw again this week that we have the technology and the innovation. Sometimes we are too suspicious of each other, we should embrace energy trade with each other”.
Other award winners included Johannesburg’s City Power (Utility of the Year), Uganda’s National Water and Sewerage Company (Water Utility of the Year), and Akon Lighting (Clean Energy Project of the Year) reflecting the enormous pan-African progress in the energy and water sectors.
The sold-out exhibition featured 250 exhibitors from 40 countries and included country pavilions from Germany, India, The Netherlands, France, South Africa and China. There were dozens of packed, free-to-attend CPD-accredited technical workshops on the expo floor, product demonstrations and technical site visits. Attendees at African Utility Week came from more than 81 countries, including 27 African nations, and 79 power and water utilities were represented.
Annual industry platform
An important part of this year’s growth at the event were the many side events from the industry that have turned African Utility Week into an annual industry platform in the Mother City. These included the Oil & Gas Council’s Cape Town Assembly, KPMG’s IPP Conference, Nuclear Power Africa, the Standard Transfer Specification Association’s AGM, PIESA and International Cleantech Network gatherings. South Africa’s Department of Energy also launched its new energy efficiency label that will become mandatory for household appliances with Energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson revealing the new label at African Utility Week.
African Utility Week is organised by Spintelligent, leading Cape Town-based trade exhibition and conference organiser, and the African office of Clarion Events Ltd, based in the UK. The event forms part of a global energy event series, including European Utility Week, Australian Utility Week, Asian Utility Week and Latin American Utility Week. Other African flagship events in Spintelligent’s power portfolio are East African Power Industry Convention (EAPIC), West African Power Industry Convention (WAPIC), iPAD Rwanda Power & Mining Investment Forum and iPAD Cameroon Energy & Infrastructure Forum.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight international development goals that were established following the Millennium Summit of the United Nations in 2000, following the adoption of the United Nations Millennium Declaration.
Written by Nancy Saili
The agricultural sector is believed to be the backbone of the Zambian economy thereby alleviating problems associated with poverty and food security. The development of the sector is viewed as one sustainable way of economic growth and ‘Eradicating Extreme Poverty and Hunger’ which is goal number one of the Millennium Development Goals (UN, 2000). The sector contributes to the growth of the economy, to exports, employment of the labour force, income generation, GDP and foreign exchange.
Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture
Recent decades have seen a change in local climate patterns and their interactions with crop yields. It is believed and projected that demand for food will continue to increase in many of the low income countries. This is due to global effect of climate change which is mostly affecting small scale farmers in the developing world. Countries in the developing world like Zambia rely heavily on weather sensitive agriculture such as rain-fed agriculture and as such are adversely affected by effects of climate change. In rain-fed agriculture crop production is highly dependent upon adequate supply of water and optimum temperatures such that an imbalance in any of the two could render a season’s crop to loss. In many countries, increasing climate variability over the years has had a direct influence on the quantity and quality of agricultural production which has led to losses due to weather having an effect on the annual agricultural production and in turn causing uncertainty in projections of food production. Long term climate variations are likely to increase stress on food production and vulnerability of the agricultural sector to climate shifts which may lead to poor performance of the agricultural sector thereby leading to poverty in regions where agricultural production is the main source of livelihood. In a country like Zambia where much of its people are well involved and various livelihoods depend highly on agriculture, farmers maybe badly affected when annual crops fail meaning locally produced food will not be available and since these farmers depend almost entirely on agriculture for employment and income, they not find the money needed to purchase food even if it is available in the market.
Production of major crops, 2001
Source: Zambia Agriculture Dataset: Department for international Development (DFID) 2002.
Agriculture: Source of Emissions
The agricultural sector is among the main sources of emissions in Zambia. At the 20th Conference of the Parties (COP20) in Lima, Peru the Lima Call for Action called for all Parties to develop and communicate INDCs as their ‘contributions’ towards achieving the ultimate objective of Article 2 of the UNFCCC: “to achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”. In an effort to reduce emissions from the sector, the Government of Zambia through the Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives has embarked on programs to promote and persuade thousands to adopt Climate Smart Agriculture such as Conservation Farming and Agro-forestry.
In the past, in many parts of the country such as the Central, Copperbelt, Northern, Luapula and North-Western Provinces farmers (especially subsistence) had been practicing the ‘Slash and Burn’ type of agriculture or as is popularly known to the locals “Chitemene System.” This system involves the cutting down of trees, stacking them in one place and then burning them in order to create a thick layer of ash. After this is done, crops such as maize, finger millet, sorghum or cassava are then planted. However the agricultural productivity of the Chitemene field is limited to only a few years. When yields begin to decline, a new area is cleared for Chitemene, and the initial site is then left bare. This type of agriculture contributes to climate change, air pollution and loss of wildlife/biodiversity. It is destructive to the environment and recently programs are being developed to discourage this type of agriculture.
Benefits of Climate Smart Agriculture
A typical lunch in most Zambian homes is made up of Nshima (carbohydrates), fish/beef/chicken (proteins) and vegetables (vitamins) which together make a balanced diet. All these foods are products of agriculture. And this is an indication that the country’s domestic economy is based on agriculture. Seeing how much agriculture is practiced in Zambia and of what value it is to the country and its people, it would be hoped that only the best agricultural practices be used. This involves the promotion of Climate Smart Agriculture such as Conservation Farming.
Some farmers are already practicing conservation agriculture but the Conservation Farming Unit (CFU), an independent organization in Zambia is hoping to persuade thousands more to adopt these practices. In the local town of Solwezi in North-Western Zambia a conservation farming program has been put into place for the local people. Solwezi now popularly known for its mines: First Quantum’s Kansanshi mine located about 10km north and Barrick Gold (previously Lumwana mine located about 65 km west of the town centre. However Solwezi is more than just a mining town. Solwezi is endowed with favourable soils for agriculture and its people are in full support of the practice.
In an effort to keep the locals off the streets and also to encourage better agricultural practices and environmental conservation, the conservation farming program (inspired by the pioneering work of Zimbabwean farmer Brian Oldreive) was launched under First Quantum’s Kansanshi mine foundation in partnership with Zambia’s Ministry of Agriculture. In a land where farmers have previously often exhausted the soil and moved on, the farming program teaches simple practices and can be viewed as a model for sustainable agriculture in Zambia and all of Africa.
The Food and Agricultural Organization defined conservation agriculture as “a concept for resource saving agricultural crop production that strives to achieve acceptable profits together with high and sustained production levels while concurrently conserving the environment” (FAO 2007). Conservation farming employs minimal tillage. Unlike traditional methods of burning plant residues, in conservation farming residue from crops are left on the land to minimize erosion and provide organic material. This reduces the need for expensive chemical fertilizers and furrows are created just deep enough to avoid turning up the earth in turn keeping nutrients in the soil and retaining moisture. When the rains come, the water seeps gently into the soil. After which farmers then plant their seeds and wait for the crops to germinate. The success of conservation farming is mainly because it can be practiced by anyone. However, you cannot just hand people seeds and fertilizer and expect them to figure it out. The training program by First Quantum trains participants on how to work their plots of land and make efficient use of the inputs provided to them. This program has proven successful from feedback from participants, it has not only boosted crop yields but also the participants sense of pride through job creation opportunities. According to a sustainability report produced by First Quantum “participants have learned to apply the simple techniques of conservation farming as they feed their families, earn extra income and gain new found pride.” Through the program participants have moved from subsistence to self-sufficiency.
Agriculture is one of the most destructive forces against biodiversity. However, conservation agriculture is a “win-win” for both farmers and environmentalists. Some of the benefits of this practice include; less erosion, better water conservation, improvement in air quality due to lower emissions being produced, soil structure improvement, nutrient retention, soil organic matter enhancement, reduced labor input, precise and efficient use of on and off farm resources (such as seed, fertilizer and manures), and higher yields.
Agro-forestry is a component of conservation farming that involves the planting of trees directly amongst crops so that both will benefit from the naturally-enhancing qualities of the two species. Zambia is a world leader in agro-forestry and could serve as an example for other countries to follow. The benefits of this practice include nitrogen fixation, restoration of agricultural yields, increase in food security, enhanced income generation and reduced pressure to clear nearby forests. This practice is the thread that unites the agriculture and forestry sector in Zambia.
Conservation farming is a key step a in fighting climate change as resources are conserved for future generations. It is a good way of reducing fossil fuels as minimum tillage results in fewer greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere, and less use of chemical fertilizers lessens pollution levels in the air, soil and water. It may be effective as many people will be involved in the practice if government sets up more programs to train farmers and encourage them to practice good agricultural practices.
The colours used in the flag of Zambia are rich in symbolism. Green stands for the nation’s lush flora, red for the nation’s struggle for freedom, black for the Zambian people, and orange for the land’s natural resources and mineral wealth. Additionally, the eagle flying above the coloured stripes is intended to represent the people’s ability to rise above the nation’s problems
The FAO estimates that as growing population continues to push demand for agricultural products upwards, the world may require about 50% more food by 2030, compared to 1998 (FAO, 2005). This will require consistent productivity by small scale farmers who contribute a substantial amount of food crop in Africa. Conservation farming will put us on the right path to achieve that and it would be wise for our government to push for more programs that encourage for climate smart agricultural practices and are at the same time sustaining for the economy. Conservation agriculture is one of the factors that unite social, economic and environmental sustainability. We have the solutions to the problems that we are currently facing and therefore now is the time to take action and help create a better future for all.
Interview by Papiso Matsau
In November 2011, Africa Investor (AI), an international investment and Communications group, named you the recipient of the Africa Agriculture Minister of the year award as part of their annual AI Agribusiness awards. In your opinion, what have been some of your ministry’s most notable accomplishments since you took office in 2009?
Our administration invested a lot of work towards the establishment and maintenance of domestic and international markets. Moreover, we sought to open new markets in regions like the South and Central America and the rest of Africa. The benefits of these engagements have been astounding. We have seen trade with countries like Mexico, Argentina and Brazil increasing significantly. Our membership of BRICS is also expected to lead to further gains in terms of trade and investment with countries that share the same philosophies and vision. BRICS represents a block of countries that are destined to occupy a higher ground on economic growth and development terms going forward and we intend to maximise the benefits of being part of that collective.
Another notable achievement is the success we have had in halting job losses in agriculture. In fact, Statistics South Africa, the national statistics agency of the Republic, recorded a 87 000 growth in jobs between the second quarter of 2011 and the fourth quarter of 2012. This is a remarkable achievement, especially at a time when global demand was still fragile due to the economic meltdown in many parts of the world. It is through our efforts to open up new markets in other developing countries and our commitment to supporting growth of the smallholder farmers in the country that we have managed to achieve these results.
Shortly before commencing my term of office, our country had drifted to becoming a net importer of food. This of course was a major cause of concern for the current administration as it would leave us vulnerable to unfavourable movements in global food markets and in so doing threaten our food security situation. Today, however, we are proud to say that we have managed to reverse that situation and have become, once more, a net food exporting nation.
Although I do not have the exact statistics at this point, allow me to also mention that we have gradually increased the number of black smallholder farmers in the country. This we have done through ensuring that they have access to technical support and finance. Access to finance has always been the smallholder farmer’s biggest constraint but, working with the Land Bank, a state owned development finance institution, we have ensured that financial products tailor made for the needs of these farmers were developed and made available.
In some instances we have worked with the private sector to foster partnerships that will further develop smallholder farmers into prosperous entrepreneurs. A case in point is the partnership with Walmart/Massmart, which has seen to the development of smallholder farmers in Limpopo. The farmers were equipped with skills, training, finance and access to markets. Similar projects are in the pipeline for other parts of the country where the retailing giant has operations.
Since 2009, we have signed memoranda of understanding with several countries in the African continent. This is in line with our objective of increasing trade and engaging in mutually beneficial development programs with other African countries. We signed the following: Centre for Coordination of Agriculture, Research and Development of Southern Africa (CCARDESA).The Memorandum of Understanding, the CCARDESA Charter, was signed in Pretoria on August 2011 and launched in Gaborone, Botswana July 2011. The purpose of this Charter was to provide Member States with a framework for the establishment of a sub-regional organization that will coordinate agricultural research and development (R&D) in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.
Seed Harmonisation Regulatory System was signed in Windhoek, Namibia during the Council of Ministers meeting in November 2010: The purpose of the MoU was to regulate the movement of seeds in the region, seed certification and phytosanitary measures for seeds. It is aimed at providing member states with a legal framework to cooperate in the implementation of the system.
The Minister hosted, in Johannesburg, the African Ministers’ Climate-Smart Conference in preparation for the COP17 Conference that was to be held in Durban, South Africa. The Minister was also instrumental in the development of the African position on agriculture for COP17
Bilateral engagements include the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville): Heads of State Summit for the Three Rain Forests Basin held in the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) on 31 May to 3 June 2011.An agreement in the field of agriculture was signed in October 2010, the purpose of the agreement was to maintain and strengthen their bilateral relations in the field of agriculture, forestry and fisheries.
Abuja, Nigeria from 8 to 10 March 2010: High level Conference on the Development of Agri-Business and Agro- Industries in Africa. The Minister met with her Nigerian counterpart and discussed the potentials of the two countries’ agriculture sectors, with Nigeria interested expressing keen interest in developing her agro-industries and agro-processing. South African agro-processing and agro-Industries are encouraged to invest in Nigeria.
South Africa is among the 26 nations to be signatory to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP). The primary goal of CAADP is to eliminate hunger and reduce poverty through agriculture. In order to achieve this goal, the CAADP agenda aligns itself with the Maputo Declaration that called for African nations to increase public investment in agriculture by a minimum of 10% of their national budgets and to raise agricultural productivity by at least six percent. Has South Africa achieved this commitment? What would a 10% increase in public agricultural investment mean for the average South African farmer? What programs has this initiative funded? Can you briefly describe some of its successes?
The Department is currently undertaking a budget tracking exercise to determine allocations to agriculture and rural development across the three spheres of government. I am confident that this will reveal that South Africa is investing heavily in these areas, although the national budget of the Department does not constitute the 10% target.
While not contesting the target set through the Maputo Declaration, it should be noted that in the case of South Africa, the primary agriculture sector contributes between 2.5% to 3% to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and it may therefore be difficult to justify an allocation of at least 10% of the national budget to the sector. The situation is made even more complex in a country that is still burdened by the legacy of apartheid that manifests itself in high levels of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
The CAADP agenda outlines certain strategies that should be employed in order to actualize its goal of reducing rural poverty. Strengthening the capacities among the agribusiness community is listed as one of these strategies. How has your Ministry improved the agribusiness community’s ability to operate in South Africa?
Agribusinesses in South Africa are doing relatively well, although like all the other industries, they have also in some ways suffered the consequences of the global economic meltdowns of recent years. Within the CAADP processes, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries consulted with agricultural industry stakeholders to make inputs on how the CAADP agenda should be shaped in South Africa. There have been two consultation meetings with civil society organisations. The agribusiness community in South Africa is a vibrant one which adds significantly to the country’s economy. Various departments, such as the Department of Trade and Industry, have established incentive schemes to promote agribusinesses as part of building rural economies. We also strive to maintain acceptable turnaround times in our regulatory services to keep the costs of doing business as low as possible for agribusinesses in the country.
South Africa helped lead the way to the establishment of the Centre for the Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development in Southern Africa (CCARDESA). The stated goal of the CCARDESA is to secure regional food security through research and innovation. The Centre intends to focus primarily on improving the agricultural practices of smallholder and small commercial farms. What has been the impact of the CCARDESA on smallholder and commercial farmers, thus far? How does your Ministry ensure that the research findings and suggestions of the CCARDESA reach the average South African Farmer and the agribusiness community as a whole?
CCARDESA was only launched and implemented less than a year ago. So, it is too early for us to assess its impact. South Africa has been invited to serve on the board of CCARDESA through the leadership of the Agricultural Research Council (ARC). A regional planning workshop is being conducted by the new board of CCARDESA to identify and agree on priorities for the year as well as to ensure clear alignment to CAADP multi-country productivity programmes through research.
While giving a speech marking the establishment of CCARDESA, Botswana’s Minister of Agriculture remarked, “the issue of food security is particularly challenging to our region because despite the various challenges we have, the region is endowed with reasonable resources, that if put to good use, can change the situation.” How far is South Africa from achieving food security? What role do you see for South Africa and its neighbors in achieving food security? Could increasing trade within the region assist all parties involved in reaching their agricultural needs? Do you believe increased regional agribusiness related trade and investment could provide more jobs to South Africans?
We are on the verge of taking a Food Security Policy to Cabinet, which will respond to both national and regional concerns about food security.
South Africa is food secure as a country, however up to 13% of citizens experience food insecurity for a number of reasons, including lack of income due to the high levels of unemployment, inadequate storage facilities and distribution networks. It is with this realisation in mind that we have embarked on programs aimed at increasing household food security in the country. In this regard, we are actively assisting smallholder and subsistence farmers, particularly in the former homeland areas with potential for production. Our target is to put one million hectares of land with potential for agricultural production, into production within the next few years. This year farmers will be harvesting the first crops from this programme, which has proven to be successful and well received.
Agriculture and agribusiness have been identified in the New Growth Path as key jobs drivers, and the National Development Plan envisions up to 1 million new jobs in these sectors by 2030. Regional trade development is part of this, as is expanding trade especially with Brazil, Russia, India and China in the context of BRICS.
Leading up to last Novembers’s global climate-change meeting in Durban, your Ministry fought hard to ensure that agricultural issues occupied a main part of the meeting’s agenda. The Mail & Guardian, a South African newspaper, quoted you as stating, “Feeding our people at a time of climate change is the real challenge. As long as agriculture is the sector that is most vulnerable to climate change, we will always have a responsibility to mobilize the rest of the continent.” How has your Ministry promoted sustainable agricultural practices in South Africa and on the continent? How has your Ministry acted to prepare for climate change events in terms of food security?
We are currently conducting research which installs bio-digesters on farms owned by small-scale and subsistence farmers in the rural areas of one district in the country. The project enhances household food security and job creation and promotes rural development by providing alternative sources of energy. The project has training and capacity building components to it that are aimed at improving its sustainability in the long run.
We have legislation and policies that are aimed at addressing the sustainability of agriculture in the country. Chief among those is the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act (CARA) 43 of 1983, whose objective is to conserve agricultural resources. A number of programmes focusing on the maintenance of the production potential of the land are implemented. The LandCare programme is aimed at optimising productivity and sustainability of natural resources to enhance greater productivity, food security, job creation and better quality of life for all and identifying measures to address issues of LandCare including mitigation and adapting to climate change. Under this programme we are encouraging best farming practices such as diversification, selection of crops with shorter germination period and shorter growing season as well as developing new breeds for livestock and crops in order to adapt to the changed environment particularly in dry land farming areas.
We are currently conducting a climate change research project which analyses an ensemble of present day and future climate simulations with the aim of determining the crop suitability of selected crops for the South African region. This analysis has the potential to identify regions where temperature related events can negatively impact crop production.
Agricultural production is risky as it is very sensitive to the extreme weather and climate conditions. The sector continues to be affected by the impacts of natural hazards due to the frequency of extreme weather and climate events. The expected impacts of climate change make it even more vulnerable. It is in that light that among the Departmental programmes early warning system for natural hazards disseminates warnings and advisories in line with the expected weather and climate conditions for prevention and mitigation of disaster risks in accordance with the Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002. The disseminated information includes the suggested strategies for day to day farming activities including sustainable agriculture. We continue to raise awareness on the impact and benefits of climate change to minimize the impacts of climate change in agriculture, forestry and fisheries production and productivity due to unexpected climatic hazards. We are currently developing a climate change adaptation and mitigation plan which puts emphasis on adaptation and mitigation measures that can assist to adapt and reduce vulnerability to climate change and improve productivity.
How has your Ministry worked with potential private investors? Have you had any investors that you would like to mention and do you have any stories of their successes?
The National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) works closely with private investors such as farmers, exporters, farmer organisations, retailers, and agro-processing firms, on a number of issues that call for collaboration. Mention has already been made of the partnerships that have been created with Walmart/Massmart. There are other similar partnerships that we are actively pursuing with various private sector partners that we may not divulge for confidentiality purposes at this stage. The Walmart/Massmart project addresses everything that smallholder farmers require in order to be successful and have sustainable businesses.
The Department also participates in a public private partnership, which is led by the office of the President of the Republic of South Africa, President Jacob Zuma. This PPP promotes food production, especially in rural areas and on under-used communal land.
Can you recommend any agribusiness related activities in South Africa that would be open to private investors and that would be profitable and most beneficial to South Africa’s people?
South Africa is full of opportunities. There are many agriculture related opportunities that one can think about. One that I can think of is increased capacity in the soybean value chain. This is in line with the fact that South Africa produces and exports soybeans while importing soybean oilcake. The second to consider, which is more long term, is increased capacity in the mohair and wool value chains considering the proportion of raw wool and mohair that this country exports. Increased production of products such as paprika, cotton provides good opportunities to investors.
There are many such opportunities, and the area of aquaculture already mentioned is just one of these. Other areas of development include bio-fuels industry. The promulgation of a blending mandate will offer huge opportunities for the development of this industry.
On February 28th, 2013, you gave a speech on the occasion of BRICS provincial Road show in Kimberley, Northern Cape Province. In this speech you mentioned many of the international trade advancements and knowledge sharing South Africa is making with fellow BRICS members. You mentioned taking inspiration from urban gardens in Brazil; how much of South Africa’s food needs do you think an initiative for urban farming could achieve?
There is great potential in this regard, although it will not, on its own, solve the problems of food insecurity. What it does do is provide fresh food, mostly vegetables, which are often the missing ingredients in a nutritional sense. It also serves to develop among children an interest in agriculture, which will help build the next generation of commercial farmers.
During the February 28th speech, you also mentioned South Africa’s work with China via the Understanding on Agriculture Cooperation and the Cooperation Exchange in Aquaculture Mechanization agreements. Do you see South Africa’s growing relationship with China as a key to achieving food security and economic growth? In the long run, how do you see this partnership growing?
In 2012 we hosted a delegation from China and among the issues that they were interested in, is agro-processing. Their visit was coordinated by my department. This year, our colleagues will reciprocate that visit by travelling to China. This is to make sure that we create a platform for forging a clear understanding of each other’s capacities and to learn as much as we can, where possible.
In your BRICS speech, you also noted South Africa’s strong brand recognition in fellow BRICS nations. Do you see this brand awareness in other non-BRICS countries? How has your Ministry worked to promote the South African brand abroad?
The Department has offices in non BRICS countries such as the USA, Belgium, France, Italy and Switzerland as part of ensuring that South Africa is part of the global business network in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors. Part of the mandate for these offices is to promote the SA brand whilst pursuing market access for our agricultural, forestry and fisheries products. We hope to open more foreign offices as part of our broader ambition to become active players in the global marketing chains.
What do you see as a role for Western-based agribusinesses in South Africa? Is South Africa open to Foreign Direct Investment and partnerships between local and foreign companies in its agribusiness market? Can you briefly describe any such current arrangements?
I suppose that a number of direct foreign investments in the food industry are viewed in perspective of their agricultural potential. The deal regarding Walmart/Massmart and its small scale grower scheme should be considered in this light. Foreign direct investment is always a good indication of the environment (country’s prosperity) and is accepted regardless of the country of origin as long as it will be customised to assist government deliver on its socio-economic commitment to the people of our country. We always encourage joint ventures between local and foreign companies whenever such possibilities arise.
Thank you very much for your insights.