A R60-million multi-purpose training and development centre, to be built at the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) in Roodeplaat, Pretoria, is expected to give up-and-coming black commercial farmers a boost.
Speaking to SAnews after officiating at the sod turning ceremony on Tuesday, Rural Development and Land Reform Minister, Gugile Nkwinti, said: "With this new multi-million rand facility, our objective will be to rekindle that class of commercial farmers destroyed by the Native Land Act."
The event coincided with the handing over of certificates to 2 000 graduates who successfully completed a training programme on vegetable and livestock production at the Roodeplaat training facility.
According to Nkwinti, the new facility which should be built in the next few months, will complement his department's flagship programme for young South Africans, the National Rural Youth Service Corps (Narysec).
The Narysec was established in September 2010, with its main goal to recruit and develop rural youth; and to perform community service in their own communities. The Narysec headquarters are in Thaba Nchu in the Free State.
More than 14 000 youth are in Narysec, while several others are in agri-business as well as in construction.
"We are creating a class of black people who are going to run the country's economy over the next decade.
"It will actually anchor them, because scientific training will be done here. They will go to Thaba Nchu to implement the theoretical part they have learnt at the new facility. We are looking forward to this facility to sustain our programme of empowering young people," the minister said. Minister Nkwinti said the biggest challenge facing South Africa is the threats of food security.
"We don't seem to appreciate the challenge because we can go to the market and buy whatever food we want to eat. However, there are many people who cannot afford it. I'm talking about people who go to bed without having a meal.
"We need to produce young farmers who can grow vegetables, produce meat and those who can also look after the environment to ensure that the environment around us can carry us through to the next 100 years.
"Again, if we continue to import food that we can also produce ourselves - then it means we will be exposing ourselves to a serious challenge of food security for the next 50 years. As government, we want to reverse this," he said.
The R60 million Multi-purpose Training and Development Centre will be built through a partnership, between the Department and the ARC.
ARC CEO Dr Shadrack Moephuli said: "As the ARC, we do research and development for new scientific solutions and technologies. Part of our challenge is finding the best ways in which we can deliver these technologies, the information and the data to the people who are going to use it.
"We saw it appropriate that we contribute towards the success of agriculture, particularly land reform. We will provide them with the training so that they can be productive themselves, understand the use of technology, how to respond to the needs of consumers, but also how to ensure to identify the diseases at their respective farms and solve the problems on their own.
"We got into this partnership so that we can have a cadre of fairly successful farmers, who will be very productive by themselves."