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Agri-processing to boost Free State economy

Written by Noluthando Mkhize
The Free State provincial government will be building five agri-processing centres to help grow the provincial economy and create jobs.

“Working with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, we identified five sites for the development of agro-processing centres.

“The construction of the physical structures at the sites in Tshiame, Thaba Nchu, Wesselsbron, Springfontein and Parys is underway. The first Agri-park will be open for business before the end of March 2017,” said Free State Premier Ace Magashule when delivering his State of the Province Address.

As with the rest of the country, the Free State has also felt the impact of the drought.

“The impact of the drought was and still is felt on a number of terrains.”

He said the province had released an emergency drought disaster fund to the provincial department of agriculture and rural development.

“The funds were utilised for the purchase of feed in the form of protein based pellets, water reticulation support for animals and medication for livestock.”

Despite the drought challenge, the province has been able to maintain more than 5 000 jobs in the agricultural sector.

Education must meet the needs of people

Premier Magashule said education must meet the needs of people in the province.

“Our approach to the school hostel programme is indicative of our patriotic duty to give all children access to quality education.”

Between 2009 and 2015 the provincial education department increased the number of school hostels from 12 to 35.

He said the hostels accommodate more than 4 000 learners most of whom are from farms in the province.

“We are confident that putting learners in a safe and conducive environment will reduce the rate of learner drop-out and improve the learner pass rate,” said Premier Magashule.

Four new hostels will be built over the 2016 medium term expenditure framework. These will be at Leboneng Special School in Welkom, Boitumelong Special School in Thaba Nchu, Breda Farm School in Fouriesburg and
Oranjekrag at Gariepdam.

New health infrastructure

Premier Magashule said new infrastructure projects such as the Albert Nzula District Hospital in Trompsburg and the Pelonomi ICU will soon become operational.

“The Senorita Ntlabathi Hospital in Ladybrand is operational and will be officially opened in April 2016. The Schonkenville, Batho, and Amelia clinics will be completed. We will build new clinics in various towns in the province this year.”

Early Childhood Development facilities

The premier emphasised the importance of the development and care of children for a healthy and productive citizenry.

“We are funding 941 Early Childhood
Development (ECD) facilities benefitting over 48 000. Additional centres will be built in
Vogelfontein, Botshabelo, and Thaba Nchu in the forthcoming year.”

The province has also partnered with the National Lottery Commission for the provision of ECD infrastructure and equipment in 11 municipalities.

The Premier also announced that a state-owned substance abuse treatment centre would be built in the province before the end of the 2016/2017 financial year.

A site on the premises of the Botshabelo Hospital in the Mangaung Metro has been identified for this purpose.

“Two learnership programmes for 50 Social Auxiliary Workers and 50 Child and Youth Care Workers will be implemented with the intention of absorbing them upon completion of the programme.”

Human Settlements

Premier Magashule said over the past two financial years more than 9 000 housing units across all human settlements programmes were built.

“Over 1 000 units of the Brandwag Social Housing project will be completed by June 2016.”

He said the development of 400 of the 950 social housing units at Hillside View will also be completed by June 2016.

“The development of Community Residential Units is underway at Dark and Silver City Hostels in Mangaung, Masimong and G Hostel in Welkom, Merriespruit in Virginia and Hostel 4 in Sasolburg.”

Local economic development

Work in supporting local economic development is ongoing.

“Rezoning for the establishment of solar farms in Theunissen, Bloemfontein, Fauresmith and Hoopstad has been successfully completed. This project will create at least 700 job opportunities during the construction and operational phases.”

He added that about 150 local people in Phumelela will benefit from the building of a precinct on the N3 route, with two filling stations, truck stop, police station, commercial and accommodation facilities.More than 5 000 jobs created in the agricultural sector.

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