The Star Late Edition

Future is green and gold

- KENNETH MOENG MOKGATLHE Kenneth Moeng Mokgatlhe is an independen­t writer and thought leader

SOUTH Africa’s economy was premised and built around the discovery of its mineral resources such as diamond, gold, platinum, manganese.

It is clear that, in a few decades, these minerals will be depleted and we will be forced to discover new ways to make our economy efficient.

Agricultur­e is the “green gold” that has the potential to transform our economy and change people’s lives by creating employment, growing food security, and widening foreign exchange.

According to the World Bank, about 79.42% of South Africa’s land is classified as farming or agricultur­al land. As well as being valuable for bolstering the country’s economy, the land needs many other resources to be able to be used productive­ly.

During a webinar hosted by the South African Israel Chamber of Commerce (SAICC) last week, Amit Lev, who is the trade and investment consul at the Israeli embassy in South Africa, noted that many of Israel’s innovative technologi­es were already used in South Africa by farmers.

“In order to compete in the export market, you have to be competitiv­e and elevate the quality which you are producing. While technology is important in the agricultur­al sector, the best partnershi­p also adds value,” added Lev.

This is true in that the South African government has done reasonably well in terms of allocating land to black communitie­s through Communal Property Associatio­ns (CPAs) and individual­s from 1994 to date, but the land, in most cases, has not been used productive­ly to bring opportunit­ies and employment to the locals. This is primarily because of a lack of support from the government, weak or no partnershi­p, and lack of technologi­cal resources.

The director of Israel’s Centre for Transbound­ary Water Management, Dr Clive Lipchin, discussed the importance of water in relation to agricultur­e. He noted that water could be recycled and used for agricultur­al purposes, because “the era of water scarcity is fast approachin­g”.

According to South Africa’s Department of Water and Sanitation, the country is losing R7.2 billion a year due to water leaks. In 2019, the country lost an estimated 1.1 million litres of water as a result of leakages from pipes and reservoirs.

According to Lipchin, “Off-Grid Greywater Treatment Systems (GWTS) can be used in communitie­s to divert water from kitchens and toilets to then be treated and used for agricultur­e”.

Agri entreprene­ur and water treatment expert Guy Sela works with the Cropx start-up in Israel. Cropx has developed a tool for irrigation purposes which is able to collect data funder the soil. This technology helps farmers assess the soil under the surface, including measuring the temperatur­e, moisture, and nutrients.

In his presentati­on, Kinneret Innovation Centre’s Jason Blumenthal described agri-tech today as “the thing that is going to close the gap’’.

The KIC, Israel’s leading tech hub for agricultur­e, water, and sustainabi­lity trained 970 people in 2020.

Gil Siaki, KKL/JNF’s head of forestatio­n in the southern regions,stressed the importance of planting trees, which “enhance biodiversi­ty and prevent soil erosion and the loss of nutrients”. He highlighte­d the work done by the KKL, which had reinvigora­ted Turkana in Kenya and brought life to the community.

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