South Africa to establish Agri-Parks amid worsening drought – Zuma

The South African government will establish agricultural parks known as Agri-Parks in the 44 districts in the country amid a worsening drought, South African President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday.

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A local resident is seen with his cattle in Baringo, northwest Kenya, March 12, 2015. Residents of Baringo County are experiencing extreme cases of hunger as a result of the long periods of drought in Kenya. According to Kenya's Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru, a total of 1.6 million people in arid and semi-arid parts of Kenya are in danger of dying as a result of hunger. (Xinhua/Simbi Kusimba)
A local resident is seen with his cattle in Baringo, northwest Kenya, March 12, 2015. Residents of Baringo County are experiencing extreme cases of hunger as a result of the long periods of drought in Kenya. According to Kenya's Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru, a total of 1.6 million people in arid and semi-arid parts of Kenya are in danger of dying as a result of hunger. (Xinhua/Simbi Kusimba)

One of the strategic objectives of the parks is to”bring under-utilized land (especially in communal areas) into full production within three years and expand irrigated agriculture,”Zuma said at the Annual Opening of the National House of Traditional Leaders in Parliament.

A local resident is seen with his cattle in Baringo, northwest Kenya, March 12, 2015. Residents of Baringo County are experiencing extreme cases of hunger as a result of the long periods of drought in Kenya. According to Kenya's Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru, a total of 1.6 million people in arid and semi-arid parts of Kenya are in danger of dying as a result of hunger. (Xinhua/Simbi Kusimba)
(Xinhua/Simbi Kusimba)

The Agri-Parks program has as one of its guiding principles: maximizing access to market to all farmers with a bias to emerging farmers and rural areas, according to Zuma

“This is a very important program and we urge our traditional leaders to assist in ensuring its success,” Zuma said.

The government, he said, has developed the Agricultural Policy Action Plan under which food security at household level should be achieved through the utilisation of one million hectares of the communal land for food production.

“We have noted that some of the productive communal land under traditional councils remains inadequately utilized,” said Zuma.

“I urge traditional leaders to encourage communities to plough and till the productive land so that they can produce healthy food for their families and reduce the levels of food insecurity and poverty that are so prevalent,” he said.

Zuma was speaking as the country is reeling under the most severe drought in 100 years due to the El Niño effect.

South African agricultural stakeholders on Wednesday urged the government to declare the current drought a national disaster and provide 12.5 billion rand (about 800 million U.S. dollars) in disaster relief for the next three years.

“One of the domestic constraints to growth in our country currently is the severe drought. It threatens the livelihoods of our people and has pushed most of the farmers to the edge of financial ruin,” Zuma said.

Of the nine provinces in the country, five have declared a state of provincial drought disaster, namely KwaZulu-Natal, North West, Free State, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.

A number of government departments are assisting in alleviating the effects of the drought, with the primary focus currently being on funding for emergency or immediate needs, according to Zuma. Enditem

Source: Xinhua

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