By Chamu Wilson –
The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senzeni Zokwana, has castigated provincial Members of Executive (MECs) from eight provinces for failing to attend the 8th Biennial National LandCare Conference which kicked off in Bloemfontein on Tuesday (25 September).
Of the nine MECs of agriculture in the country, only the host MEC, Dr Benny Malakoane, was present at the opening day of the three-day conference.
“We are here to deliberate on this important issue, yet there is MECs and the Heads of Department from all the eight provinces are conspicuous by their absence. The question then comes about how do they then go on and implement something that they have not been part of? I call it a betrayal! Public officials are appointed to serve the people and when people behave like this then it is betrayal,” fumed Zokwana.
The minister did not mince his words and said he would call for a meeting with all the MECS and HODs who failed to attend the LandCare Conference. He told delegates that if things are to change, it has to start with the behaviour of public servants.
Zokwana noted that the LandCare initiative was necessitated by the need to redress and rehabilitate land that has been affected by degradation.
“The conference is based on the need to find a way to address the systematic challenges affecting the land. The cost of inaction in the current land degradation cannot be tolerated any longer. My department has made progress in encouraging youth participation in agriculture and land care,” he said.
The minister reiterated the importance of good leadership if land care efforts are to bear any fruit.
“For all these efforts to succeed, there must be good leadership which calls for the ability to lead and exemplify good attributes. This is what our people are looking for.”
Speaking at the same occasion, Free State MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development, Malakoane, underscored the importance of all sectors coming together to make the land care initiative work. He urged government, farmers, non-governmental groups and others to have concerted efforts to ensure that the land does not continue to be degraded by elements of weather.
“The land care initiative involves people coming together to care for the land. The private sector must join hands with state agencies and individuals to set the agenda for the proper use as well as the rehabilitation of the land. Conservation agriculture requires coordination that cuts across all sectors. We should remember that partnerships enhance personal care for the land,” Malakoane said.
The MEC also urged delegates to be wary of the effects of global warming and climate change which has seen unfavourable weather patterns either bringing about too much or too little rain in recent years. He called upon stakeholders to adopt climate-smart methods of farming.
“Climate change has seen changes in temperature and precipitation patterns therefore agriculture must become more resilient and adaptive to the changes in the environment. Farmers should use drought resistant cultivars of crops that have been developed locally to improve productivity,” he said.
The National LandCare Conference is held every two years with the objective of dealing with bad farming practices and land degradation. Provinces rotate in hosting the three-day conference. This year, the conference has seen the attendance of the Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries in the Makueni County in Kenya as well as Professor Elijah Biamah, the professor of Environment and Water Systems at the University of Nairobi.