Subsistence farmers can help tackle food insecurity in rural areas and townships, according to panelists who participated in a recent webinar hosted by the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS). The webinar was attended by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Stats SA and private entities including Agri SA. Subsistence farmer Lerato Senakhomo, who participated in the discussions, told Vutivi News that her family started subsistence farming after they saw a need to farm vegetables and livestock to address food insecurity in rural areas in Gauteng.
Her parents founded Senakhomo Farming in 2007 in Nigel, Ekurhuleni. They later moved to Thokoza after receiving land from the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development. Senakhomo Farming is a mixed farming enterprise that specialises in cattle, maize, soya, goats, sheep and vegetables, including spinach. The farm supplies its products and livestock to informal markets. They are then sold to residents in townships and impoverished areas in and around Ekurhuleni.
“Subsistence farming has a lot of potential because it can be done on a scale that is more manageable than commercial farming, which means that people with some land can start and do not need big land to start,” she said. “I recommend that young people go into subsistence farming because the more we farm, the more food we produce, and if a lot of young people farm then it can go a long way in providing nutritional food to poor people, especially those in rural areas.”
The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development’s Small Holder Development Director, Dr. Jemina Moeng, said that climate challenges had resulted in a decline of households who were involved in agriculture. However, she encouraged more people to take up subsistence farming. She did note that many communities were reluctant to engage in agricultural production. “Yes, they do not have land and natural resources for production such as water,” Moeng said.
“But a household garden in your backyard, even in a township or even in Sandton, will provide you with some vegetables. “You do not necessarily need huge farms, but even in your backyard where we support household production at a garden level will definitely provide that household with food. “So the biggest threat is people shying away from home food production and wanting to rely on food purchasing, which relies again on the amount of money you earn to be able to buy nutritious food,” she added.
According to a report released by Stats SA earlier this year, the Covid-19 pandemic has had serious implications for the global economy, with food security and nutrition is particularly impacted. And South Africa, like many countries, has not been spared. According to the Measuring Food Security in South Africa: Applying the Food Insecurity Experience Scale report, almost 23,6% of South Africans in 2020 were affected by moderate to severe food insecurity, while almost 14,9% experienced severe food insecurity.