Conversations with leaders
Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti talks of the major programmes to bring dignity to the rural poor, rekindle the class of black smallscale farmers, and fight poverty
The challenge of poverty is at its most severe in the rural areas.The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, headed by Minister Gugile Nkwinti, has major programmes in place to bring dignity to the rural poor, rekindle the class of black small-scale
farmers, and fight the scourge of poverty.
The call in this year's Mandela Month is Action Against Poverty.The triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality need to be fought across the country, but they are at their most intransigent in our rural areas.
Government's developmental work in attacking poverty and igniting economic growth is the overriding mission of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR), headed by Minister Gugile Nkwinti.
“We must bring dignity to people living in rural areas,” he says. “We must rekindle the class of black small farmers.We must fight the scourge of poverty.
“South Africa is a country comprised of the developed and undereveloped. Turning around the rural areas is a chance for us to develop.”
Rural development is impossible without land reform, and land reform can only succeed with rural development.The department has an arsenal of pragmatic initiatives to achieve both. These include the One Hectare, One Household land programme, the development of a network of Agri-Parks, and the Strengthening the Relative Rights of People Working the Land, popularly known as the 50-50 strategy.
The National Development Plan's vision is for an “integrated and inclusive rural economy”, achieved through “successful land reform, infrastructure development, job creation and poverty alleviation”. Key to this is rural economic transformation and the growth of the smallholder farmer sector.
One Household, One Hectare
South Africa is a food-insecure country, where 6 per cent face daily hunger and 30 per cent – almost a third – have gone hungry in the last 30 days.Yet statistics show a 17.4 per cent drop in agricultural output, and only 18.3 per cent of South Africans are involved in any kind of agriculture.
The One Household, One Hectare programme aims to bring more people into farming while boosting rural livelihoods and curbing food insecurity.
“The purpose is to create rural smallholder producers at household level to ensure food security and reduce poverty, create sustainable employment, broaden the skills base and support the Agri-Parks programme,” Minister Nkwinti says.
According to the Minister, the hectare of land for each beneficiary household will be acquired from state-owned farms, proactive land acquisition and communal land. Land acquired by the state will be surveyed by the Surveyor-General, land use plans will be formulated, and a notarial title deed will be issued to each household.
Any surplus land left over after each household is allocated their one hectare will be communally owned and set aside for collective use – grazing, water and energy needs, development of public infrastructure and enterprise development. Households will be supported
“The workers and the farmer become equal partners. It is an example of a good
symbiotic relationship between commercial and
to produce for consumption needs and organised into primary cooperatives linked to the Agri-Parks initiative.
“Each beneficiary will receive a certificate to be used as collateral if they want the bank to assist them,” the Minister says. “The land or the certificate cannot be sold because the land belongs to the state.”
Since 2015 the programme has been implemented in 158 sites across the country, benefitting 5 734 households. Minister Nkwinti recently launched sites to the value of R30.4 million, for 689 households, in the Eastern Cape, KWAZULU-NATAL and Mpumalanga.
Agri-Parks: infrastructure for smallholder farmers
The DRDLR's growing network of Agri-Parks are important vehicles in implementing the National Development Plan's strategy of supporting small-scale farming, developing rural infrastructure and stimulating agro-processing.
“The establishment of Agri-Parks in all 44 district municipalities in South Africa is set to transform the rural economy by creating employment opportunities, infrastructure development and revitalising the agriculture and agro-processing value chain,” says Minister Nkwinti .
Agri-Parks provide production, agro-processing, logistics and marketing services, as well as training and agricultural extension services, to smallholder farmers.
“As a network it enables a market-driven integration of agricultural activities.”
Minister Nkwinti says Agri-Parks are a strategic intervention that will kick-start growth in regions lacking essential agricultural infrastructure such as markets for the sale of produce and livestock.
Three of the planned 44 Agri-Parks are already up and running.
“These are the Ncora Agri-Park in the Eastern Cape, Springbokpan in the North West and the Westonaria AGRIPARK on the West Rand. There are currently 11 Agri-Hubs in the 44 districts where construction is taking place.”
The Agri-Hub is one of the three core components of each Agri-Park. The other two are the Farmer Production Support Unit, and the Rural-Urban Market Centre.
In Ncora fencing and irrigation systems are in place, and two dairies are operational, Minister Nkwinti says.
“The milking parlour milks 1 800 cows twice a day at each dairy. In addition, the farmers have mobilised funding from the Jobs Fund for the silo, mill and storage facilities.”
A milk-processing facility and retail outlet to sell the milk are under construction.
The projects at Ncora support 10 primary cooperatives, and one secondary cooperative. Each primary cooperative is made up of an average of 100 farmers.
In the Free State, the Springfontein Agri-Hub in the Xhariep district is being developed and the fencing and water connections are complete.
“We are working with the Department of Environmental Affairs, the district and the Free State government on the establishment of a game abattoir in the Agri-Hub in the coming year,” Minister Nkwinti says.
The Westonaria Agri-Hub in Gauteng has a state-of-theart vertical hydroponic tunnel as well as a pack house and training facility.
There is currently one enterprise and one coopera--
farming in the 20 available tunnels on the site.The cooperative also includes farmers with disabilities.The department will mobilise another 300 farmers in the area in the coming financial year.
In Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga, the department has built a pack house and cold storage facility. Both will open in the current financial year, supporting 2 000 local farmers.
“In Dr JS Moroka municipality, within the Nkangala district municipality, a fresh produce market is complete and will become fully operational in the 2017/18 financial year. A total of 1 150 farmers will supply the fresh produce market,” the Minister says.
“In Ceres in the Western Cape we have completed the upgrade of the roads and electricity supply. We have also recently purchased an abattoir, which will give local farmers value-adding facilities and access to new markets.”
To ensure Agri-Parks are sustainable over the long term, Minister Nkwinti says, the DRDLR established District AgriParks Management Councils in 2015 to manage each park.
The DAMCs are supported by teams of professionals, selected in transparent and competitive processes.
“The National Agri-Parks Advisory Council has also been set up to provide strategic support and service in an advisory capacity to the Cluster of Ministries in the Economic Sectors, Employment and Infrastructure Development,” the Minister says.
“This structure is to ensure quality control is in place with respect to products, health and safety conditions in production and processing sites and establish market opportunities, both domestically and internationally.”
Turning workers into farmers
A key land reform and rural development strategy is to make farmers of people already working the land.
The DRDLR's Strengthening the Relative Rights of People Working the Land programme, also known as the 50-50 land policy, was announced during the State of the Nation Address by the President Jacob Zuma, who called for the piloting of 50 projects by 2019.
Under the programme, the state purchases a stake in an agricultural enterprise on behalf of the farmworkers living and working on the farm.
“This is a model of inclusive agricultural development,” says Minister Nkwinti.
“The workers and their former employer, the farmer, become equal partners in the farming enterprise. It is an example of a good symbiotic relationship between commercial and emerging farmers.”
Broad-based black economic empowerment is key to boosting the rural economy.
“The department has signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Empowerment Fund to become the implementing agent for the programme.”
“About 20 projects have been approved, of which 15 have been implemented and transferred,” the Minister says.“Of the 15, four farms were transferred to the state in the year ending March 2016.They amount to just over 2 600 hectares, at a cost of R36 million.”
A further 606 farmworkers have benefited from the acquisition of 11 303 hectares at a cost of R325 million.
“The acquisition of equity by farmworkers must be seen to be a fundamental game-changer in the agricultural sector,” Minister Nkwinti says.
“It introduces co-management of the farm based on relative equity-holdings and the capacity of each participant in production and management of the agricultural enterprise.”
More than this, “farmworkers and dwellers will no longer have reason to fear the sceptre of evictions because land tenure will have been secured.”
Noluthando Motswai and Mary Alexander