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Agri-Tourism To Boost Limpopo Economy

Farms in Limpopo have to compete in a very hostile agricultural economic environment and it has become imperative for farmers to find new ways of generating additional income. Research undertaken in the Mopani District Municipality (MDM) has identified agri-tourism as a potential means to this end.

The main aim of this qualitative study was to gain a better understanding of the perceptions and opportunities for agri-tourism in the study area. Data was mainly collected through interviews and questionnaires. Participants consisted of farmers and tourists, as well as owners of existing agri-tourism farms within the MDM.

Five current active agri-tourism establishments were identified. Key findings revealed that agri-tourism is not being utilised to its full potential. Although perceptions of respondents towards agri-tourism are positive, marketing around it is insufficient and not all farmers are willing to host agri-tourism activities on their farms for various reasons.

However, the MDM is a tourist hub with many visitors passing through the area for various reasons and  en route to the Kruger National Park. Therefore, the potential already exists to host agri-tourism activities that will benefit farmers in various ways.

By developing farm trails, scheduling daily farm activities, using information brochures, forming networks with existing tourist establishments, encouraging the use of local and fresh produce and providing good roadside signage, farmers can gain increased exposure and recognition for what they do and opportunities for growth and development may be realised.

Premier Stan Mathabatha plans to use agriculture, tourism, and mining to fight poverty and boost the economy. The largest employers in the province, according to Mathabatha, were community and social services, trade and construction, agriculture, mining, tourism and the private sector.

The premier says the current unemployment rate in the province was 18.5%. In an endeavour to boost the economy and stimulate growth, the provincial government had decided to place young people at the centre of the economic development programme. “We have taken a decision that 20% of state procurement should go to youth-owned enterprises. In the same vein, 20% of state procurement will benefit women-owned enterprises while 7% will go to businesses owned by people living with disabilities,” said Mathabatha.

The premier said his administration had decided to position Limpopo among the top tourism economies in the country. “We want to increase the number of tourists visiting Limpopo by implementing the five in five strategy that aims to receive five million tourists in five years. The strategy seeks to double the current 3% contribution of the tourism sector to the total national GDP. “On the domestic tourism front, Limpopo still leads the pack with 3.3 million trips recorded in 2018,” said Mathabatha, adding that: “Mining is also one of the three pillars of the Limpopo economy as it contributes almost 25% to the provincial gross domestic product. Currently, we have 147 mining projects that are operational. A further eight projects are in the pipeline in the Capricorn and Sekhukhune districts. The latter is expected to attract investments worth R2.5 billion and create around 3 000 jobs for Limpopo.”

Mathabatha also planned to use agriculture to fight poverty and escalating unemployment. He said the poultry industry remained one of the largest contributors to the agricultural sector in SA. The industry, according to Mathabatha, provided direct employment for over 54,000 people and indirect employment to a further 58,000 people. He said the province also planned to give infrastructure support to 577 farmers in the areas of poultry, livestock and vegetable farming.

Mathabatha said, “This support includes irrigation systems for potatoes, irrigation systems for fruit and vegetable production, poultry infrastructure, production inputs, construction of a packing facility for banana farmers, completion of a tomato paste processing facility to provide a market for about 3,000 small tomato growers with a production capacity of 750 tons per day and to provide production inputs and mechanisation support to over 13,700 farmers.”