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Minister Thoko Didiza’s speech at BIO Africa Convention 2020

Minister Thoko Didiza’s speech at BIO Africa Convention 2020

28 Aug 2020


This is an extract from Minister Thoko Didiza’s speech:


Thank you very much to Mr Mboneni who’s our facilitator for this webinar today.

I would like to extend my greetings to you and the team at BIO Africa, but also our CEO of the Agricultural Research Council and other dignitaries who may be here on this platform, but also all of us who are participating this morning.

I must say that I am honoured that we are having this discussion today, and in South Africa, it actually comes at an interesting time where we are grappling with how we can use our BIO base for food security, but also for industrialisation.


I know that for some time ARC (Agricultural Research Council) has been working with some of our scientific entities, in government but also in the universities.

We were also looking at issues of Indigenous Knowledge Systems on how we could get some indigenous knowledge from our old people on the food that they were eating which made them healthier and stronger, which could actually come to our current aid.

At the same time, we are also grappling with issues of how we could utilise some strains of cannabis for industrialisation, particularly to deal with issues of medicine, and some of the strains of the broader cannabis family such as hemp for industrialisation and maximising the income of producers.

I am saying this dialogue actually comes at the right time for South Africa as we are grappling with policy and legislation. Some of the legislative areas have been propelled as a result of the constitutional case that allows cannabis for home use.

But we also know in the legislative sector that, particularly in Parliament ,we had some few years ago a member of the Inkatha Freedom Party, Honourable [Mario] Oriani-Ambrosini, who’s now departed, who promoted the use of cannabis as alternative therapy; particularly for some of the debilitating diseases. So I am raising these things pertaining to the context of why it is a very interesting dialogue to have at this time today.

But as we all know the relationship of the current pandemic, that while it has become a health and an economic issue, the genesis is also from the transference of some of the strains of this virus from the animal kingdom, which for a number of us who are in agriculture are the things that we work with, as well as those who are in the environmental space.

So that linkage is also important to better understand this transmission, while the health people are looking at how we can manage the health of our citizens and the economists are looking at how we grow our economy out of this pandemic.

I think the issues will remain with us, particularly those who are participating in the agricultural sector, are to better understand the permutations and how the mutations of such varieties transmit from animals to humans.

So given this context I also want to say, we know that according to several studies and predictions by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, International Fund for Agricultural Development, the World Food Programme and others suggest that the global health food system will experience unprecedented confluence pressure over the next 20-40 years.

On the demand side, the global population size will increase, including here in our own country, from nearly seven billion today to more than nine billion by 2030 and probably closer to 10 billion by 2050.



Currently and in the intermediate future we all need to understand the impact and implications of this Covid-19 pandemic on our food systems and food in general.

To fulfil the demand for food and the nutritional requirement of an increasing population, there will be a need to increase our current food production yields by 60%, and double productivity.

I am specifically saying yields because we also know that the land space is also shrinking, because there is a competition for human settlement and industrial use of our land.

So how we use the limited land space to increase our yield will become important. Otherwise, there will be increased social pressures and hindrances, not only in South Africa but throughout the world.

We’ve seen this during the beginning of the pandemic and the response of countries in the containment of the disease by closing down their countries, as well as closing areas of work and industry. We’ve seen actually how many people were in queues just to get by; to get food. We’ve also seen that as a result of this pandemic a number of people have been laid off work, which again has increased the pressure in terms of food security in various countries.

So these are the issues we need to address looking at the present but also going to the future.

We therefore need to understand now the current and future challenges on agriculture for improved production and productivity including, among others; competition for natural resources especially land, water and energy; negative impacts of climate change on production and productivity; competing demands for land and water for other uses, especially urbanisation; sustainable use of land and natural resources, which results — if not maintained or used sustainably — in decreasing of natural resources; and economic and social pressures such as marketing and logistics infrastructure, particularly on the prices of food.

And lastly, for me, the other pressure we are likely to face and we are facing currently in some of the regions of our continent is the issue of migration, which could be as a result of conflict or again some of the changes in special developments that other countries have actually chosen, which therefore displaces certain communities and results in the increased urbanisation we’ve seen.

Innovation and increased science and technology for a knowledge-based economic system will become vital to the success of agriculture to meet current and future demands. As a society, any one of these drivers of change presents significate challenges for food and nutrition security, particularly in Africa and other developing countries, South Africa included.

Together they contribute a major treat, and we need to consider the following for the future: balancing demand and supply in a sustainable manner to ensure food supplies are affordable; ensuring that there is adequate sustainability in food supplies and protecting the most vulnerable from the volatility that may occur, particularly when we look at issues of price and agro-logistics; and achieving household access to food and ending hunger. This means producing enough food in the country and in the world so that everyone can potentially be fed, and is not the same as ensuring individual food and nutrition security.

It also means managing the contribution of the food system to the mitigation of climate change and maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services while feeding the population.



Smallholder agriculture plays a crucial role to household food security and improved livelihoods in marginalised communities. This sector is however challenged by the use of nondescript and uncategorised genetics and compromised conditions that include extreme climate conditions, diseases and low-quality nutrition.

Different livestock species play very important economic and socio-cultural roles for the wellbeing of rural households such as food supplies, sources of income, asset saving, source of employment, soil fertility, livelihoods, transport, agricultural traction, agricultural diversity and sustainable agricultural production.

Livestock is also an important asset in rural parts of South Africa, helping to improve the nutritional status of their owners and contributing to their economic growth. It is no secret that following natural disasters such as drought, communities who live from livestock farming are far better off than those who don’t, though livestock farming is prone to adverse conditions, especially drought.

Direct contact includes increased temperature, floods and drought. Indirect contact is the result of reduced availability of water and changes in the environment that promote the spread of contagious diseases through increased contact between stock and wildlife, or increased survival or availability of the disease-causing agent on their intermediate host.

We also know for instance in our country, last year some of our regions were affected by drought while some of our regions had a problem of animal diseases such swine fever and foot and mouth, particularly in the Limpopo province.



Source: Mail&Guardian

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