Delivering his state-of-the-province address, Mchunu said he was concerned about job losses in the agricultural sector, youth unemployment, and the slowness of black economic empowerment.
“We understand that these conditions are posing a serious risk to our society and are further exposing our people to poverty, food insecurity, substance abuse, and criminal activity,” he said in a speech prepared for delivery.
“Today we want to firmly declare poverty as public enemy number one.”
He said the provincial government would throw its full weight behind poverty eradication. Mchunu said government had adopted a poverty eradication programme and package.
“This programme will ensure that as government we work with all non-governmental partners to eradicate poverty through our Operation Sukuma Sakhe in part,” he said.
Mchunu added that government planned to reduce the percentage of households going hungry in a 12 month period from 35 percent to less than 25 percent by 2020.
The school nutrition programme developed in the iLembe district would be replicated and rolled out in all districts in the province, he added.
“This programme will feed 2.5 million children every day from local produce and will obviously also provide wonderful opportunities as a market for our agricultural sector, as well as for additional job creation,” said Mchunu.
Within the first year of this term, government would have to ensure that the provincial food security strategy, in line with the poverty eradication package, the schools nutrition programme, and nutrition development centres, reached at least 85,000 households in the province.
Mchunu vowed to also halve unemployment and grow the economy. He identified sectors that he believed would be best in helping government achieve its objectives.
The sectors included among others, agriculture, manufacturing, maritime, transport and logistics, renewable energy, and tourism.
He said government wanted to increase employment in the agricultural sector from 110,000 jobs to 200,000 over the next five years.
“We want to facilitate at least 1000 new farmer entrants and to bring one million hectares of unproductive land back into commercial agricultural production,” he said.
In order to meet the targets during the first year, government had already signed two memoranda of understanding with private sector agricultural investors on the roll-out of a programme to establish joint venture commercial agricultural operational entities with emerging farmers, Mchunu added.
“This will bring at least 100,000 hectares of land under agricultural production. Over and above this, we will strengthen our working relations with commercial farmers in the province,” he said.