More to farming than land - Witness

14 June 2018 - Farming is complex and difficult, and it requires considerable resources. Land in itself is only part of a successful agrarian combination, and not the most difficult to provide.

There is more to farming than land. This much emerges from the remarks by Nono Sekhoto, chairperson of the youth wing of the African Farmers' Association of South Africa (Afasa) in a recent report.  

“‘Access to land’ is not only access to land,” she commented. “It's access to farms with proper support. And that's what is not coming out properly. They spend all this money thinking and planning what they want to do and then nothing happens.” (“Young, black farmers are 'begging for government support' to no avail”, News24, 7 June)

This helps to put current politics around land into context, and to remind us of the difficulties confronting aspirant and emergent farmers. Farming is complex and difficult, and it requires considerable resources.

Land in itself is only part of a successful agrarian combination, and not the most difficult to provide.

South Africa’s land reform programme has failed to extend to its beneficiaries much in the way of financing or meaningful technical advice – or even necessary rural infrastructure. This has been widely acknowledged, not least by the High Level Panel into Transformative Legislation, chaired by former President Kgalema Motlanthe.

If South Africa expects to generate a class of farmers, it needs to shift its focus from a sterile preoccupation with percentages of land transferred to delivering the means of successful farming.

This means providing support for farming at a level that matches the rhetoric. We at the Institute of Race Relations have estimated that an investment of between R15 million and R20 million would be sufficient to finance a new commercial farmer, with no debt for the first three years of operations. A commitment of R15 billion – the sum committed to SAA over the past two years – would support between 750 and 1 000 new farming operations, free and clear.

We also need sensible policy. The current push for Expropriation without Compensation – touted in some quarters as a silver bullet for agrarian reform – will offer little of value to the success of a new generation of farmers. In fact, it will likely do quite the opposite. By degrading the capital value of land, it will only compound the difficulties that emerging farmers face in gaining the finance they need.

If the current policy trajectory  is allowed to continue, the hopes of emerging farmers will continue to be dashed. We invite all concerned South Africans to join us in helping to change the direction by endorsing our submission to Parliament’s Constitutional Review Committee, available on our website (https://irr.org.za/campaigns/defend-your-property-rights-before-d-day-15-june-2018/endorse-our-charter).

Terence Corrigan

Project Manager, Institute of Race Relations

 

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