PRESENTATION BY SABINA KHOZA- SMALL SCALE FARMER, ZUURBEKOM, JOHANNESBURG; SECRETARY-GENERAL NAFU (NATIONAL AFRICAN FARMERSí UNION) AND PRESIDENT OF NAFU GAUTENG - TO THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE OF SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY.
IN 2004 SABINA RECEIVED THE SHOPRITE CHECKERS/SABC WOMAN OF THE YEAR AWARD IN THE BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR SECTOR.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am a small-scale farmer. I market 190 000 broilers per annum. I also grow vegetables and maize and I run a training project on my farm for emergent farmers. I plant maize on 5 ha.
During the 2004/05 season maize was planted on six experimental plots of six different smallholder plots in six provinces. One hectare of GM maize and one ha of non-GM maize were planted on the same date side by side.
Bt yield increases on the six sites averaged 40.5% over conventional maize.
The National African Farmersí Union (NAFU), Ikageng Womenís League, Buhle Framersí Academy at Delmas in Mpumalanga, Cedara Agricultural College in KwaZulu-Natal and the Provincial Department of Agriculture initiated this project.
The highest increase was 61% recorded at Fairdeal, Zuurbekom, Gauteng. This is on my farm where I have been planting GM maize for three years.
The damage to Bt cobs by stalkborer was on average 2.1%, compared to 18% for the conventional crop. The highest damage was 38.9%, registered at Cedara where stalkborer is a very serious insect pest of maize.
For me this meant a higher income, safe food and a reduction in the handling of hazardous chemicals. It should be remembered that the small-scale maize farmer like myself, is not only a producer but also an on-the-spot consumer. We start by eating corn on the cob and end with maize meal porridge. My family and friends have enjoyed the GM maize food in my home for the past three years and nobody has taken ill. We donít feed our children poison.
My crop this season was so good that I have bought a small size mill that can mill up to 50 bags a day, including supplies from many of my neighbours.
We often hear that farmers cannot replant saved seeds. Here you can see me standing in my GM maize field (picture). Here you can see me standing on a plot planted with saved seeds on the same date on my farm.
With saved seeds farmers can lose 30% of their yield. That is why Africa is suffering from hunger and food shortages.
I would also like to report on the success of my fellow emergent maize and cotton farmers in other parts of the country.
Mr Richard Sithole, Chairman if the Hlabisa District Farmersí Union, KwaZulu-Natal for the past 11 years, with a total of 500 smallholder members, told me that his members planted an average of 2.5 ha of maize. 250 of them planted GM maize for the first time in 2003/04 season.
Their yields have increased by an average of 220% and their income by an average of R2825.
If we take just 20 farmers with this extra income, and there are many more, it means that amongst them there was R56 500 more spending money in the community - boosting the informal sector, creating more jobs for dressmakers, shoe repairers, bicycle repair shops, and more support for the small shopkeepers and vegetable producers. These are new soda economic benefits. This is what food security means, plus an end to poverty.
This is a definite means helping to alleviate poverty among the four billion people in the world who live on less than $2 dollars a day.
This new technology is what Africa needs to overcome famine and give us food security.
According to Chief Advocate Mdutshane of Ixopozo, Flagstaff (picture), 120 emergent farmers in the district planted 142 ha of GM Bt maize for the first time during the past season. Their yields in the previous seasons averaged 1,5 t/ha. With the new Bt maize eliminating the stalkborer, yields increased by an average of 3,5 t/ha to 4 t/a, an average increase of 133%.
This is what Bt maize means to emergent farmers. Is there anyone in this audience who is prepared to stand up and deny my fellow farmers and me the benefit of earning this extra money for the first time, plus more than sufficient food for our families? I invite you to send a delegation to come and inspect our maize. You are welcome to visit my farm in Zuurbekom. I will give you a healthy meal of GM food.
We hear people who say that farmers who buy this GM seed cannot store seed for the next season. None of the people selling us this seed has told us we cannot keep seed and replant it again. But we as farmers prefer to buy new seed every year to benefit from the higher yields that fresh seed guarantees.
COTTON MAKHATHINI FLATS KWAZULU-NATAL
There are more than 4000 small-scale cotton farmers on the Makhathini Flats. More than 90% of them are planting Bt cotton on about 6000 ha.
Many people believe that we as farmers are paying high prices for the GM technology. I agree, but when we compare the price of the technology with reduced spraying costs and increased yield, we are better off financially in the end.
According to Mr TJ Buthelezi, Chairman of the Ubongwa Cotton Framersí Association, representing 48 farming associations, the largest overall impact of Bt cotton on small-scale farmers in South Africa is the increase in yields. On average their yield was 3 to 4 bales/ha with conventional cotton. The yield with Bt cotton is 6 to 7 bales/ha. This means an extra income of between R2000 to R2500/ha.
The use of insecticides has also been reduced considerably. Where 10 sprays were necessary with conventional cotton, with Bt cotton only two sprays are necessary.