Rural farming communities reap benefits of Qoboshiyane putting his faith in agriculture
FROM rolling up his sleeves and planting seedlings in the far-flung communal farming areas of the Eastern Cape to being initiated in the hunting traditions of commercial farmers, Eastern Cape Rural Development and Agrarian Reform MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane is determined to tackle poverty through the agricultural sector.
Since taking up office less than a year ago, Qoboshiyane has met the province’s vast but often poles apart farming communities – showing a genuine passion for farming, which he believes is the “gold and platinum of the province”.
Qoboshiyane plainly states that he has “the faith and conviction that agriculture will be the catalytic driver that will guarantee employment”, forming an integral part of the economic masterplan of the province.
In harnessing the livestock, plantations, land and people of the Eastern Cape, Qoboshiyane says he wants to leave a legacy that will see the Eastern Cape become a “net exporter of food”.
With a limited 2014-2015 budget, he has started making small but definite inroads to achieving these goals through launching vegetables tunnels and cooperatives while delivering gardening tools and seedlings to farming communities.
Two agricultural colleges have been revitalised under his leadership – at Tsolo and Fort Cox – while Qoboshiyane has given agricultural bursaries, valued at R3-million, to 20 students.
“I grew up driving a tractor. My grandparents were horticulturalists where I grew up in Misty Mountain, about 20 km outside Mthatha. I want to target young people to start farming as an enterprise. Even young professionals should plant their own vegetables as something cool to do,” said Qoboshiyane, who grows spinach and peppers in the garden of his East London home.
Through social media platforms, Qoboshiyane encourages Eastern Cape residents who can afford to buy seedlings at nurseries to do so. Rural farming communities who do not have the means to buy seedlings have received donations.
He says these are not just handouts, but part of a targeted programme to grow the efficiencies and effectiveness of the communal farming sector.
“I do not believe in briefcase farmers. They must be working on their land and government will assist with advice, disaster management data systems and improved technologies.”
Although many of the department’s projects are focused on emerging farming communities of the former Transkei, Qoboshiyane said he valued commercial farmers and the collaborative efforts of many industry role-players to assist emerging farmers in the Eastern Cape.
African Farmers Association of South Africa (AFSA) Eastern Cape president Joe Mnyengo says the rural farming communities have benefited substantially from several projects and programmes which Qoboshiyane has spearheaded.
“The only thing now is to push for the department’s budget to be increased for infrastructure development like mechanisation and fencing,” Mnyengo said.
Agri Eastern Cape president Ernest Pringle said organised agriculture “remained upbeat” about the relationship with Qoboshiyane, although no meetings with the political head had been held since last year.
Pringle said ideally Agri EC and the MEC should meet at least three times a year.
In August last year, Qoboshiyane first met with Agri EC during the organisation’s annual congress. It was during the congress that former president of the National Wool Growers’ Association (NWGA) Petrus de Wet invited Qoboshiyane to his farm in Sterkspruit for a hunting trip and “bosberaad”.
Qoboshiyane accepted and early in September he shot his first blesbuck ram and was initiated “in true hunting tradition by eating the liver and washing it down with a beer”.
Eastern Cape Red Meat Producers’ Organisation chairman Pieter Prinsloo said since the hunting trip he was often in contact with Qoboshiyane, who always responded. “He is always willing to listen, a loyal, intelligent and professional politician.”