Speech by the Premier at the launch of the Female Entrepreneur Awards 2015

Speech by the Premier of the Northern Cape, Ms Sylvia Lucas at the Launch of the Female Entrepreneur Awards 2015,Mothibistad Multipurpose Centre, Kuruman, 6 August 2015

Programme Director, Councillor Seweditse Gaobusiwe
Colleagues in the Executive Council
Members of the Provincial Legislatue
Executive Mayors and Councillors
Magosi present
Organised Agriculture
Ladies and Gentlemen
Comrades and Friends

I am always greatly excited and optimistic to celebrate excellence by women in areas that have been dominated by males for many centuries. As we gather here for the 16th anniversary of these prestigious awards, I am reminded of the words of Vincent Lombardi, a former American footballer and coach that stated that, “The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavour.” Tonight we are here to recognise and acknowledge women that have proven that however daunting the field of agriculture may seem they were able to succeed and excel as a result of hard work and commitment.

Program Direkteur, vanaand behoort aan die briljante vroue wat dit gewaag het in 'n gebied wat vir baie jare, die eksklusiewe terrein van mans was. Hulle het vry gebreek van die kettings van klein skaalse, oorlewings- produksie en hul regmatige plek in die hoofstroom van landbou geneem.

Belangriker nog; is die feit dat hulle 'n groot bydrae maak tot die pogings van hierdie ANC-Regering maak om by te dra tot voedselsekerheid in ons provinsie en in ons land in die algemeen. Hierdie vroumense dra definitief by tot die bou van 'n gesonde, sterk en welvarende nasie. Ons wil ons hoede afhaal vir hierdie uitmuntende vroue van ons provinsie en ons dra hierdie aand op aan hul uitstaande prestasies.

This year these awards are held under the theme “Uniting to empower women to achieve economic freedom through agriculture, forestry and fisheries”. This event is held annually during Women’s Month in order to also acknowledge the role played by women in society at large and the emancipation of black people in the country of their birth.

The women we are honouring tonight have given practical meaning to the ideals that those brave women activists of our country such as Bertha Gxowa, Lilian Ngoyi, Rahima Moosa and Helen Joseph stood for. These are the ideals of equality and women empowerment.

This year as we celebrate 21 years of our attainment of democracy, we are reminded that women have always been in the forefront of the struggle for freedom and equality. From the drafting of the Freedom Charter in 1955 that declared that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, Black and White, to the women's petition against pass laws on the 9th of August 1956. Women have always fought united across colour lines with a common vision of preserving their right to freedom and equality.

Programme Director, today, 21 years on, the struggle for our women has shifted towards the creation of a better life within society and to ensure their economic emancipation and participation in the mainstream economy within the agricultural sector. Women want to be part of the second phase of the radical transformation of our society which will see them play a meaningful role within the agricultural sector.

We need to transcend the barriers which put women only as suppliers of labour within the sector but we must develop them into active contributors to the sector.  Women by nature are nurturers and it stands to reason that they should play a critical role in the provision of food. There are two basic variants of household food production that find expression within sub-Saharan Africa. One is where women are responsible for production of all or most food crops, in this variant, food plots are considered women plots. In the second variant, men and women jointly cultivate staple food crops in fields controlled by male household heads. In this type of variant, men are responsible for food production while women specialize in food processing.

However, we have seen a significant shift in the changing economic situations with one of the significant changes noted being the increased participation of women in agriculture as their male counterparts migrate to other economic activities. It has thus become important for the Department of Agriculture, in conjunction with the National Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), to invest more in women farmers to ensure food security within our Province and country in general.

As part of our sustainable agrarian reform programme, we seek to improve access to affordable and diverse foods. This we do through the provision of production inputs to different community projects, school food gardens and institutional food gardens. This seeks to ensure improved yields of crops for greater food security.

Agriculture is about all the agricultural input, provision, farming, processing and distribution activities that add value to agricultural activities. Our awards this evening seeks to recognise all the role players within the sector. We also recognise the significant role played by farm workers, who are the mainstay of any agricultural activity. Agriculture is an important engine for growth and poverty alleviation given its infinite nature and its ability to re-engineer itself with good management of natural resources and good management and conservation of this resource.

Women make an important contribution to, in the main, rural and agricultural economies in most of the developing countries. Women in the rural context continue to manage complex households with the changing profile of our families and they also pursue multiple livelihood strategies which would include, among other things, agricultural food production, tending to animals or livestock, working for wages within the sector and other rural enterprises in order to care and maintain their families.

This projects the role of women as people who can indeed multi task while at the same time taking care of the family while the male folk have migrated to other economic activities. Women contribute greatly to food security at household and national levels and thus it would be important to invest in women headed agricultural projects which would greatly enhance our ability to provide food to the destitute within our communities and societies.

Programme Director, it is thus important that we develop the requisite policy environment in order to deal with the challenges that face women within the agricultural sector. These would be geared towards addressing the historical and patriarchal nature by which agriculture has been organised in order for the sector to give expression to the prominent role that is being played by women in the sector.

We also need to strengthen our institutional capacity in order to give prominence to the role of women, working together with organised agriculture, both commercial and small holder farmers. It is for this reason that we need to ensure a greater role for the Women in Agriculture and Rural Development (WARD) initiative and the Youth in Agriculture and Rural Development (YARD) programs. We need to resuscitate these initiatives to ensure that women and young people play a prominent role within the sector.

It is also important that our extension officers must begin to understand the changing nature of the sector and the leading role that is played by women in food production and food security and make their work more relevant to the major productive activities of women farmers. Women play a significant role in the agricultural labour force and in agricultural activities though to a varying degree. Undoubtedly, the contribution of women to agricultural output is extremely significant and we cannot only recognise their involvement in small scale farming activities.

As we gather here to recognise the role that is played by women in the whole agricultural value chain and award them with these prizes, we wish to at the same time encourage the winners to reinvest the money into their ventures in order to grow their enterprises.

I want to conclude by congratulating all the entrants to this competition because in my mind you are all winners. Those that will not be named as prize winners today should thus not despair. You have demonstrated the determination and will to succeed and therefore through the department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, we will ensure that our officials and extension officers provide the requisite training and support to ensure that you grow your enterprises for the continued provision of food security to our people and development of rural enterprises to anchor comprehensive rural development.

To all our women participants, we say thank you for your efforts and dedication to serving humanity and ensuring that we don’t go hungry. We count on your efforts to help us move South Africa forward through sustainable food production.


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