Small-scale farmers and small business have been given a shot in the arm by a newly launched programme in KwaZulu-Natal. Operation Vula will boost local economies through the buying power of the provincial government.
The programme will enable cooperatives and SMMEs owned by women, youth and people with disabilities to become preferred suppliers.
It will also allow them to access funding for skills training and marketing.
At the recent launch in Ixobho, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu described the programme as a way to build a prosperous and equal society through opportunity. It was now up to residents to make use of the chance.
“With us guaranteeing markets, we are convinced that black and African farmers, in particular, will have enough incentive to enter this sector.”
While Operation Vula will target the furniture manufacturing, bakery and clothing and textile sectors, its subsidiary, Radical Agrarian Socio-Economic Transformation, seeks to increase the number of small-scale farmers from underprivileged communities entering the lucrative food production sector.
Both programmes will be run by the provincial Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs under the direction of MEC Sihle Zikalala. The MEC explained that the empowerment initiative is meant to address rural unemployment and development.
The MEC said the province was forced to spend its R2.2 billion food procurement budgets with established companies. To benefit from this policy, small-scale farmers and SMMEs need to contact their nearest agricultural office to be registered on the supplier database.
The province will prioritise African farmers and SMMEs, but the MEC warned that these programmes are not handouts. “What we mean to achieve with this programme is to empower black and African farmers and ensure that they play in the mainstream of this sector. The aim of the Radical Agrarian Socio-Economic Transformation programme is to grow the agricultural sector, through ensuring participation by those who were previously marginalised and ensuring that they benefit equitably from this sector.”