‘Food security and the safety of rural communities go hand in hand’

South Africa’s food security is dependent on the safety of farming communities, according to Uys van der Westhuijzen, chairperson of Agri SA’s Centre of Excellence on Rural Safety.

‘Food security and the safety of rural communities go hand in hand’
Stock theft was a matter of national importance that had a direct impact on food security and the livelihoods of people in rural areas, according to Willie Clack, chairperson of the National Stock Theft Forum.
Photo: FW Archive
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“As such, the vulnerability of rural, farming communities is a matter of national importance. Farmers and farmworkers produce the food South Africans rely on, and contribute to national stability.

“The Rural Safety Summit must lead to concrete steps to make the farming community safer,” he said during the South African Police Service’s (SAPS) Rural Safety Summit held in Parys in the Free State on Monday and Tuesday (27 and 28 June).

Van der Westhuijzen said in a statement that the effective implementation of the national Rural Safety Strategy and capacitating the SAPS serving rural farming areas to effectively protect these communities were of the utmost importance.

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It was also vital for the SAPS to regain the trust of the rural farming communities they served.

“We cannot overlook the fact that farmers and farmworkers are targeted in farm attacks as well as during rioting and unrest situations.

“The fact that the police are inadequately prepared and resourced to assist farming communities in their hour of greatest need is concerning in the extreme,” he said.

The summit was hosted by the SAPS with the objective of ensuring the safety and security of the farming community, including farmers, farmworkers and farm dwellers, as well as the prevention of stock theft in the country.

It was attended by, among others, a wide range of organised agriculture organisations.

In its presentation at the summit, Agri SA focused on the effective implementation of the Rural Safety Strategy, and emphasised a few key aspects such as the effective operation of the priority committee structures.

The organisation also stressed the need for an effectively implemented and properly functioning reservist system. This called for appropriately resourced rural reservists that comprised of farmers and farmworkers.

Meanwhile, Willie Clack, chairperson of the National Stock Theft Forum, told Farmer’s Weekly that while stock theft cost the country billions of rand annually, it was ironic that the forum was not given the opportunity to address the meeting on the impact of this crime on rural communities, despite the fact that the forum was officially invited to the event.

“This is a matter of national importance that has a direct impact on food security and the very livelihoods of people in rural areas. It is downright shameful that the matter was, for all [intents and purposes], ignored at the summit.

“Every livestock producer, from the small-scale farming community to commercial farmers in the country, is confronted and affected by stock theft,” he stated.

Annelie Coleman represents Farmer’s Weekly in the Free State, North West and Northern Cape. Agriculture is in her blood. She grew up on a maize farm in the Wesselsbron district where her brother is still continuing with the family business. Annelie is passionate about the area she works in and calls it ‘God’s own country’. She’s particularly interested in beef cattle farming, especially with the indigenous African breeds. She’s an avid reader and owns a comprehensive collection of Africana covering hunting in colonial Africa, missionary history of same period, as well as Rhodesian literature.