Wa­ter rights and tools se­cure in new deals

Daily Dispatch - - Opinion - MTOBELI MXOTWA

THE pur­chas­ing of farms by the state for land dis­tri­bu­tion pur­poses must from now on in­clude the farm’s equip­ment and its wa­ter rights, ac­cord­ing to a di­rec­tive is­sued by ru­ral de­vel­op­ment and land re­form min­is­ter, Gugile Nk­winti.

This is part of the min­is­ter’s drive to free the land re­dis­tri­bu­tion process of de­vel­op­men­tal bot­tle­necks.

It fol­lows com­plaints by some new landown­ers that pre­vi­ous landown­ers had re­moved the farm­ing equip­ment.

And in­deed some pre­vi­ous own­ers have le­git­i­mately claimed back their equip­ment be­cause of­fi­cials in­ad­ver­tently left it out of sale con­tracts.

This left new far­mown­ers with­out im­ple­ments to work their newly ac­quired land.

In some cases new far­mown­ers re­fused to hand over farm equip­ment to the for­mer landowner.

In some in­stances par­ties ended up tak­ing each other to court.

Wa­ter rights have also been a bone of con­tention as these too were some­times of the sale ne­go­ti­a­tions.

This has left some new land ben­e­fi­cia­ries not know­ing what to do be­cause – in our wa­ter scarce coun­try – farm­ing can­not take place with­out ad­e­quate wa­ter sup­plies.

Some of these prob­lems have had im­pli­ca­tions for other de­part­ments such as Wa­ter Af­fairs.

For start-up farm­ers, ne­go­ti­a­tions for wa­ter rights have also con­sumed a lot of their time.

More­over, ob­tain­ing wa­ter rights have also had sig­nif­i­cant cost im­pli­ca­tions for some of the new farm­ers who have had to en­gage lawyers.

The com­pounded ef­fect was not only that pro­duc­tion was held up, but in some in­stances these prob­lems led to the col­lapse of land re­form farms.

The min­is­ter’s moves are de­signed to al­low new far­mown­ers to hit the ground run­ning and to be pro­duc­tive with­out im­ped­i­ments.

Once the new pol­icy di­rec­tive is ap­plied across board, it is is hoped that aspir­ing farm­ers who may oth­er­wise been dis­cour­aged by the ex­or­bi­tant farm­ing costs and the rig­ma­role of ne­go­ti­at­ing for wa­ter, will en­ter the agri­cul­ture sec­tor.

The new mea­sures are also ex­pected to sig­nif­i­cantly im­prove pro­duc­tion on farms and there­fore to boost food se­cu­rity.

Presently the coun­try de­pends mainly on 28 000 white com­mer­cial farm­ers for food pro­duc­tion.

Farm­ers from this pool are con­tin­u­ally be­ing poached by our neigh­bour­ing and over­seas coun­tries be­cause of their farm­ing skills.

Nk­winti’s new pol­icy stance can be traced back to the Free­dom Char­ter which stip­u­lates that the gov­ern­ment will pro­vide farm­ing im­ple­ments to peas­ant farm­ers.

The new ini­tia­tive will also strengthen the rel­a­tive land rights for farm­work­ers (in terms of the 50/50 pro­gramme).

And for­mer landown­ers will ben­e­fit in that when they dis­pose of their farms, land equip­ment and wa­ter rights will be paid for.

This will bring about a smooth trans­fer of land from landown­ers to the pre­vi­ously land­less peo­ple and bring about sta­bil­ity in the land re­form process, ul­ti­mately im­prov­ing so­cial co­he­sion and na­tion-build­ing.

Be­cause land own­er­ship is an en­try point for wealth cre­ation, the more we estab­lish pro­duc­tive farms, the more we will stave off the scourges of poverty, un­em­ploy­ment and in­equal­ity.

The suc­cesses achieved so far bear tes­ti­mony to this.

Many emerg­ing farm­ers have proved to be highly suc­cess­ful farm­ers in their own right, de­vel­op­ing their land into pros­per­ous farm­ing ven­tures that have sur­passed all ex­pec­ta­tions.

Some of these emerg­ing farm­ers are still very young but have had the ben­e­fit of men­tor­ing.

For ex­am­ple, the Nkanini resti­tu­tion project in KwaZulu-Natal where youths with ma­tric are trained in sug­ar­cane pro­duc­tion, is a shin­ing ex­am­ple.

An­other is the Keiskamma­hoek Dairy project in the East­ern Cape has grown in leaps and bounds and now sup­plies milk to var­i­ous out­lets across the prov­ince.

It has now reached the stage where its own­ers have de­cided to estab­lish a cheese fac­tory as an ex­ten­sion of their milk pro­duc­tion busi­ness.

Some emerg­ing farm­ers are not only sell­ing in the do­mes­tic space but have ven­tured be­yond our bor­ders, ex­port­ing their pro­duce and com­pet­ing with the best in the world.

The Bir­bury pineap­ple farm­ing busi­ness in Bathurst, owned jointly by work­ers and the depart­ment, has had much suc­cess in help­ing to drive back poverty in the un­em­ploy­ment rav­aged Al­bany district.

The Macadamia farm­ing busi­ness at Ncera near East London is an­other ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple of how a pre­vi­ously dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­nity can, with the help of the gov­ern­ment, up­lift it­self and at­tain a bet­ter life.

Emerg­ing farm­ers who have been given ad­e­quate sup­port in terms of wa­ter sup­plies and equip­ment in Mpumalanga and Lim­popo have been able to gen­er­ate suf­fi­cient re­sources to estab­lish ed­u­ca­tion funds and so send their chil­dren to ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions.

Other ex­am­ples are the Mat­safeni resti­tu­tion project, the Mh­laba sug­ar­cane project and Mat­jeni in the ru­ral ar­eas Lim­popo and Mpumalanga which have over­come im­mense ob­sta­cles and be­come vi­able com­mer­cial farms, thereby pro­vid­ing needed jobs and em­ploy­ment in their pre­vi­ously im­pov­er­ished ar­eas.

These suc­cesses have come about as a re­sult of the de­vel­op­ment sup­port pro­vided by the gov­ern­ment’s pro­gramme of re­cap­i­tal­i­sa­tion and de­vel­op­ment which is de­signed to as­sist emerg­ing farm­ers with tech­ni­cal and ma­te­rial sup­port un­til they are able to op­er­ate on their own.

The min­is­ter’s new pol­icy di­rec­tive for wa­ter rights and farm equip­ment to be in­cluded in land ac­qui­si­tion, is the cherry on top of a pro­gramme de­signed to strengthen and estab­lish a new breed of farm­ers.

Mtobeli Mxotwa is spokesman of the Min­istry of Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment and Land Re­form

VI­ABLE: Linda Abrahams, left, and Ntombekhaya Vulindlu are ben­e­fi­cia­ries of a thriv­ing 50/50 re­dis­tri­bu­tion project at Bathurst, with Bir­bury farm man­ager Bruce Thomp­son

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