Thousands of female farmers in the SA sugar industry have been promised support by land and agriculture minister Lulama Xingwana to further empower them in what was once a male-dominated sector of SA’s agricultural economy.
Xingwana told women sugar producers that previous agricultural development programmes in rural areas had never been successful due to lack of ownership. “This was as a result of the paternalistic environment and the approach to development, lack of land and real empowerment,” Xingwana told delegates at a Female Farmer Network function hosted at Mount Edgecombe, KZN, by sugar farmer representative organisation Canegrowers. “It is for this reason that last year we launched the Women in Agriculture and Rural Development [Ward] programme. It is imperative that government work in tandem with farmers and communities, especially female farmers, who have been marginalised.”
Xingwana said it was essential for Ward and Canegrowers to provide female farmers with information on available programmes to help them achieve a successful role in agriculture. She said there was already the Micro-Agricultural Financial Institutions of SA (Mafisa) programme to provide capital for agricultural and agribusiness activities. Delegates were also told the agriculture department was setting up a “special purpose vehicle” that would acquire, hold, manage, develop and dispose of land for reform purposes. Xingwana explained, “ It will also serve as a one-stop shop that will ensure the alignment of land and agrarian reform products such as the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme, LandCare, Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development and Mafisa. I want to implore you to take advantage of these developments.”
Female farmers were urged to establish formal structures, such as self-reliant, self-sustaining cooperatives, to bring themselves into formal agricultural structures. Xingwana said if women sugar farmers worked together with Canegrowers these structures would help create employment, generate income and mobilise resources. “is time for us rural women to pull ourselves by our bootstraps and be counted. Time for moaning is over,” said Xingwana. – Lloyd Phillips