Dairy farm in state control now in ruins

2017-05-24 15:12

Johannesburg - Sixteen years ago the Hartbeesfontein area in North West boasted a dairy farm of world class with international genetics.  

The then national Department of Land Affairs bought this and several other farms near Hartbeesfontein in the early 2000s, Netwerk24 reports.

The previous owners' offer to act as mentors apparently were turned down and government support is said to have been inadequate.

The remains of a farm house near Hartbeesfontein, North West. (Susan Cilliers, Netwerk24)

The farm eventually deteriorated to such an extent that the SPCA had to put down some of the animals a few years ago. 

The farm is now completely deserted, dilapidated and overgrown.

According to a farmer in the area, a Johannesburg businessman recently bought the farm on auction.

The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform has since April not responded to repeated requests for comment on the obvious deterioration of the government’s farms near Hartbeesfontein and how much money had been spent on the project.  

There are no farming activities on any of the about eight farms.    

deserted farm
The remains of a farm house near Hartbeesfontein, North West. (Susan Cilliers, Netwerk24)

Sources say the government had bought it at the time in order for workers to continue farming there.

"They didn't want the farmers in the area's help and the government didn’t keep its promises towards the beneficiaries," a farmer said.

Annelize Crosby, an expert on land policy at AgriSA, said land reform projects such as this fail because, among other things, the beneficiaries are mostly groups of people.

"They fight about how the farm should be managed. A lack of mentorship, in part because they are not trusted, is another problem."

 According to Crosby reliable research had shown that government budgets for agriculture and land reform had been declining.

deserted farm
The remains of a farm house near Hartbeesfontein, North West. (Susan Cilliers, Netwerk24)

"There often isn’t enough money for buying and developing the land. The price for the land is just a third of the costs, the rest is necessary for development. Inadequate support for development therefore also plays a role."

Another stumbling block is that government farms are registered in the state’s name and the beneficiaries don’t get title deeds, so no one wants to lend them money, she said.  

Crosby said in the cases where land reform has been successful, it is as a result of meaningful, functional partnerships between government and the private sector, especially with regard to mentorship.

"The National Wool Growers Association, for example, helped wool farmers in Transkei to improve production by means of a project funded by the government. That, in turn, led to a much bigger per capita income in poor areas.

"Grain SA also has successful mentorship projects for emerging farmers."

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  farming

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