Friday, June 22, 2007

And The Cupboard Was Bare...

Friday, June 22, 2007

Do you know what I really love about TAU...They never buckled under and changed their name to Gauteng Agricultural Union! This report from them is rather alarming, but how many people would really take it seriously when they go into their local Pick n Pay and everything is there? Well..I know what it's like to go to the supermarket and its empty, and looks as if they are closing down...! happened in Zambia in the late 60's to early 70' could go to the supermarket and all there was, was a row of shelving with only one product..maybe cooking oil...maybe margarine..if you were lucky, maybe you would buy a whole large stock, may be 6 to 8 months before you ever saw it available again! This I would imagine is the present situation in Zimbabwe...this report by TAU is NOT just scare mongering..!Transvaal Agricultural Union of SA is the oldest agricultural union in South Africa and has been in existence since 1897. The mission of the union is to ensure a productive and safe existence for its members on the land they own. Current reality in South Africa indicates that this is not possible at the moment due to a variety of actions and threats against commercial farmers.Your comment regarding the Bulletins and other information provided to you is valuable and will be appreciated. THE CUPBOARD WAS BARE ...Old Mother Hubbard went to her cupboard to find her good dog a bone. the old nursery rhyme still resonates throughout the world of children. Her cupboard was bare, we were told - a scenario seemingly remote from our current lives. Yet is it so implausible?Today, millions throughout the world still do not have enough to eat.The World Food Program (WFP) continues to distribute food to hungry people, particularly in Africa. The organization frequently sources much of its stock from South Africa.In Lesotho, for example, WFP estimates nearly 150 000 people will need food aid within the next few months and much of this will be purchased in South Africa. In addition, hundreds of thousands of people from nearby African countries regularly enter South Africa to purchase food.But can our country continue to be the breadbasket of southern Africa under conditions which make commercial farming so difficult?There is talk in some farming circles that the South African government really doesn't care about local, sustainable food production - that they see the importation of food as a realistic alternative. Their political objective of the transfer of productive farms to their voters could be implemented, we are told, and if these farms collapse - which they will if the past is anything to go by - well, food can be purchased overseas. So far, 30% of productive farmland has been earmarked for redistribution by the year 2014, but there will be further demands and these will always outstrip availability.Even if every remaining white farm in South Africa is handed over - and there are only around 45 000 remaining - this will never satisfy the numbers clamouring for land.So what is the food availability situation in South Africa today?SELF SUFFICIENTA country which is self sufficient in food is a strong country. Only six countries in the world produce enough to feed their populations, and South Africa is one of them. But this status is being whittled away by the enormous hurdles now placed before commercial farmers whose numbers continue to decrease. Certain food items are now scarce or intermittently unavailable in South African stores.In a hard-hitting paper recently presented to a national university, Major General Chris van Zyl, TAU SA's manager for Safety and Security declares that food security can be measured by both the number of people who are chronically hungry as well as the availability of foodstuffs on the shelves of retailers.In a sample taken over a period 7 December 2006 to 25 January 2007 at a well-known supermarket, at least twenty items were unavailable, from corned meat to milk powder and baby food. The causes of the current state of affairs, according to Van Zyl, range from the loss of agricultural land, to the expansion of arid and semi-arid areas - every year, deforestation in the Northern Cape and North West province increases by 50 000 to 60 000 hectares and the resultant overgrazing eventually leads to desertification.As well, South African water is increasingly threatened by serious contamination. In central Gauteng, the hub of South Africa's commercial and industrial activity, streams and rivers are seriously polluted, while subterranean water sources are being threatened by uncontrolled burials and effluent from growing squatter camps.Another scourge contributing to the decrease in food production is crime, especially in the country's rural areas. Over the past ten years or so, there have been more than 32 000 farm attacks (an average of almost nine per day), and 2 000 farmers have lost their lives.In the case where a landowner has been murdered, current estimates indicate that as much as eight years could pass before the land is productively utilized again. The level of theft of not only produce - livestock or cash crops - but also of property - tools, fuel, implements, chemicals, and so forth - is reason for concern. A 2005 calculation indicates that the reported annual loss is about R1,2 billion - about R27 000 per farmer per annum.Stock theft alone amounts to about R230 million per annum, and it has become impossible to farm with certain types of livestock, such as sheep or goats, in certain areas because of theft.OTHER FACTORSSouth Africa is in the unique position of producing a variety of foodstuffs ranging from staple foods to produce which satisfies even the most fastidious international tourists. However, agriculture is a victim of factors beyond human control such as weather patterns, soil composition and the presence or not of biological and micro-elements. In any other sector, additional production can be achieved via cash incentives, or extra hours of work, or a greater work force.This is not readily applicable to the agricultural sector. South Africa competes in a heavily subsidized global market. It is generally accepted that within the countries having a commercial agricultural capability, South Africa is the second worst country as far as government subsidies are concerned.Emphasis on the role of agriculture in, particularly, southern Africa can never be strong enough. In the case of Zimbabwe, the collapse of the agricultural sector took down the rest of the economy.Political interference in that sector led to malnutrition, starvation, homelessness and the complete disintegration of the country's economic structure. As in the case of pre-war Germany, inflation is now so bizarre that suitcases of cash are needed to buy a loaf of bread.The practice of communal land ownership also contributes to food insecurity. Van Zyl quotes Mr Moeletsi Mbeki, brother of the State President, as saying "the reason Africa was not matching the agricultural successes of India and China lay in politics.Land tenure systems that don't give incentives to farmers to improve their land promote desertification".It is indicative of the folly of South Africa's land redistribution program that many productive farms are handed over to hundreds of people. The "communal" approach thus kicks in, there is no management, nobody wants to work and the farm becomes an informal settlement, a South African euphemism for a squatter camp.Thus, says van Zyl, the care and subsequent responsibility to maintain arable land (only 13% of South Africa's land is arable!) is a pre-requisite for agricultural production. This entails the recognition of a sector in the national economy - the agricultural sector - which has been lambasted and marginalised over the last two decades.(As a corollary to the above, our next bulletin will outline the pitfalls involved in the dependence of a country like South Africa on imported food.) harking back to theWeimar

(Thanks to '10' for throwing the bone..)


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