IDC creates fund for African farming sector

Kgampi Bapela, Head of Agro-Processing and Agriculture at the IDC talks to Miliswa Cawe ahead of IATF in Durban, South Africa about key issues affecting the Agriculture sector.

Agriculture plays a key role in the lives of many Africans with millions reliant on subsistence agriculture for their very survival. What is your organisation doing to lend support to African farmers’ activities?

The IDC has identified the underutilised, yet arable land belonging to rural communities as a pocket of high impact potential. To this end the IDC has partnered with The National Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development  (DALRRD) to create a R1BN fund to facilitate commercialisation of the small to medium scale farmers. The IDC Mandate also spans the African continent where IDC partners with local promoters to develop large scale commercial enterprises.

With a rapidly growing population, Africa needs to grow more food. How can we do so, while moving away from the continent being a net importer of food-stuffs?

We can increase food production by adoption of the use of new technologies in production i.e water-saving irrigation methods and improved cultivars, and taking advantage of the continent’s unique micro climates which are counter cyclical to the Northern hemisphere.

Currently, agriculture is said to contribute about 30% of manmade GHG emissions. With the world’s attention being focused on climate change thanks to COP26, what are your thoughts on how African agriculture can contribute to reducing GHG emissions?

We need to be adopting the use of green technologies such as solar and wind energy to contribute to a reduction in these types of emissions.

Deforestation is a major factor in the rise of global carbon emissions and agriculture has a role with the requisition of more land for agricultural purposes. How can we resolve this conundrum?

New technologies, such as vertical production systems which save water and space, can address some of the issues around land use. Development of new technology more suitable for urban farming can enable production all year round due to controlled environments, and is one of several possible solutions.

There is a debate regarding the desirability of large-scale commercial farms as opposed to small-scale subsistence farming. Do you have a view on this, can we go for a happy medium, or a collaboration between the two?

There is space and a role for both; large scale farming is very important in that it reduces the cost of production while meeting the ever increasing demand for food. On the other hand small scale farmers play an important role in food security – especially for the rural poor. However, the two can work together – large scale producers contracting small scale farmers as out growers and providing a route to market for them while offering technical support to these growers.

We are seeing more heat-waves, droughts and floods in Africa, almost certainly signs of global warming. In view of this, how can we best support Africa’s farmers in facing these challenges?

We can support the farming community by developing heat and drought resistant cultivars (research); the adoption of intensive greenhouse production environmentally controlled tunnels, and water management techniques.