Minister Van Rensburg Concerned about Agriculture Dialogue Sessions
I am concerned about the effectiveness of National Government's Dialogue Sessions with the agricultural sector in the Western Cape. The first Session was in Paarl in February and the second Session was this Saturday in De Doorns. The Paarl session was well attended, but in De Doorns the stakeholder meeting was poorly attended. Nothing concrete has happened since the Paarl session, and Saturday once again resulted in vague promises without substance."
A true dialogue session should be a framework for discussion and input from all stakeholders, but the two dialogue sessions held so far were unashamedly used as ANC and union promoting platforms. Both sessions allowed for the same ANC ward councillors and union representatives to attack the Western Cape Government on a wide range of issues, often without any bearing on the agricultural sector.
While the National Government still deems it fit to have dialogue sessions on the agricultural sector’s challenges in the Western Cape, the Western Cape Provincial Government have already budgeted for; approved, and is now implement action plans in response to the agricultural challenges we face.
Our initiatives received very little attention in De Doorns on Saturday, even though it is the only real government plans at this stage. It is heart warming to hear the Deputy President speak of low interest loans and support for the agricultural sector, but we should have been able to see these promises in practice by now.
There are many ways in which the National Government can support the agricultural sector in South Africa. Research, disease control, and improved market access are but a few examples of how the State can assist the sector to be more sustainable. As far as our mandate allows us as Provincial Government, we are currently implementing a 12 step action plan to address our short as well as long-term challenges:
- A helpline, number 0860 142 142, dedicated for farm worker issues.
- Investigate new housing models for farm workers.
- Training courses for farm workers to use high-tech equipment.
- Engagement sessions for farm workers and farmers.
- Support for farm worker structures and development programmes.
- Investment in sport opportunities for farm workers.
- Youth empowerment in rural areas.
- Ethical trade initiatives.
- Best practice case studies.
- A Province-wide farm worker survey.
- A farm worker communication strategy.
- Finance an independent research project, Future for Agricultural and Rural Economy, (FARE) to build a shared future vision for the Provincial agricultural sector.
I want to challenge the National Government to spend less energy on organising skewed dialogue sessions and to put shoulder to the wheel and come up with some real plans and policies with implementation dates and allocated budgets. This will provide the security the sector desperately needs in order to rebuild and move forward after the destruction.