The Star Late Edition
Future is green and gold
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.