For the last decade we have witnessed a shrinking budgetary activity in government operations. For that matter the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security had its worse experiences when some of its departments such as the Agricultural Research had to go for months without electricity, while the Agricultural College looked more like an abandoned farm. It is situations like this, where Non-Governmental organisations find them-selves mobilizing not only funds but even organises farmers and sometimes assumes roles that were previously known to be done by governments.
The Rural Self-help Development Association (RSDA) under the influence and guidance of the Private Sector Foundation organised a group of farmers’ associations and District Agricultural Officers to pay e-Thekwini Municipality a visit where the main purpose was to learn, analyse, modify and implement the lessons learned from the study tour. This agribusiness learning exchange had a very intensive program, from Dube Agri-zone, Ezimbuzini Markets and Durban Fresh Produce Market where delegates learned that for all activities to take place, the government has to be at the centre of the pivot, and therefore authorities must be lobbied.
This multi-million infrastructure was built by the Central Government of the Republic of South Africa and now a property of e-Thekwini Municipality under Dube Trade Port. The property is leased in portions by the municipality to Qutoms Farms for fifteen years.
This market is located in Umlazi Township. According to the municipality, there were no economic activities at this former black people township and no room for creating such. The municipality then had to come up with a more organised allocation of land by the bus-stop, and on the side of the main road where informal traders had to be grouped according to their products. This initiative actually created a more organised and clean town. At Ezimbuzini market, there was also a safe area for the small stock farmers where their produce is sold.
Durban Fresh Produce Market
Another multimillion rand infrastructure with more than 115 years old, although had to change venues five times over the years. The current premises were built by the Government of South Africa around 1972. The facilities are operated by five agents which technically occupy the space, market fresh produce and are paid commission directly by the municipality on behalf of the farmer as the funds are collected by the municipality.
According to RSDA Managing Director, the purpose of the visit was to learn how the farmers, large, medium and small are co-ordinated by the municipality to produce and access market?
The trip consisted of District Agricultural Officers who were very happy and willing to assist the farmers in lobbying for the farmers to at least get access to land where some of the ideas could be implemented. However, it must be noted that for the lobbying process to be successful, there has to be political will from the Government’s side.
Unfortunately, this trip did not consist of any rocket science in its findings and recommendations. The Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) and the Basotho Enterprise Development Corporation (BEDCO) were once part of ‘The Silo Study Tour’, to the same place – Dube Agri-zone. It goes without really causing bad blood that if LNDC has infrastructure built specifically for the foreign investors in textile industry, then the same infrastructure could be built along the same lines and leased to the Basotho farmers.