Ju­di­cious wa­ter use needed in SA – top young farmer

Farmer's Weekly (South Africa) - - Weekly News Wrap -

Re­source con­ser­va­tion, es­pe­cially ju­di­cious wa­ter use, needs to be­come a cru­cial pri­or­ity in South Africa, ac­cord­ing to JP van den Berg, the 2018 Agri SA/Toy­ota Young Farmer of the Year. As South Africa was a wa­ter-scarce coun­try, it was ev­ery cit­i­zen’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to save wa­ter ac­cord­ingly, he said.

Van den Berg, a seed potato pro­ducer near Tosca in North West, aimed to re­duce his own wa­ter use by lim­it­ing the num­ber of ir­ri­gated hectares he had un­der pro­duc­tion, de­spite him hav­ing enough wa­ter to sig­nif­i­cantly ex­pand ir­ri­gated pro­duc­tion.

“Wa­ter is our life­line. It would be fool­ish to chase prof­its at all costs and in the process de­stroy this valu­able, God­given re­source. Wa­ter gives life to ev­ery­thing,” he said.

Van den Berg also strongly ad­vo­cated for people to ad­here to the re­quire­ments per­tain­ing to ir­ri­ga­tion and wa­ter us­age as set out by South African leg­is­la­tion to en­sure long-term, sus­tain­able crop pro­duc­tion.

He added that farm­ing for fi­nan­cial gain only did not make sense.

His farm­ing busi­ness’s mission was thus the op­ti­mal pro­duc­tion of top-qual­ity prod­ucts through the sus­tain­able use of re­sources.

Van den Berg ex­plained that his main focus was on qual­ity, and not on quan­tity. He added that there was a marked dif­fer­ence be­tween ‘max­i­mum’ pro­duc­tion and ‘op­ti­mum’ pro­duc­tion.

“‘Op­ti­mum’ pro­duc­tion refers to the best pos­si­ble out­come us­ing avail­able re­sources such as soil, wa­ter and labour in a sus­tain­able man­ner. [‘Max­i­mum’ pro­duc­tion refers to] out­put without any con­sid­er­a­tion for the sus­tain­abil­ity of re­sources.”

He ex­plained that care­ful plan­ning, re­search and choos­ing the right crop, as well as an em­pha­sis on so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity, would be­come in­creas­ingly im­por­tant in the fu­ture.

“I ap­pre­ci­ate the value of tech­nol­ogy, but would not con­sider em­ploy­ing it should it im­pact neg­a­tively on so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity, namely the pro­vi­sion of jobs. Tech­nol­ogy and its use must cre­ate and not de­stroy jobs.

“The se­crets to suc­cess are prepa­ra­tion, hard work and re­spect for people,”

Van den Berg added.

He also fo­cused on show­ing re­spect for, and clearly com­mu­ni­cat­ing with, ev­ery role player in the value chain. – An­nelie Cole­man

JP Van den Berg

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