By Adelene van Zyl
The photo is take by Adelene van Zyl. Setšong works with community elders to create a range of tea blends, using indigenous plant material. For more information please visit their website at https://setsong.co.za/.
The importance of rural development in South Africa has increased significantly due to the increasing need for job creation to support the populations living under the poverty line. Currently 80% of South Africa comprises of rural areas, providing housing for over 20 million citizens.
Rural development is defined by the World Bank (1975) as: “A strategy designed to improve the economic and social life of a specific group of people – the rural poor. It involves extending the benefits of development to the poorest among those who seek a livelihood in the rural areas.”
This definition can be broken down into two main factors considering the implementation of rural development. The first factor is to improve the economic life of a rural community members by implementing sustainable job creation, which will improve their disposable income. By increasing the disposable income of the community, each member is given the opportunity to become more food secure and to improve their living standards. The second factor, namely improving the community member’s social life, means that the member will gain dignity through increased opportunities created by education. By educating rural communities, members are equipped with skills that create opportunities for them to follow other career paths other than small scale farming.
One can also see from the definition that rural development does not guarantee economic growth. Instead of economic growth, the focus is rather on the improvement of the human condition through the eradication of poverty, the reduction of inequality and the implementation of long-term social development. According to the Rural Development Report (2016), it also consists of agricultural development, which is the process of improving the lives and economic wellbeing of farmers, the value chain and agricultural workers.
There have been several approaches to rural development in the past namely, community development, intensive agriculture, integrated rural development, livelihood approaches, participatory paradigm, and agricultural growth through smallholder farming. However, the success rate of these approaches has shown to be insignificant since agriculture is seen as a declining sector, causing a lack of funding and an urban bias approach.
South Africa cannot afford another ten years of unsuccessful rural development programmes. With the increasing demand for food due to the increasing global population, the agricultural sector provides opportunities for job creation. It is important that the government and key role players in the agricultural sector should rethink and redevelop new rural development strategies.
I would like to suggest that economic growth, in other words, profitability, must become a key factor in rural development. The reason for this suggestion is that rural development already implies a Pareto improvement, in other words, to improve the welfare of one individual without decreasing the welfare of another individual. If we consider this definition compared to the meaning of rural development, one can see the gap of resource provision. Even though the country is dependent on government involvement, we cannot assume that they are in the position to keep on providing funds for rural development. To ensure the success of rural development, rural communities should be educated and provided with skills so that they can become self-efficient.
During the next few weeks, I will explain why economic growth must be included in rural development. In the meantime, I would like to introduce the following mindset:
sustainable development can only succeed when each South African stop demanding what they need from the country but start giving the country what it needs.
By Lize Reinecke
Apples are produced in abundance worldwide and is also a very important economic crop. The fly in the applesauce is the disease caused by Venturia inaequalis (apple scab). This disease causes lesions on leaves and fruits which causes the fruit to crack and can even cause deformed fruit growth.
The following flow diagram summarizes the control measures that can be used in terms of the life cycle of the host plant:
Table 1 indicates different types of control strategies and the results that one can achieve:
The apple industry requires high quality apples to be delivered either to the local or international market. It is therefore important to apply preventative and control measures against this disease to ensure proper growth.
Bowers, 2011. Apple Scab. Available at https://extension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/W289-O.pdf [Accessed 2019/10/15].
Koetter, 2019. Apple scab of apples and crabapples. Available at https://extension.umn.edu/plant-diseases/apple-scab#cultural-practices-1165362 [Accessed 2019/10/15].
Peter, 2017. Apple Disease – Apple Scab. Available at https://extension.psu.edu/apple-disease-apple-scab [Accessed 2019/10/15].
CAB, 2019. Apple Scab. Available at https://www.plantwise.org/knowledgebank/datasheet/56212 [Accessed 2019/10/15]
PNRC, 2019. Apple Scab. Available at https://www.planetnatural.com/pest-problem-solver/plant-disease/apple-scab/ [Accessed 2019/10/15]
By Amy Grundling
Photo by Annika van Zyl & Jaco Kruger
It was recognized, during the 2009 World Summit on Food Security, that food demand will increase with 34%-70% by 2050 (FAO, 2019). It is estimated that the population will increase to 9 billion people, causing an additional annual consumption of 200 million metric tons of meat and 1 billion metric tons of cereals for food and feed (Floros, 2010). To meet the increasing food needs, it is necessary for the agricultural sector to become more efficient and productive. Biotechnology provides the potential to support the increase of production and yield and to develop commodities that are richer in nutrients.
Since the first genetically modified (GM) organisms were introduced in the late 1980s, the debate arose whether gene technology is beneficial or detrimental to human health. However, the debate has failed to clarify an agreed direction of policy (Azadi, Hossein, 2010). The use of GMO’s has divided important stakeholders with conflicting opinions, while the public is left in the side-lines. Despite no scientific evidence published on the detrimental use of GMOs, activists in many countries have continued to fight against the use of GM crops. These groups state that safety, ethnical, religious and environmental concerns are more important than the benefits of increased productivity and improved nutritional value (Azadi, Hossein, 2010). Due to the uncertainty created by these groups, many developing countries have not planted any GM crops – because of the fear of biosafety (Azadi, Hossein, 2010). The new European Union regulations, requiring all GM products to be labelled, will further discourage the planting of GM crops in poor countries (Paarlberg, 2002).
The issue is the impact of international regulations on the food security in the developing countries. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization, approximately 820 million people remain malnourished, including at least 250 million children (FAO, 2019). Nevertheless, biotechnology provides the potential to increase yields and nutritional value of crops, which is vital for resource-poor and small-scale-farmers. Biotechnology can be used to genetically modify plant and animal species. For example, to increase the nutritional value of cereal grains and rDNA biotechnology can be used to increase the protein quality. With the increasing challenges developing countries face due to climate change, more resources are needed to produce food. By using drought tolerant crops, such as maize, it enables small-scale to adapt to the changing environment (Floros, 2010). The increase in yield and the shorter growth period in GM crops also decrease the use of chemical fertilizers and pest management, therefore improving cost efficiency.
The uncertainties regarding GMO’s have affected policy development and the publics opinion of the use of GM crops significantly. People fear the things which they do not know, it is therefore important that scientific research must be conducted to prevent further uncertainties regarding GM crops and to share these findings with the public. By educating the public and policy makers on what biotechnology is, it will eliminate any myths which prevents the use of GM crops. Biotechnology is an important tool that needs to be incorporated in developing countries’ agricultural sectors. Through the benefits of biotechnology, food security can be improved, especially in developing countries. This will not only reduce famine but also malnutrition globally.
Azadi, H., 2010. Genetically modified and organic crops in developing countries: A review of options. Biotechnology Advances, I(28), pp. 160-168.
FAO, 2019. Food Insecurity is More than Just Hunger. [Online]
Available at: http://www.fao.org/state-of-food-security-nutrition
[Accessed 3 May 2020].
Floros et al., 2010. Feeding the World Today and Tomorrow: The Importance of Food Science and Technology. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 9, 572-599.
Paarlberg, RL., 2002. The real threat to GM crops in poor countries: consumer and policy resistance to GM foods in rich countries. Food Policy, 27, pp247–50.
By Chikomborero Chiobvu
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a lot of uncertainty among businesses and small agricultural companies. Due to lockdowns and stay at home orders around the world, many companies have been hit hard and are trying to see if they will survive this period and post lockdown. However, one thing that remains constant is people need to eat.
More people practice social distancing and avoid leaving their homes, causing the meal-kit subscriptions to be extremely popular. Meal-kit subscriptions are services that allow people to choose recipes online and have all the ingredients sent to their doors (Olito, 2020).
As many countries face complete lockdowns, companies such as Hello Fresh, and South Africa´s Ucook, have seen a surge in orders over the course of the lockdown and stay at home orders. Ucook saw its demand increase by 25% since the beginning of March (Richard Holmes, 2020).
Fresh produce makes part of the ingredients that are placed in these meal kits, thus making this a potential industry that small produce farmers could consider post lockdown. Life might not get back to what it was, the ability to adapt to these changes is what will set businesses apart. A potential venture that small produce farmers could take is partnering with meal-kit companies as well as start their meal-kit businesses in an attempt to diversify their product portfolio and ensure stable cash flow.
Restaurants could also follow the meal-kit trend by providing their popular dishes in meal kit form. This allows their consumers to enjoy their favorite meals in the comfort of their own homes. This business expansion also allows for a flow in the value chain as farmers can continue providing to their customers in the restaurant industry.
Olito, F., 2020. My HelloFresh meal delivery kit is a surprise game-changer during the coronavirus pandemic. Here are 6 reasons why. [Online]
Available at: https://www.insider.com/hellofresh-subscription-during-coronavirus-2020-4
[Accessed 26 April 2020].
Richard Holmes, 2020. UCOOK is on fire. [Online]
Available at: https://www.businesslive.co.za/fm/life/food/2020-04-16-ucook-is-on-fire/
[Accessed 26 April 2020].
Original article can be found on: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-small-produce-farmers-could-adapt-pandemic-chikomborero-chiobvu/?trackingId=Db7wrNdUZSLp7XRPG%2BNzMg%3D%3D
If you have any interests or concerns, you can contact the writer via: email@example.com
By Adelene van Zyl
Source: Brian McKenna, 2020
The agricultural sector is sometimes forgotten in the South African economy since it only contributes approximately 3% to our GDP. However, in this time, the importance of agriculture is being amplified. Food shortages keep on increasing as citizens face retrenchment due to Covid-19 regulations. South Africans are dependent, now more than ever, on the agricultural sector to keep on providing food for a hungry nation.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said that the government currently tries to balance the Covid-19 spread and the food supply chain. Movement of food is still dangerous since it is labour intensive, however, human interaction must be limited to prevent the spread of the disease. Zweli also said that SASSA (South African Social Security Agency) is overburdened to provide food parcels in poor areas.
The agricultural sector is forced to keep on providing services, feed, food and commodities, while keeping their labour force clean and safe. Reidy (2020) stated that the demand for flour increased rapidly as consumers started stockpiling flour and other grain-based foods. Millers said that they are putting in all efforts to produce adequate flour, but they are concerned about border closures and lockdown regulations preventing them to transport flour to the necessary locations.
The biggest concern for the agricultural sector is currently logistics. This entails the labour force, human interactions, hygiene and movement of products through borders. Companies were forced to increase hygiene standards and precautionary measures, as well as to decrease the number of employees to limit human interaction. Economist Scott Irwin stated his concern for the virus contaminating food plants. Not only will this be difficult to measure, but it will spread the virus much faster than what the country can handle. Professor Gary Schnitkey said that this is only a matter of time until a food plant gets infected and that our concern should be on how it will be handled when it happens.
The grain and oilseeds trade body COCERAL, the vegetable oil and protein meal association FEDIOL and the European Compound Feed Manufacturers' Federation (FEFAC) issued a joint statement on 17 March 2020 regarding EU restrictions on agricultural commodities. They said that the risk for food shortages will increase if current restrictions persist, which might prevent the population to access regular food supplies. They also stated that they are taking all actions required to avoid disruptions in the food supply chains and to ensure that all parties will receive the raw agricultural products and ingredients they need. South Africa also has special regulations for the transport of agricultural products. You can read through these regulations and updates on GrainSA’s website: https://www.grainsa.co.za/pages/news--events/events/covid-19-updates.
South Africans can be assured that our agricultural sector will be able to produce enough food, however, necessary actions need to take place to improve the efficiency of the transportation of agricultural products. Any food commodity that can be supplied is extremely important now, however, the most important commodity during this time is flour. Milling operations has to keep on receiving wheat from farmers and deliver flour to bakeries for the production of bread, pasta and other grain-based products.
Reidy, S., Lyddon, C. & McKee, D., 2020. COVID-19 impacts agriculture from farm to fork. [Online]
Available at: https://www.world-grain.com/articles/13479-covid-19-impacts-agriculture-from-farm-to-fork
[Accessed 20 04 2020].
By Adelene van Zyl
Photo by Oliver Eggers, Winterton
Food insecurity is becoming a bigger concern as the Covid-19 pandemic spreads across the world. In South Africa, the agricultural sector normally does not contribute a large percentage to the GPD. However, the agricultural sector is currently playing an important role in order to sustain South Africa’s food security during the national lockdown period. The Government has already provided various support measures to the country and its citizens. On 6 April 2020, the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform also acted swiftly in providing support for local farmers. Minister Thoko Didiza announced relief strategies for farmers during the Covid-19 outbreak.
The department has made R 1.2 billion available for farmers, focusing mainly on struggling small-scale farmers. This fund is allocated into four main channels. The first channel is the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy Programme. The second channel focus on the poultry industry, which aims its resources on day old chicks, point of lay chickens, feed, medication and sawdust. The third channel focuses on livestock feed and medication. The last channel focus on vegetable production, aiming the resources on seedlings, fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides and soil correction. The Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy Programme has been allocated R 400 million, while the rest of the fund is allocated to the other three channels.
Farmers can apply for support from this fund and will be evaluated on a case by case basis. There are, however, a few criteria that must be met for a farmer to receive financial support. The first criterium is that the farmer must be a South African citizen and must have been farming actively for a minimum of twelve months and must also currently be in the production season. The second requirement is that the farmer must be registered as a farmer or on a commodity or provincial database. Other requirements are that the farmer must be a small-scale farmer must have an annual turnover between R50 000 and R1 million. This process of allocating funds towards farmers will prioritize women, youth and people with disabilities.
The department also mentioned exclusions from applying for this fund, such as debt payments, mechanisation, infrastructure and overhead costs. Farmers who are preparing for the summer production of 2020 will also not be supported, since the focus is on relieving current pressure due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Farmers who are already supported through other programmes of government will also not be supported by this fund.
Struggling farmers are encouraged to apply for this fund from before 22 April 2020 since no late entries will be accepted. Farmers can find the application forms on www.dalrrd.gov.za and submit the applications electronically to firstname.lastname@example.org or submitted to the offices as stated on the application.
Photo of Minister Thoko Didiza (Phakathi, 2020)
Minister Thoko Didiza encouraged the farmers with this statement: “I urge all employers within the sector to fully comply with all the acceptable prescripts. Together, as stakeholders within the sector we have a mandate to ensure that there is access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food for our country.”
Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform, 2020. Minister Thoko Didiza announces interventions to assist agricultural sector during Coronavirus COVID-19 lockdown. [Online]
Available at: https://www.gov.za/speeches/minister-thoko-didiza-announces-interventions-assist-agricultural-sector-during-coronavirus [Accessed 10 April 2020].
Phakathi, B., 2020. Distressed farmers to get access to R1.2bn government grant. [Online]
Available at: https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/national/2020-04-06-distressed-farmers-to-get-access-to-r12bn-government-grant/ [Accessed 10 April 2020].
By Amy Grundling
Fruit trees set more fruit than what they can structurally support or properly develop. This occur more often in trees that was not pruned during the previous season. The excessive fruit remain small due to increased competition for carbohydrates and other nutrients. This increased demand for carbohydrates weakens the tree, which makes it more susceptible to pests, diseases and water stress. Excessive fruit in one season can also cause the tree to have alternate bearing or limb breakage. Thinning the fruit is therefore necessary to prevent these problems.
Fruit thinning is the removal of certain flowers and fruitletts after fruit and natural dropping have occurred. The benefits of thinning immature fruits include:
There are two main thinning methods that are used, which include hand- and pole-thinning. Hand thinning is slower than pole thinning, but more accurate. Hand-thinning is when some fruits are removed to ensure the remaining fruits do not touch each other at maturity. Therefore, on short spurs only 2 to 3 fruits can be left. On long branches fruits that are double, small, disfigured and damaged fruits should be removed. Pole-thinning involves using a pole due to the size of the tree which is too large for hand-thinning. A cloth is attached to the tuber hose at the end of the pole, to decrease bruising of fruits and branches.
The amount of fruits that should be thinned depends on the species and the individual tree’s fruit load. Stone fruits such as apricots and plums are small, therefore they should be thinned 5 cm to 10 cm apart from the branch. Nectarines and peaches are larger fruit, therefore they should be thinned 7.5 cm to 12.5 cm. Unlike stone fruits, which produce one fruit per bud, pome fruits produce cluster fruits on one bud. Therefore, pome fruits need to be thinned so that one fruit per bud are available to develop. The overall rule is that for every 15 cm of branch there should be one fruit.
Thinning should be done at the correct time of season depending on the type of specie. The method and amount of fruit thinning is also determined by the species of the tree. Thinning is an important management practice in the fruit industry to develop a constant fruit yield every year of high quality.
By Amy Grundling & Renée Grundling
Having your own vegetable garden may be a dream come true hobby or simply a way to reduce grocery costs and improve a quality way of life. Growing your own vegetables puts you in charge of what is entering your body. You decide what you want to grow, how you want to grow it and how you want to treat it with nutrients and pesticides. You can therefore decrease unwanted elements frequently used in commercial farming and increase the organic nature of your diet.
Given our current Covid-19 situation, a vegetable garden can become a sustainable and safer solution to obtaining fresh produce. Not only will you avoid contact with contaminated grocery stores, but this will also keep you busy in self isolation or quarantine. Gardening has many health benefits including improving your state of mind, wellbeing and developing a sense of place and responsibility in your home. You may even enjoy the sun, fresh air and birds chirping while you tend your garden.
South Africa is entering its Autumn and Winter months, an ideal time to plant various types of vegetables depending on your location in South Africa. One can use the information below (Seeds for Africa, 2020) as a guide:
Seeds for Africa, 2020. VEGETABLE PLANTING GUIDES. [Online]
Available at: https://www.seedsforafrica.co.za/pages/western-cape-vegetable-planting-chart-1
By Adelene van Zyl
Compost is decomposed organic matter, which aids in plant growth. Compost ensures that plants can easily absorb nutrients from the decomposed organic matter. It keeps your soil healthy and ensures that the soil contains all the necessary nutrients. It is therefore important to consider what you add to your compost heap to prevent over supply of one nutrient and under supply of another.
Composting is a cost-effective way to ensure healthy plant growth from a small garden to a commercial farm. However, it is important to understand that generating compost from a sustainable compost heap will take time. Give yourself a time-span of one year for the compost heap to fully become sustainable and generating good quality compost.
How to structure a compost heap:
You can use any large container, depending on how much compost you want over a long period. The type of container is also not set. However, do consider limitations of materials and modify your container accordingly. If you use a plastic container, ensure holes on the side for aeration. If you use a wood container, ensure holes underneath to allow water penetration and preventing rot. The principle of making a sustainable compost heap is to use what you have.
Layers of a compost heap:
There are different methods one can use to determine how many layers should be in the compost heap and what plant materials you should use in each layer. The following is a basic example and should be altered according to what you have available.
The first layer is your ‘browns’ which consist of branches and leaves which already appear brown. This can be divided as separate layers as well. Examples are mulch from a chopped tree, old branches and leaves.
The second layer is your ‘greens’ which consist of freshly cut grass, fruits and vegetables. This is the layer where you can use any plant-based material. Examples are fruit and vegetable peels, rotten fruits and vegetables, used coffee or tea bags and eggshells. Make sure that no yeast-based products are added in the compost heap, as this will cause mold growth and ruin the whole compost heap.
The third layer is soil or manure. This layer need not be as thick as the other layers, but it is necessary to optimize the breakdown of the other two layers. You can add these layers on top of each other as indicated on the figure.
How to take care of your compost heap:
It is important to water the compost heap at least once every second week. This will aid in the breakdown of organic matter. You should also mix your compost heap at least once a month to ensure proper breakdown of the plant material. If you want to speed up the process, you can add compost activator as indicated on its package. Compost activator is usually added once one set of the three layers are present or when there is a large amount of browns relative to the greens.
By Lize Reinecke, Amy Grundling & Adelene van Zyl
Fertigation is the process of nutrient application through irrigation where nutrients are introduced to the watering system used for irrigation. Fertigation can be applied either through a drip or a spray irrigation technique. It is used to regulate the amount and duration of fertilizer application, the dilution of the fertilizer in the water as well as the start and ending times of the fertigation process.
In the nursery industry fertigation has become increasingly popular due to the high efficiency rate. Most growers use injectors to mix concentrated fertilizer solution into the irrigation system. A large variety of injector are available to meet the different needs of any size nursery. Well-designed systems can be monitored at different stages in the process to ensure that the injectors work efficiently and that the plant receive the correct amount of nutrients.
The nutrient solutions are prepared in stock tanks from where it is injected into the irrigation water tanks. For fertilizer to mix with irrigation water, the fertilizer must be at a higher pressure than the irrigation water, that is why it is referred to the fertilizer being injected into the irrigation water.
Types of Fertigation
There are four categories into which fertigation can be placed: Continuous, Three Stage, Proportional and Quantitative Application. The choice will depend on crop response and the risk of excessive nutrient runoff.
Advantages and Disadvantages
The advantages of fertigation include the precise control of both the concentration and balance of nutrients, an equal distribution of fertilizer, increased penetration of fertilizer in soil, decrease in nitrogen loss and nutrient solutions can easily be customised for any plant growth stage or species. Disadvantages of fertigation include high levels of toxicity in the irrigation system which can damage nursery crops and the environment, frequent mixing and applying of liquid fertilizers increase labour cost, clogging of irrigation pipes and exposure to high levels of fertilizer may result into health problems.
Fertigation can be applied from a small nursery to large commercial farming. This method enables farmers to lower their input cost through precision farming and maximise their production. However, it is important that fertigation systems to be monitored and managed frequently to prevent any damage.