While North America’s farmers pin their career hopes on the need to feed a hungry Africa, that continent’s farmers are making plans of their own
A core belief in North American agriculture is that our farmers must produce ever more food if we are to have any hope of feeding the world, particularly areas like Africa where the population is growing so rapidly.
The numbers are indeed staggering.
According to the Population Reference Bureau, Africa’s population will hit 2.5 billion by 2050, and the United Nations estimates that Africa’s share of the global population will increase from 16 per cent in 2015 to 25 per cent in 2050 and 39 per cent in 2100.
These statistics certainly do underscore the need for additional food. But what about the other half of the equation. Yes, demand will rise. But will that demand have to be met by imports?
Some African farm leaders are convinced that agricultural development on the continent will see Africa, led by South Africa, feed itself in the decades to come, meaning it will actually reduce its reliance on the global community for its food security.
Realistically, it may set its sights even higher.
“Agriculture accounts for 65 per cent of the continent’s employment,” said Dr. Klaus Eckstein, CEO of Bayer South Africa, at a recent conference of agricultural journalists in South Africa. “Africa has the potential to be self-sustaining as well as to feed the world. We can produce crops that match the standards of leading countries around the world.”
His words were echoed by Dr. John Purchase, CEO of the Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa, who stated that revitalizing the agriculture and agri-processing value chain is at the top of nine major focus areas for growth in the country.
It’s not easy farming in South Africa, he added, citing political problems, land reform policies, and water scarcity as significant challenges. The current drought across the Southern and Western Cape areas of the country, a major horticultural production area, is the worst in more than a century, for example.
“Africa is where big population growth will come in the next 35 years… it’s a massive opportunity for agriculture but also a critical risk if we don’t get it right,” Purchase said. “For example, how we manage our water is critical to the future, but we have diversity in South Africa where we can produce a whole range of crops from tropical through to livestock production.”
Progress is already being made with South African farmers and marketers starting to grow sales on their own continent instead of in Europe or elsewhere.
According to Purchase, Africa has become a growing destination for South African agricultural exports since the global economic downturn in 2008 that affected the country’s long-established export markets, particularly in Europe.
“By far since 2008, Africa is our destination; more than 50 per cent of our agricultural export goes into Africa,” Purchase said, attributing a large portion of this success to South African supermarket chains expanding into neighbouring countries like Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mauritius and Zimbabwe.
The change is particularly evident in the fruit and vegetable sector. According to the South African Produce Marketing Association, Africa has surged to number two in the top five major export markets for African fruit, behind only the European Union, and ahead of Asia, the Middle East, United Kingdom and Russia.
In vegetables, Africa is also the second most popular destination, accounting for just over 34 per cent of all fresh vegetable exports from South Africa; 83 per cent of potatoes, 80 per cent of carrots, 78 per cent of garlic, 76 per cent of ginger, 54 per cent of cucumbers and 34 per cent of tomatoes stay on the continent.
“Africa is the only part in the world where land can still be brought into production; the countries with the biggest growth potential in Africa and potential for South African farmers are in western and eastern Africa,” said Lindie Stroebel, CEO of the Produce Marketing Association. “Local procurement has become a priority for some supermarkets to address complications of transportation and border crossing.”
This evolution is evidence of the forward-thinking attitude of many leading farmers in South Africa despite the risks posed by infrastructure challenges, climate change, government policies and a growing number of brutal attacks on predominantly white farmers in the country.
Brylene Chitsunge is one such example, having bought her 1,000-acre farm near Pretoria in 2010. The feisty black farm leader raises Kalahari red goats, a breed of African cattle called Nguni, pigs, ostrich, rabbits and chickens, as well as growing vegetable and fruit crops.
Innovation and collaboration are the name of the game on her farm, where she’s willing to try just about anything to see if it will succeed, with the rule being “everything has to produce.”
Chitsunge’s small tomato crop now fills 10 greenhouses and is sold to over 200 restaurants as well as in leading South African retail chains like Pick n Pay and SPAR. She invented an overhead spray system for her greenhouses to help her produce a consistent, quality crop — each 1,000-plant greenhouse will produce about 10 tons of tomatoes.
“Quality, sustainability and appearance are very important,” Chitsunge said, adding that technology can help farmers add value. “I have cameras to stream video of my veggie fields or my chickens laying eggs for customers and I can remote-view my farm from anywhere.”
She’s also an outspoken advocate for advancing women and small-holder farmers, and for the need for education to build Africa’s agricultural future.
“It’s a value train, not a value chain,” Chitsunge says. “Education is so important, and if we get that right, it’s time for Africa,” she said.
The Schoeman family has been growing citrus in South Africa for almost a century, and the family business ships oranges, lemons, and mandarins from its almost 3,500 acres northeast of Pretoria to 32 countries around the world, including Canada.
They’re in the midst of building a new pack house to accommodate new plantings of mandarins and lemons, and are transitioning towards bio-friendly production, always with an eye to the future.
“If my neighbour’s farm goes up for sale, I would buy it; we have such a strong belief in South Africa,” said family patriarch Kallie Schoeman, a former South African national farmer of the year whose self-proclaimed motto is: “Get bigger, get better or get out.”
ZZ2 is one of South Africa’s largest produce companies, growing tomatoes, avocados, mangoes, and more, as well as raising stud cattle and weaners. The family-owned business employs almost 10,000 people in primary agriculture throughout South Africa, and uses a consistently updated framework to lead company development for the next 12 months.
That includes constantly adding new crops, new land, new technologies, and new markets as well as continually seeking out new opportunities.
For example, ZZ2 recently added almost 30 acres of cherries which strategically ripen about the time when British Columbia’s crop ends — making the company the only one in the world with fresh cherries for a six-week period, said ZZ2’s CEO Tommie van Zyl.
“We never thought we’d have a product that was so wanted it is being flown out — they’re flying to Hong Kong right now,” van Zyl said.
It’s a pattern that is repeated more and more, with horticulture creating models for other farmers to follow.
“We are building ZZ2 for the future, and the way we see things developing, it will represent in the future what South Africa looks like,” said van Zyl. “The future is more important than the past… we are inspired by what we think we can become.”
The attack marks a shocking new development in a crisis that sees more than three rhinos killed every day in their southern African homelands. Trade in rhino horn is completely illegal but demand from Vietnam and China fuels poaching and smuggling, putting the rhinos at risk of extinction.
Rhino horn is made of keratin – the same material as human fingernails – but an urban myth about a senior Vietnamese figure being cured of cancer pushed up demand in recent years and as its price rose, it has become a status symbol and hangover tonic. Longer-standing uses such as a supposed fever treatment in traditional Chinese medicine and as ornamental carvings have also driven up prices.
With the prices high and, until recently, the penalties very low, international organised crime networks mobilised to supply the illegal trade – wildlife trafficking is a multi-billion dollar enterprise only surpassed by the smuggling of drugs, arms and people.
The zoo raid, and thefts from museums across Europe in recent years, reveal how the criminals have been keeping ahead of authorities. “The criminal networks involved have shown themselves to be far more innovative and utterly ruthless,” said Julian Rademeyer, an expert on rhino horn at Traffic, the leading wildlife trade monitoring organisation. “They are often outthinking law enforcement and government regulations, finding new loopholes to exploit.”
The criminals have even shown a brazen marketing flair: the idea that powdered rhino horn is an aphrodisiac began as a western myth, said Rademeyer, but the syndicates latched on to it and now sell wine laced with rhino horn as aphrodisiacs in Vietnam.
Rademeyer and all the key wildlife trade groups decline to detail the current price of rhino horn, for fear of encouraging more crime. But it is public knowledge that the horn peaked in price at about $65,000 a kilogram in 2012. It is thought to have fallen significantly since then, though it remains many times more valuable than elephant ivory.
There has been a crackdown on poaching in South Africa, home to about 70% of all rhinos, but killings have spiked in Namibia and Zimbabwe as poachers seek easier targets.
“There have been warnings for the last four to five years that zoos need to tighten up security,” Rademeyer said. Police are visiting every zoo and wildlife park in the UK that houses rhinos – 111 in total – to provide security advice.
Rademeyer said there have been hundreds of rhino horn thefts across Europe in recent years. In 2016, seven men received lengthy jail sentences in the UK over a series of museum raids which targeted horns and jade artefacts estimated to be worth over £50m.
However, the epicentre of the rhino crisis remains in southern Africa, where poor young men are willing to risk their lives by poaching. They receive just a tiny fraction of the horns’ ultimate value, but even a few hundred dollars is a huge sum in their communities.
Hundreds of poachers have been killed in the last seven years and a much smaller but significant number of rangers, soldiers and policemen have also died. “People have limited sympathy for poachers but I think [their poverty] is a reality that has to be grappled with,” said Rademeyer.
“Shooting and jailing the poachers is not a long term solution,” he said. “They are very easy [for the crime syndicates] to find and very easy to exploit. Whether they get killed or arrested means very little to the syndicates, and the same applies to the couriers. The kingpins who are making the big money are getting away with it.”
Rademeyer said police cooperation is crucial to tackling the global rhino horn trade: “You are dealing with very sophisticated transnational organised crime syndicates in many cases and yet your law enforcement is hampered by international borders. Police tend to police their own backyard.” He says campaigns in Asia to stigmatise rhino horn use are important too, and have helped cut the shark fin trade.
The Paris poaching also raises the controversial question of whether a legalised trade in rhino horn, harvested sustainably from wild or farmed animals, could destroy the black market. Many nations and organisations strongly oppose the idea, saying it would simply allow illegal horns to be laundered with fake permits, but South Africa backs the idea.
Duan Biggs, a researcher at Griffith University in Australia, said: “The issue is complex, but a well managed and enforced legal trade that is structured to fund rhino protection and deliver community benefits is likely to work better than the status quo.” He accepts some people might find it unethical, but said: “I think that poaching a rhino in a zoo or in the wild is even more morally repugnant than a well regulated legal trade.”
However, a legalised rhino horn trade is unlikely any time soon. Swaziland made such a proposal at an international wildlife trade summit in Johannesburg in September and it was soundly defeated.
Rademeyer remains cautiously optimistic that the perilous decline of the world’s rhino can be reversed, pointing to their comeback from the brink of extinction in the 1950s. “We have beaten this before,” he said.
By Mathias Ringa
The tourism industry in Kenya faces a glimmer of hope with increased international flight bookings for the summer season up by 27.7 per cent compared to last year, according to the latest data from ForwardKeys.
ForwardKeys, a global organization that monitors future travel patterns by analysing 14 million daily reservation transactions, indicates that bookings made for the beginning of May onwards show that nearly all the top African destinations are seeing a soar in international arrivals.
Namibia tops the list, up 31.2 per cent on the previous year, with Kenya in second place, up 27.7 per cent followed by South Africa with an increase of 21.6 per cent.
In a press statement, ForwardKeys Chief Executive Officer Olivier Jager said: “It’s clear that recent events have impacted travel to North African countries, especially Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia which are all showing a marked decline in tourist numbers.
“However, the picture in Sub-Saharan Africa has changed, with most countries showing very positive increases, such as Namibia, Kenya and South Africa.”
On Saturday, Kenya Tourism Board acting managing director, Jacinta Nzioka, confirmed that international flight bookings for the country had increased by more than 20 per cent.
She said bookings for summer July to October were on the rise due to improved security in the country and especially at the Coast.
Ms Nzioka explained that leading tour operators and travel agents from the traditional markets of Germany, UK, Italy, Switzerland and France were now selling Kenya in the wake of peace enjoyed in the country.
She also attributed the surge to the government’s reduction of park entry fees from Sh9,000 per international visitor to Sh6,000 and the waiving of visa fees for children below 16 years.
On the other hand, Ms Nzioka said the Sh1.2 billion charter incentive programme which was announced by the government last year had attracted some chartered airlines from Europe.
SOMETHING TO SMILE ABOUT
She noted that some charter airlines from Europe are expected to resume flights to Mombasa during the summer season thereby contributing to the rise.
Ms Nzioka said Tourism minister Najib Balala and the KTB team had been aggressively marketing the country in both traditional and emerging markets to help revive the sector.
She said the marketing campaigns were done in Germany, UK, Italy, France – among other source markets – to win back the confidence of leading sector players.
In an interview with the Nation on the sidelines of South African Travel Show, Indaba 2016 that began on Saturday in Durban, Ms Nzioka said KTB was also focusing on attracting tourists from Africa.
“We are participating in Indaba, which is the largest travel trade fair in Africa, so that we can woo more African holidaymakers to our country,” she said.
“We expect tourist arrivals from South Africa to increase by 20 per cent this year compared to 30,000 tourists last year.”
Karen Blixen Camp managing director Ronald Mutie, added that international tourist bookings for the summer season had jumped by over 20 per cent compared to last year.
He said the Camp had registered impressive bookings for the summer, mainly from Scandinavian countries: Denmark and Norway.
“We have also bookings from the US, UK and Australian markets, with the visitors coming to the country for safari,” he said.
Since March, several chartered airlines from Europe have entered deals with the government to resume flights to Mombasa during the Summer period and in return they will benefit from the charter incentives.
As the ICT sector grows in Botswana, government is already grappling with e-waste management and has put out calls to influence disposal e-waste safely.
The Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) and Department of Waste Management and Pollution Control (DWMPC) are spearheading government’s initiative to promote safe disposing of e-waste.
Through collaboration with Pretoria-based Africa Institute, an international NGO for sound management of hazardous waste and other chemicals, DWMPC has produced a video expected to promote safe disposing of waste.
According to DWMPC the video shows the situation of e-waste in Botswana, the private sector and public institution initiatives and recycling of e-waste in South Africa and Namibia.
“It is hoped this video will create awareness on the potential dangers of poor handling and disposal of e-waste in our society and stimulate private sector efforts towards resource recovery and recycling of this waste,” said Frank Molaletsi from DWMPC, waste management department.
In 1998 Botswana’s legislators promulgated the country’s Waste Management Act, and the piece of legislation is silent on issues of e-waste.
And in another initiative DWMPC has put out a tender to engage a consultancy to develop an Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Policy to address the shortcomings and gaps in the existing waste management legislation including the sound management of e-Waste.
“Funds have been secured for this exercise. This policy will pave way for the development of an overarching legislation that will address waste management issues holistically,” said Molaletsi.
Adding sentiments to issues of e-waste Mphoeng Tamasiga, Deputy Chief Executive at BOCRA said; “The reality is that once our communications gadgets reach the end of their useful life they become waste, not just any waste but electronic waste or e-waste.”
Tamasiga said electronic waste is currently regarded as the largest growing waste stream, posing the most diverse challenges, including environmental, economic and social aspects because of its hazardous and complex nature.
Representatives of the governments of South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Germany and Norway and representatives of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) also attended the meeting.
The objective of the meeting was to showcase the Commission as a tested contemporary inter-governmental institution that contributes tangibly towards sustainable development; demonstrate the BCC as a significant return on development partners’ and member states’ investments over the past 20 years; mobilise and secure the resources necessary for the long-term sustainability of the Commission, the achievements of the objectives of the Benguela Current Convention and the implementation of the Strategic Action Programme (2015 to 2019); and to coordinate and harmonise donor support, thereby avoiding duplication of donor efforts through partnerships and closer collaborations.
Outcomes of conference
- The governments of Angola, Namibia and South Africa, their partners and supporters emphasised that the Benguela current large marine ecosystem should be promoted and protected as an asset so that the people of the region may derive optimal economic and social benefits its resources, while environmental threats to the health of the ecosystem should be mitigated.
- The governments of Angola, Namibia and South Africa also emphasised the active role they play in the BCC, noting that they have contributed and continue to contribute substantial monetary and in-kind resources to the operations and functions of the BCC.
- The governments of Angola, Namibia and South Africa further indicated their sincere appreciation for the funding and support their development partners have contributed to the development of the BCC.
- The long-standing partners of the BCC pledged to continue their support for the positive regional cooperation that has been and continues to be a hallmark of the BCC.
- The government of Germany pledged €8.9m to support a five-year marine spatial planning project.
- The Global Environment Facility pledged $10.9m to support the further development of the BCC as an institution.
- The United Nations Development Programme pledged its ongoing support to the BCC.
- The Norwegian government reiterated its support to the BCC, saying it remains faithful to the organisation’s objectives.
- Mining company, Namdeb, pledged its intention to collaborate and partner with the BCC.
Namibia will host the fifth International Symposium and Annual Conference of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Tourism (GPST) from Feb 23 to 25 next year.
The GPST is an initiative under the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to introduce sustainable principles into mainstream global tourism.
It aims to make tourism more sustainable by affiliating with governments, destinations, enterprises and consumers in the tourism supply chain to implement projects which are innovative and transformative.
The event will take place under the theme “Advancing sustainable tourism: Securing the legacy of our cultural and natural heritage”.
Namibia made a bid to host the event in March this year and in June received green light to go ahead with the conference.
Minister of Environment and Tourism Uahekua Herunga said the GPST was recognising Namibia‘s achievements in becoming one of the world’s leading destinations working to find the most effective balance between conservation, tourism and community development.
“Namibia is ready to showcase to the world the spirit of a nation committed to conservation and community empowerment through social and economic transformation, partnerships and innovation,” he said.