Farm­ers cau­tioned to stay calm de­spite land re­form tur­moil

Farmer's Weekly (South Africa) - - Weekly News Wrap -

The land re­form de­bate will be­come more heated as South Africa ap­proaches the 2019 elec­tion, but farm­ers have been cau­tioned to stay calm and find ways to get in­volved in trans­form­ing agri­cul­ture rather than be­com­ing vic­tims of neg­a­tive sen­ti­ment. Econ­o­mist, Dr Roelof Botha, said at the re­cent Macadamias South Africa in­for­ma­tion day in White River, Mpumalanga, that un­cer­tainty cre­ated by calls for ex­pro­pri­a­tion without com­pen­sa­tion could worsen as the up­com­ing elec­tion ap­proached, but he still be­lieved there would be no “land grabs”.

“It will be a rough ride to the elec­tions, but we are on the verge of a golden era and must be pa­tient. The big­gest reasons for our eco­nomic slump over the past few years are now out of the way. This in­cludes the sys­tem­atic in­com­pe­tence of [for­mer pres­i­dent] Ja­cob Zuma’s era, the worst drought in 100 years, and the world re­ces­sion.”

Nick Ser­fontein, chair­per­son of the Ser­nick Group and a mem­ber of Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa’s ad­vi­sory panel on land re­form, said the pri­or­ity would be “bro­ken” land first in terms of land re­dis­tri­bu­tion. This in­cludes the 120 000ha ir­ri­ga­tion schemes that were part of land re­form projects, but were non-func­tional.

“Then there is an ad­di­tional 10 mil­lion hectares of land avail­able without touch­ing com­mer­cial agri­cul­ture, ” Ser­fontein said.

He im­plored farm­ers to get in­volved in land re­form ini­tia­tives and to men­tor and train black farm­ers. Ser­fontein re­lated how he started help­ing emerg­ing farm­ers in 2015. “We didn’t have a clue how, but we started with a farm­ers’ day where 300 people [ar­rived], of whom half were women. It shocked me to see the hunger in their eyes for in­for­ma­tion, not for land, and the de­sire to farm.

“I ex­pe­ri­enced first-hand the hell that de­vel­op­ing farm­ers go through. For 24 years th­ese people, with gen­uine in­tent to farm, with dreams and as­pi­ra­tions, have been for­saken by the sys­tem, due to cor­rup­tion and lack of po­lit­i­cal will. It’s crim­i­nal to give land to some­one without men­tor­ship and train­ing.”

Ser­fontein noted that good progress had been made with land trans­fer, but not with land re­form. The lat­ter re­quired train­ing, fi­nance and men­tor­ship, he said. – Lindi Botha

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