Guest Column

Say cheers to SA farmers

2018-02-22 14:17

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Robert J. Traydon

President Cyril Ramaphosa wasted no time in reaffirming his stance on land expropriation without compensation during his State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Swift assurances followed that it would be done in such a way that agricultural production and food security would not be compromised.

A credible way for our president to achieve this would be to expropriate unused or derelict land owned by municipalities, state-owned enterprises and other government institutions – especially land in the vicinity of urban areas – for the purpose of building new suburbs and micro-business districts for all those people who are still awaiting RDP homes.

Listen to the people

Politicians should also consider the following points when drafting generic land expropriation policy:

- Opinion polls conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) indicate that more than 60 percent of previously disadvantaged South Africans are more interested in better jobs, better houses, better healthcare and education, than in owning land, and most of those who did say they wanted land, desired only a hectare or two – as stated in Max du Preez' article: It's not as simple as 'giving back the land'.

- Frans Cronje, CEO of South Africa's premier think tank, the Institute for Race Relations (IRR), said during a recent interview: "There's limited public support for land reform. People don't want to go back to scratching a living out of the soil. We're a more sophisticated country than that and people have greater aspirations."

- The land restitution/claims process has revealed that the majority of the country's dispossessed population appears far more interested in being compensated monetarily for the land they lost, than actually acquiring it and becoming farmers.

- South Africa is classified as a 'water scarce country', meaning that farming across the majority of our land is only viable on a large commercial scale. This explains the statistic that 80% of South Africa's agricultural output is produced by 20% of its farmers.

- Most importantly, avoid the rash mistakes of our northern neighbour and encourage all our productive farmers to do what they do best… farm.

Farming is a tough profession

Farming is certainly not the dream politicians crack it up to be. In fact, it's a gauntlet that should be reserved strictly for the insanely brave and gamblers. Being a farmer must rank as one of the toughest jobs in South Africa: it commands an unequalled amount of dedication, significant capital investment, multiple generations worth of expertise, and an outlandishly positive attitude.

But, even with all these attributes, a natural disaster can hit at any time and wipe out a farmer's entire life's work.

Whether it's livestock or crops, farmers have one hell of a time out there… fires, disease, crop failure, intermittent droughts and floods, fluctuating commodity prices, rampant farm equipment inflation, stock theft, farm attacks, bad press and more recently, increased weather variability as a result of climate change.

I, personally, wouldn't wish farming on anyone who didn't have an extraordinary passion for it. Yes, there are rewarding aspects to farming, but they are often few and far between and usually involve countless challenges to realise them.

Time to celebrate all our farmers

However inconvenient this truth may be for some, South African farmers of all races are a huge asset to our nation. They feed South Africa's 56 million citizens and generate much-needed foreign revenue, and they do this despite the interminable hardships of political, economic, security and climate uncertainty.

Let's start appreciating our farmers for the unwavering heroes they are; let's never take a day for granted that there's food on our supermarket shelves; and, let's strive to create an environment where all our farmers, irrespective of race, can farm without fear. Cheers!

- Robert J. Traydon is a BSc graduate of Engineering and the author of 'Wake-up Call: 2035'. He's travelled to over 40 countries across six continents and worked in various business spheres. As a contrarian thinker, his articles explore a wide range of current affairs from a unique perspective.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    cyril rama­phosa  |  land expropriation  |  agriculture
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