Durban – The government has spent 40 percent of the total value of commercial agriculture land in the country on land redistribution exercises that have failed.
This is according to Sandy la Marque, the chief executive of the KZN Agricultural Union (Kwanalu), who convened a seminar with Kwanalu members to brainstorm workable propositions to put to the government in an attempt to finally resolve the issue of land redistribution.
“We are here today to share ideas, stimulate debate, start changing thought processes and come up with an ‘ideas bank’ to take to government,” she said.
She said KZN had a culture of divergent thinkers, and the majority of farmers in the province were committed to sustainable land reform.
La Marque said that consultations on the so-called Green Paper – a legislative framework for land reform – had been ongoing for four years, without a final policy document being drafted. “No White Paper has resulted; instead there are 14 loose-standing policy documents. It causes a great deal of confusion. The government needs to realise it is not just an issue of apportioning land, but one of creating an integrated and inclusive rural economy.”
The speakers presented dynamic models for sustainable, inclusive farming operations that redressed social imbalances and united farm owners and farm workers in joint ownership of commercial farms.
Peter Stockil has farmed in the Winterton area for many years and is passionate about land reform. He discussed the success of the Isibonelo Trust Project, which he began in 1998. Stockil believes it could be adopted as a workable model elsewhere in the country.
“Ours is an Agrivillage model in the Estcourt area, started with a R15 000 per beneficiary land acquisition grant,” he explained.
“The idea was that a group of beneficiaries buy their own farm and work it as an extension of the main farm. The income generated would be shared by the beneficiaries.
“Beneficiaries underwent nine months of mentorship in the advantages and responsibilities of land ownership before a 118ha farm was purchased.”
Stockil said it was initially a trial by fire for the new landowners, who were hit by drought and crop failure in the first year of operation. However, almost 20 years on the model is proving successful.
Anthony Edmonds has farmed in the Table Mountain area for 34 years. He is the brains behind the Donovale Farming Company. The business farms sugar cane, avocados and citrus and is co-owned with land reform beneficiaries, who have 49 percent of the shares in the operation. The remaining 51 percent are shared by Edmonds and his brother.
“We must groom the next generation of farmers by enabling work experience for students of agriculture. It is incumbent on all of us to provide skills transfer because the average age of farmers is going in the wrong direction.”
Graham Armstrong, of the Upper Midlands Agricultural Transformation Initiative (Umati), concurred.
“We must identify young passion for agriculture and grow it through mentorships, and develop adult-based education programmes to assist labour and land reform recipients,” he said.