This year’s Landcare conference comes at a very exciting time for the Western Cape’s agriculture sector.
The United Nations General Assembly declared 2015 the International Year of Soils. This is particularly relevant as today we are here to speak about landcare.
We’ve also just approved Project Khulisa, the province’s growth plan for the next five years. Project Khulisa identified sectors which are growing the fastest and have the highest job creation potential.
One of these is the agri-processing sector. Under a high-growth scenario this sector could add up to 100 000 jobs to the economy and generate R26 billion.
We’re well-placed to reach this objective. The agriculture sector is the backbone of province’s rural economy and 45% of the country’s exports come from the Western Cape.
Growing the size of the agri-processing sector stands to deliver a significant boost to rural employment. This focus on agriculture is in line with the developments taking place across the continent.
In a recent address, Kofi Annan pointed to the fact that Africa is importing USD34 billion worth of food. We can produce the majority of this food ourselves. At the same time, despite these volumes, Mr Annan highlights the fact that over 200 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are going hungry.
It’s also estimated that about 9 million tonnes is wasted or lost of the 29 million tonnes of food produced in South Africa each year.
We know that Africa has the most arable land and we need to make sure that Africans lead the way forward.
The World Economic Forum has also looked at the trends shaping our continent. By 2030, the continent’s population is set to double and 50% of this expanding population will be living in cities.
Coupled with climate change, these growth estimates will place increasing pressure on natural resources. These are factors we have to consider in our own growth strategies.
Climate change specifically poses a major threat to global food security. Economically, climate related events cost the Western Cape R3 billion between 2003 and 2008.
We know that extreme weather events are not a new phenomenon. Yet, we are also seeing that temperatures are rising and there has been a reduction of rainy days in autumn and summer. There’s also been a progressively later start and end to the rainy season.
The projections for the Western Cape for 2040 to 2060 also show a changing planet. Higher minimum and maximum temperatures as well as reduced annual rainfall are predicted.
For extensive livestock production, dairy cattle may be impacted by heat stress leading to reduced milk production and, in a worst case scenario, infertility.
Intensive livestock production, which includes chickens and feedlot cattle, is also more likely to be impacted by heat stress which could lead to diseases.
The biggest threat facing winter grains are the spread of diseases and weeds. The situation demands that we take immediate action.