Helen Zille: Greatest agricultural innovations spring from barren countries

The African Agri Investment Indaba was held at the CTICC in November, a platform aimed to strengthen the agriculture sector and identify investment and growth opportunities throughout the Continent.

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille chats to CapeTalk's John Maytham about this vitally important meeting that she believes should have far greater traction globally.

Agriculture is the one area that can drive economic growth and jobs across Africa and can produce the kind of food in the amounts that the world is going to need going forward.

Helen Zille, Western Cape Premier

One of the issues often leveled at the agricultural industry is that while it does provide jobs, they are often seasonal and poorly paid.

Zille says South Africa has better wage rates than many other countries in Africa.

Compared to the rest of this Continent it is paid five times as well.

Helen Zille, Western Cape Premier

She acknowledges that some 35 000 jobs in agriculture are at risk because of the drought, but it remains critical that agriculture continues to grow.

The challenge is how to bring people into the economy even if it has to be on the bottom rung of the ladder first.

Helen Zille, Western Cape Premier

But she says it is possible to move people up the rungs of the economic ladder as agriculture becomes increasingly sophisticated.

It is becoming more and more tech-driven.

Helen Zille, Western Cape Premier

She explains the move up the agricultural ladder to agri-processing.

You take the tomatoes off the vines and make tomato paste....which can employ many workers.

Helen Zille, Western Cape Premier

The drought has hit the Cape hard, and with this 'drying province,' you do see crop switching. She says the Western Cape now has a thriving olive, aloe and rooibos industry.

But one of the ironies of desert countries is the plethora of water saving inventions and ways to produce agricultural crops under very difficult conditions.

She says the greatest innovations are not coming from fertile countries but rather from countries that are very barren, for example irrigating crops with salt water.

You can really combine that first world cutting-edge technological approach to agriculture with the large worker-base and integrate them over time.

Helen Zille, Western Cape Premier

Listen to Helen Zille explaining the way forward for agriculture in South Africa, especially in drought areas like the Western Cape:


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