The launch of an agri-park, the first of five in the Gauteng province in South Africa, looks set to fast-track smallholder farmers in the region into the commercial stream.
The agri-parks programme was set in motion in 2015, with a purpose to economically transform rural areas, provide communities with jobs, secure a sustainable food supply and provide communities with jobs.
Lebogang Maile, Gauteng’s MEC (minister) for Economic Development, Agriculture, Environment and Rural Development, told 400 farmers, and various stakeholders, that the revival of agriculture and the agro-processing value chain in the province was vital for the province’s economic success.
“The programme will ensure that smallholder farmers are helped to achieve required product volumes, increased levels of competitiveness and sustainability,” said Maile.
The Gauteng agri-park has infrastructure consisting of hydroponic tunnels and vertical hydroponic structures for primary production; pack houses for fresh produce; administration offices and training rooms.
Two co-ops would use the hydroponic sites for vegetable production, bringing 20 new jobs onto the market.
Nearby farmers have access to the pack houses where produce is prepared for the market. The agri-park also has suitable facilities for farmer training and events.
Through the agri-parks programme, the Gauteng Provincial Department (GPD) plans to actively promote high value commodities for smallholder producers.
It is also part of a wider plan to create jobs and integrate previously disadvantaged communities into mainstream commercial agriculture.
The programme needs private sector support to function. As an example, commercial farmers can allow smallholders to tag onto agro-processing value chains, make use of existing infrastructure and have access to inputs.