Gauteng Premier David Makhura will, on August 31, launch the province’s rapid land release programme, in which he plans to make provincial land and buildings available for the development of human settlements and for urban agriculture projects.
Speaking at the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s annual conference, on Wednesday, he reiterated the provincial government’s assurance to residents of Johannesburg south that they will receive land through the programme, which will allow them to own property with title deeds.
The land release plan is aimed at prioritising the release of land and identifying land parcels that are currently not in use.
Released land will address housing, economic, social cohesion and agricultural needs. Land will, in addition, also be made available for people who want to build houses for themselves, as well as for urban agriculture, township businesses, sports and recreational purposes.
Land parcels that are under review for the programme, Makhura said, are parcels and title deeds owned not just by the private sector, but also by the State.
He explained that releasing these land parcels will provide an opportunity for the province to rapidly transform its economy to include small businesses in all sectors, including that of urban agriculture.
“We need big businesses, enterprises, the finance sector and even universities to concentrate on including the smaller businesses and people, especially since our model of transformation, for some time, was mostly focussed on big businesses,” he said.
Policy and institutional support, as well as opportunities provided by larger businesses for small businesses to procure and buy from them, potentially entering partnerships, will be a step closer to transforming both the province’s and the country’s economy, with greater impact and at greater speed, Makhura told delegates at the conference.
Gauteng has “huge potential and huge industrial capabilities for agroprocessing”, Makhura further pointed out, highlighting that the province’s advantage is in having the biggest market and retail infrastructure to grow the urban agroprocessing sector.
However, in order for urban agriculture to thrive, Makhura pointed out that small-scale farmers, such as those commonly found in township areas, need to have access to the larger market.
Helping with this, he added, is a direct conversation that is being had with these small-scale farmers.
“This conversation is helping us identify what we can do to break the chain and overcome their challenges”.
This approach will, however, not be sustainable if the approach to land reform and land use in Gauteng is based on the assumption that the province doesn’t have land for agriculture, and that all it may be used for is housing and building other industries, such as manufacturing and services, Makhura lamented.
He explained that, the way land is zoned, or how it is being decided it will be used, in the province, is often problematic and based on the misconception that agricultural land in Gauteng does not need to be preserved.
The consequences of having barely any land reserved for urban agriculture, Makhura added, is that the province will need to source its food supplies from the rest of the country, where agricultural production is already under pressure.
“We need to zone land in Gauteng to preserve certain land parcels for food production. I want to see urban food production, side by side with high levels of industrialisation. That is the kind of Gauteng that we want,” he said.
Food production and access thereto, meanwhile, will also need to be brought closer to where people live and meet the needs of the people, particularly those located in townships, he added.
“I want to see an economy in Gauteng which is as diverse as our province is, and which is reflective of all the talents, skills and all of the capabilities of every one of our citizens. Every sector needs to reflect this, including agriculture,” he concluded.