Posted: November 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

Pap, a South African’s national stable dish is more popular in Limpopo than Julius Malema. Then again maize is the largest locally produced field crop, and perhaps our most important source of carbohydrates. However there seem to be little or no consensus on priorities for agricultural and rural development.

Two months ago I had a chance to sit and chat with my grandmother who unfortunately we are going to burry this weekend at the age of 107 years old. The old woman complained that agriculture is not seriously taken as one of the major economic activities in rural South Africa anymore. Part of the blame she put on urbanization, the government and the climate change. “It doesn’t rain anymore like it used to. During our time, nearly everyone lived on agricultural farming, today hardly anyone does. Many people have left for the cities. Look, even birds and other wild animals are now forced to search for food close to our homes as a result,” she said.

Since the new democratic government took over in South Africa, rural development has been identified as one of the pillars on the their development agenda. However, currently much about farming and rural development seems to be dictated by events, such as the climate change, urbanization and perhaps even low government support for agriculture. The lack of basic infrastructure plays a significant part in the persistence of poverty as well.

While urbanization can sometimes reduce pressures on forests by the migration of rural residents to the cities, its disadvantage is that it’s killing rural farming labour. When I was still a young boy growing up in rural Moletjie – Limpopo Province, almost every family in the village used to cultivate maize. South Africa is the main maize producer in the Southern African Development Community. This is something that has been lost today, partly due to the reasons my grandmother mentioned. Today almost every person in this country eats pap (stable dish made of maize meal). It is sold in almost every food outlets across the country, e.g. KFC, Nandos, etc. With an affluent urban population eager for farming products, rural farmers have the opportunity to develop and serve a huge consumer base. Low government support forced urbanization, which in turn unfortunately meant people succumbed to consuming pap rather than growing and selling maize.

“We can no longer talk about permaculture (permanent and agriculture) which is a concept that combines environmental sustainability with food security, she said.” The future of rural farming is at risk. Permaculture has become a thing of the past. Like my grandmother said, permaculture integrates regionally indigenous plants, animals and humans into a closed-loop system where each element is able to supports the other. At the moment this rural close-loop system is crumbling.

I believe that, lack of support for small-hold agriculture and subsistence farmers mean they have no way to gain entry into the food value chains.  The bureaucracy involved in becoming an approved supplier to a supermarket, for example, is too complicated and costly for small rural farmers.  My grandmother didn’t know that.

  1. jeremiah says:

    Nicely articulated and illustrated hopes of the forgotten promises, I remember the socially guided election campaigns enforced upon our infant democratic people then. Yes, I recall the promise of agricultural development, they called it the sustainability factor. Our one hope of establishing our Rainbow Nation as a highly agro-democratic leader in Africa.

    Now all our leaders seem to be consumed by, are the daily media reviews and international images they project. Issues of importance has dissapeared in the mist of beauracracy, and the frenzy of diplomacy.

    Like your ouma and my ouma hoped for,was the rise of a unique country,a Utopia for African understanding and the cultivation of food, housing, healthcare, education etc…

    Not the chase for fame, re-runs of Dallas and Trevor Manuel’s definition of race or class.
    We need Ubuntu!Viva!
    and we want pap,grown on our land….
    Thank You Tsepho for your articles, Ill read the others in due course.

  2. Roman says:

    Didn’t know your KFC sells pap.

  3. the rhetoric of occupy has always made me uncomfortable, particularly as an american that studies empire. some of it seems to uncritically reproduce the sense of ability to fill up other people’s spaces without permission, or take control–i’m really interested in what an indigenous critique/conversation of occupy could be.

    • blueishmind says:

      Thanks very much Teej. Ngiyabonga mfowethu. You should find this guy name Jared Sacks on facebook. Apparently he arrange this ‘occupying movements.’ You have already read my view regarding this.

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