Mbombela - Small farmers in Mpumalanga will receive a boost as of 1 April when they start supplying food to selected government schools.
Provincial government spokesman Zibonele Mncwango said the Mpumalanga government wants to ensure that every small producer is given an opportunity to actively participate in the economy.
"As a build-up, government will provide markets for small-scale farmers and encourage them to keep on farming," he said on Wednesday.
He said that as of 1 April, all school feeding schemes that fall in municipalities under the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme will buy their food from the small-scale farmers.
The local municipalities include Nkomazi in Malalane, Chief Albert Luthuli in Carolina, Pixley Ka Seme in Volkrust, Dr J.S Moroka in Siyabuswa, Thembisile Hani in KwaMhlanga, Mkhondo in Piet Retief and Bushbuckridge.
Mncwango said Premier David Mabuza announced the development during his State of the Province Address on Friday.
He said small-scale farmers will also be given an opportunity to market their produce at the fresh produce market that will be built in the province this year.
"Farmers will work with their municipalities to ensure that no cooperative is left behind. The opportunity will encourage and motivate emerging farmers to produce more food knowing that they have a market,' said Mncwango.
The news has excited farmers in the province. Member of Silwanendlala Agriculture Cooperative in Mkhuhlu in the Bushbuckridge local municipality, Grace Mndawe, said the opportunity bears a lot of promise for their vegetable project.
"We are very thrilled about the opportunity and we cannot wait to expand our farming hectares as we also feed orphans in the area. It is always encouraging and inspiring knowing that when you harvest, there is a market waiting for your products,' she said.
Silwanendlala grows beetroot, tomatoes, spinach, butternuts and onions.
Another farmer, Sanny Ndinisa, who represents Thathani Ku Phila cooperative, also in Mkhuhlu, said the members of the project will now be able to earn salaries.
"Some of the cooperatives were struggling due to lack of market and poor demand because many farm the same crop in the area. This will inspire many farmers, especially women,' she said.
However, their farm still has water challenges. "We hope that government can help us with boreholes so that we can use more hectares," she said.
Meanwhile, the provincial Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Administration is in the process of deploying unemployed agricultural graduates to help struggling farming cooperatives in rural communities.
Last month, former Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Administration MEC Candith Mashego-Dlamini, met with the graduates at Lowveld College of Agriculture in Mbombela.
"The graduates will work with the department?s Comprehensive Rural Development Programme and various struggling agricultural cooperatives,' she said.
The graduates are also expected to start their duties next month. - SAnews.gov.za
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