Tales of tillers of land trans­form­ing bar­reness to bounty

The Citizen (KZN) - - City - Eric Naki For the Love of the Land: Be­ing a farmer in South Africa Today

I hap­pened to be vis­it­ing a ho­tel in Cen­tu­rion one evening late last year when I walked in on the launch of this book, an oc­ca­sion at­tended by a pre­dom­i­nantly white au­di­ence.

I had al­ready read it and was there­fore well placed to ask in­formed ques­tions.

I did my best to sound good and the au­thors and au­di­ence were im­pressed by my charms.

Co-au­thors Ivor Price and Kobus Louwrens did a great job in this book.

For me, com­ing from a child­hood farm back­ground, I associated with many of the is­sues dis­cussed and the anec­do­tal short sto­ries of the hard work, fail­ures and suc­cesses of in­di­vid­u­als both black and white who love the land.

Hum­ble be­gin­nings for some who learned to farm from their par­ents and grand­par­ents and the suc­cess­ful black farmer men­tor­ing project ini­ti­ated by Free State farmer Nick Ser­fontein

and his Ser­nick project.

This was a story that fas­ci­nated me, and the long open let­ter he wrote to Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa which moved the pres­i­dent to take ac­tion.

His story is tes­ti­mony to the fact that many white farm­ers are com­mit­ted to land re­form.

They are will­ing to as­sist black farm­ers de­velop and it shows that those few that op­pose the process are just that – the few.

I read the story of East­ern Cape-born agri­cul­tural economist Wandile Sihlobo, who stud­ied agri­cul­ture by de­fault af­ter his par­ents sent him to the Uni­ver­sity of Fort Hare to do a BCom (ac­count­ing).

His ru­ral up­bring­ing in the for­mer Transkei also in­flu­enced his pas­sion for agri­cul­ture when he par­tic­i­pated in school poul­try projects.

An­neliese Burgess per­son­alised sto­ries of farms that once thrived and then de­te­ri­o­rated in the north of the East­ern Cape farm­ing belt.

I know An­neliese per­son­ally and all the ar­eas she spoke about used to be the jew­els of East­ern Cape agri­cul­ture, in­clud­ing my birth­place, Stut­ter­heim.

You will also be moved by sto­ries of how women per­se­vered, de­fy­ing the odds and rolling up their sleeves to pro­duce food for the coun­try with no one to ap­plaud


Au­thor: Ivor Price & Kobus Louwrens

Pub­lisher: Tafel­bergDate Re­leased: Au­gust 2019

Price (incl. VAT): R 300 For­mat: Soft cover, 376pp their ef­forts in their small corners of the coun­try.

There are in­stances of black sub­sis­tence farm­ers who suc­cess­fully be­came com­mer­cial farm­ers by work­ing closely with white com­mer­cial farm­ers and still oth­ers who de­vel­oped on their own.

It’s all about the pas­sion that ap­pears on the pages of this book as these farm­ers tell their sto­ries.

There are sto­ries of un­sung heroes of agri­cul­ture whose suc­cesses would oth­er­wise not have been known, had Price and Louwrens

not “walked” the hin­ter­lands to gather them.

Lize­mari de Klerk was in­spi­ra­tional in her ded­i­ca­tion to agri­cul­ture, so was “dream girl” Dineo Boshomane in Lim­popo, Sandile Ngidi in KwaZulu-Na­tal, Kosie van Zyl, Ja­cob and Ma­gri­eta Cloete and many oth­ers.

Each story is an anec­do­tal ac­count of a strug­gle to make ends meet, per­se­ver­ance and then suc­cess.

These events will dis­pel any reader’s ini­tial ex­pec­ta­tion that the book is a man­ual on how to be a farmer as it’s about the real sto­ries of sweat, suf­fer­ing and suc­cess of com­mit­ted in­di­vid­u­als.

Other top­ics in­clude the con­text of farm at­tacks and the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of farm­ing as the youth show no in­ter­est in in­her­it­ing their par­ents’ farms and con­tin­u­ing where they left off.

The de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of the ru­ral cor­ri­dor, the re­duc­tion of food pro­duc­tion and farm at­tacks are a sad real­ity in our coun­try and Price and Louwrens view the prob­lems from ring­side seats.

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