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Advancing agriculture for the future at Kwanalu Congress 2019

Leading agricultural experts and news-makers descended on Pietermaritzburg yesterday to meet with KwaZulu-Natal farmers, agri-businesses, agri-commodity leaders, national agri-industry leaders and members of the KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union, Kwanalu, to discuss the future of agriculture in the province and to seek a sustainable way forward for the sector.

Forming part of Kwanalu’s 21st annual Congress, over 260 agricultural sector affiliates convened at the Royal Show Grounds for a full day of presentations and discussions centred around the Union’s theme for the year: Advancing agriculture for today and future generations.

With the intention of exploring, discussing and disseminating an enabling and productive agricultural environment for all in the industry, discussions centred around seeking value-chain development for farmers through policy, regulatory and institutional support by the public sector. Dialogues were also around seeking greater involvement from the private sector in agriculture, in order to develop and improve the agricultural value chain through partnerships. Underlying all discussions was the intention of bringing about some reprieve to the inherent incognito dictate that farmers are the one’s solely responsible for land reform.

“It is with an eye firmly and realistically on the future of the sector in the province that we convened our annual congress. Our goal is to equip our farmers with knowledge, and to give them direct access to well-informed and pertinent leaders in our country, with information relevant to our sector in order for farmers of KZN to plan for a sustainable future for their agri-businesses,” said CEO of Kwanalu, Sandy La Marque.

Keynote speaker, Chief Justice of South Africa Mogoeng Mogoeng, spoke directly to the farmers in the audience encouraging them to unite within their sector in order send a clear message that they are vital to the future of the economy of South Africa, encouraging them to engage with the public sector.

“Farmers must stubbornly persevere to ensure the agricultural sector is developed to its full potential; and refuse to allow themselves to be marginalized and to insist on being part of the solution,” he told the audience.

Speaking on the land issue, Chief Justice Mogoeng, told farmers not to view themselves as victims but rather as part of the solution.

Newly appointed MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development, Bongi Sithole-Moloi, told farmers that the government has committed to ensuring that agriculture becomes a critical focus to ensure food security and job creation.

“Recently, our department embarked on a journey to develop its 2020-2025 strategy. As part of this process, we will be inviting participation and input from all agricultural stakeholders, such as Kwanalu, to help outline our roadmap to navigate the changing dynamics of the agricultural industry,” Sithole-Moloi told farmer delegates.

Professor Danie Brand, Director of the Free State Centre for Human Rights at the University of the Free State, spoke about creating an enabling environment for agriculture through policy, regulatory and institutional certainty, specifically in the context of Section 25 of the Constitution, Expropriation without Compensation and land reform; while Dr Kathy Hurly, Corporate Executive of SA Canegrowers and a Kwanalu Board member, spoke to delegates about the importance of greater involvement from the private sector in the industry, institutional cohesion and unity in order to generate a collective lobby and bargaining power necessary today.

Agri SA’s Head of Economics and Trade, Dr Requier Wait discussed how imperative the creation of an enabling environment for establishing value chain development through policy, regulatory and institutional channels by the public sector is for the future of sustainable industry in SA.

The announcement of the Kwanalu Young Farmer of the Year 2019 also took place with the  title being awarded to 38-year-old Eshowe sugarcane farmer, Simon D’Aubrey. Simon will go on to compete in the Toyota SA/ Agri SA National Young Farmer of the Year competition 2019 held later this year.

“This year’s entries saw an exceptional standard of young farmers come to the fore – a proud example of the vast farming talent we have in KZN. We would like to congratulate Simon on taking home the 2019 title and we look forward to him representing all our farmers at the national competition,” said La Marque.