Gauteng’s water sources continue to be under threat, warned Agri Gauteng president Dr Willem Pretorius at its Young Farmer webinar presented yesterday in partnership with Grobank.
Not only is water wastage of particular concern, all of the province’s rivers and dams are polluted due to a ballooning of urbanisation draining its resources. Despite this, a R100 billion plan is being rolled out to build 30 new mega cities, which ultimately aims to deliver more than 800 000 houses spread across five development corridors.
Pretorius said these water challenges also have dire implications for agriculture and the sustainability of food security in Gauteng. Farmer-led irrigation is an added bone of contention, as well as the impact of climate change on water supply.
In his presentation, Grobank chief executive Bennie van Rooy said that water worries also impacts the bank’s decision to financially support agricultural projects.
The bank based its lending practices to the sector on either collateral in the form of farms, farm property or loose items on the farm, or a credit assessment based on an operation’s ability to meet its debt repayments with a sufficient, sustainable cashflow.
To facilitate cashflow, production risks can be mitigated by looking at the entire value chain of an agricultural project. Van Rooy said, “The availability of water will clearly play a big part in our ability as financiers or banks to fund agricultural projects without necessarily land and land tenure. To ensure certainty of water and availability of water, we need to add the fact that there can be some sort of technical support as well as mentoring and coaching taking place to mitigate further production risks.”
Omri van Zyl, the executive director of Agri SA, analysed the risks in the agricultural sector. He believes the covid-19 pandemic coupled by a Moody’s downgrade of the country’s credit rating and the Land Bank’s junk status endangers the sustainability of the country. “It is something that is going to take a while for us to live through.”
He added, though, that the sector was fortunate to operate during the protracted coronavirus lockdown because it was deemed an essential service. “Hopefully covid-19 will push the reset button, and going forward we will hopefully see less political interference, but more private sector involvement in the economy.”
Other webinar speakers included Lance Quidding, CEO of the Integrated Aquaculture Group in Hekpoort, Gauteng. He reiterated that aquaculture presents great opportunities, particularly in the light of water pressures and an increasing focus on more sustainable farming.
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