WCape puts agritech at forefront of economic recovery
The Western Cape Provincial Government (WCPG) plans to leverage technology innovation in its agriculture sector to create jobs, says premier Alan Winde.
Winde was speaking during his State of the Province Address (SOPA) on Wednesday, when he noted the provincial Department of Agriculture’s move to embrace drone technology.
Just like the 2021 State of the Nation Address, the SOPA was delivered in a hybrid setting of the Western Cape Provincial Parliament sitting, with some members participating via an online platform.
The premier said amid last year’s tough economic climate, the Western Cape’s agriculture sector provided an “important buffer” and weathered the sluggish period.
He indicated the province’s good rain and work on agricultural technology saw record-breaking harvests in the past year, which in turn is boosting exports from the province.
This, he said, is why leveraging the agricultural economy for growth and recovery is a key priority of the WCPG in the year ahead. “We will continue to be the leaders of agricultural technology on the African continent.
“Drone technology, in particular, is assisting the Western Cape to increase both animal and crop production, as well as expertly monitoring crop and soil health across the province.”
The Western Cape premier expressed his excitement in regards to the Department of Agriculture’s plan to embrace drone technology to the benefit of the agricultural community through a training programme.
“There are, in fact, already 13 drone pilots who have completed their training and a second group will ‘get their wings’ by the end of March this year. I have no doubt they are all going to be key drivers of our economic growth in the years to come.”
He added: “As new agricultural technology develops globally, we need to make sure our province stays competitive.
“Researchers in the Department of Agriculture’s fourth industrial revolution programme will also fast-track new technology development within their respective portfolios and pursue new technology available outside of the department. This will then be made available to the sector.”
On rolling out COVID-19 vaccines in the Western Cape, Winde said the Western Cape government will leverage its existing technology to reach residents who fall under high-risk groups, namely the elderly and those with comorbidities.
“We have already proven our ability to do so through our now internationally-acclaimed and award-winning VECTOR programme, that saw us identify, actively manage and monitor diabetics in the Western Cape who were infected with COVID-19, substantially reducing mortality in this high-risk group.”
The Western Cape currently has the second highest number of active COVID-19 cases, at 7 565. The cumulative number of SA’s COVID-19 infections now stands at 1 496 439, with a death toll of 48 478, and 1 399 829 people have beat the virus, representing a recovery rate of 93.5%.
According to Winde, the provincial government has set up a COVID-19 vaccine co-ordinating committee that will oversee three core work streams.
“The first work stream will oversee the operational rollout of vaccines by developing a service delivery and distribution model, ensuring cold chain management, and providing adequate human resources.
“This programme also includes the development of the required information systems that will allow us to do targeted vaccination and to monitor the vaccine rollout.”