The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Ms Tina Joemat-Pettersson recently led a delegation, including the Transvaal Agricultural Union, the African Farmers' Association of South Africa (AFASA), National African Farmers' Union of SA (NAFU) and AgriSA on a study trip of the small-scale farming initiatives run by Walmart in Costa Rica.
The Minister attended as part of her official duties.
Delivering her speech, the Minister said, "We have always looked to Europe and North America for guidance. We are now learning that our counterparts in the East and other developing countries can teach us even more. We are committed to creating trade links, and to especially, learn from Costa Rica's small-scale farmers. We have already learnt that small-scale farmers use very simple infrastructure to package and sort their produce. We are looking to create similar support structures for our farmers, through the Masibambisane Rural Development Programme in South Africa."
The Masibambisane Rural Development Programme, which has already led to the mechanisation of small-scale farmers in two provinces, is in the process of being rolled out nationally. It includes the allocation of trucks, implements, seeds and Nguni cattle.
The programme's priorities are; providing access to markets, finance and skills for the benefit and advancement of small-scale farmers across South Africa. It is chaired by President Jacob Zuma and run across numerous ministries in an effort to reduce poverty in rural areas.
In addition, farmers also gain access to agricultural extension services and infrastructure to pack, sort and store their produce. Not only does this type of assistance empower them to become better farmers, but it also facilitates wealth creation and removes some barriers on the growth and sustainability of small-scale food producers.
Mncane Mthunzi, Massmart-Walmart's Group Supplier Development Executive, commented that, "the commitment and excitement of the Minister has far exceeded my expectations, especially, her commitment to improving food security in South Africa. She has embraced the concept of empowering small-scale farmers and we look forward to partnering with her department to achieve this objective".
Speaking on behalf of AFASA, Mr Mhlobo Mthombeni said he was grateful for the visit to Costa Rica. "Walmart has done what AFASA was expecting for direct farming. This kind of initiative is going to develop small-scale farmers and open markets for them."
Louis Meintjes from TAU said from what he had seen, Walmart had brought innovation and new ideas to farming and hoped that the industry would embrace these.
"The amount of training and technology stood out for me, training support and market developments are crucial for the industry to grow, the fact that Massmart-Walmart is willing to invest in this and watch the industry grow is astounding. I salute them for this," concludes Meintjies.