Lifeline for black farmers

2010-11-19 00:00

THE KwaZulu-Natal government will inject about R100 million to rescue the scores of farms transferred under the land reform process to black communities in the province that have collapsed.

This was announced by the MEC for Economic Development and Tourism, Michael Mabuyakhulu, during the launch in Vryheid yesterday of the newly established Agri Business Development Agency, which has been set up to assist struggling farms in the province.

The announcement comes barely a few months after the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, Gugile Nkwithi, announced that 90% of the farms given to emerging black farmers have failed.

Mabuyakhulu said the government decided to establish the agency — a partnership between the departments of Economic Development and Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Rural Development — when it became apparent that most of the farms transferred under land restitution were struggling.

To offer efficient services, he said, the agency will be staffed by farming experts and people who have expertise in the agri-business field to help emerging black farmers.

“The agency will assist the struggling farms to access finance … help them to access markets and to exploit a whole gamut of opportunities of the agri business field within the value chain [and] … provide mentorship and skills development programmes to farmers,” Mabuyakhulu said.

“Our intention is to ensure that these struggling farms are able to hold their own.

“But this support will not be given in perpetuity. Once they are up and running we will wean them off the programme so that they are able to operate on their own”

The KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Rural Development, Lydia Johnson, said the establishment of the agency will go a long way towards boosting agricultural output in the province.

“We welcome the launch of this agency because it is geared towards improving agricultural activities that we support through the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme.

“This will enable our emerging black farmers to utilise their land optimally with the full support of the agency and other stakeholders.”

Johnson’s department contributed R72 million to the formation of the agency, and Economic Development and Tourism contributed about R27 million this financial year to rescue 87 farms from collapse.

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