SOUTH AFRICA – The City of Ekurhuleni, a metropolitan municipality of the local government of Gauteng province, East of South Africa has released 56 farms valued at R120 million (US$8m) to local smallholder and subsistence farmers through its ‘’City’s agriculture development and support programme.

‘City’s agriculture development and support programme’ is under the rapid land release initiative, which was launched last year by the provincial government to make avalable land and buildings for the development of human settlements and urban agriculture projects.

The initiative is aimed at prioritising the release and identification of land parcels that are currently not in use which are owned by both the private sector and the state.

The City is steaming ahead with the programme to enhance the quality of livelihoods, increase job opportunities in the region, improve food security, increase tax and revenue, expand food export and attract new investment to the City.

Earlier this month the city undertook a publication, calling for prospective beneficiaries and investors of the 56 farms to bid for acquisition the land which will allow them to own property with title deeds.

 According to City’s spokesperson Nhlanhla Cebekhulu, the farmers will be assisted with access to council-owned land, technical support, skills development, access to funding and access to markets and off-take agreements.

The City is in the process of finalising economic partnership agreements with private sector companies, government agencies, development financial institutions, industry bodies, farmers’ associations, research institutions and training organisations.

“About R14 million has already been budgeted in the current financial year for services of researchers and economists, who will provide support to the programme,” Cebekhulu said.

The collaboration will position Ekurhuleni as the preferred investment destination for urban agriculture and agro-processing.

This will strengthen the City’s competitiveness in attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), Direct Domestic Investment (DDI) and ability to create jobs.

Over 1 000 hectares of land will be released to beneficiaries that will in turn generate about R200 million (US$13m) in revenue for the City through medium-term leases.