Brotherhood of farmers needed: Minister

By Drum Digital
13 August 2014

Farmers must become a "brotherhood" by protecting and grooming each other to attain quantified profits and contribute to gross domestic product, Agriculture and Forestry Minister Senzeni Zokwana.

Farmers must become a "brotherhood" by protecting and grooming each other to attain quantified profits and contribute to gross domestic product, Agriculture and Forestry Minister Senzeni Zokwana said on Wednesday. "You need to create an army of farmers who protect each other," he said during a dialogue on land reform and food security in Johannesburg.

"We want to see farmers willing to mentor upcoming farmers to share a sense of brotherhood."

This would help with farm safety and maximise production.

Zokwana said changes in the industry would be good and rewarding if there was willingness.

"If we sit like Zimbabwe and do nothing we will wake up one day to chaos," he said.

"Don't be bang [scared], we won't take your farms, kill your animals, we will work with you."

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said farmers needed funding and support programs to be successful.

"If we are to succeed, farmers must have access to funding and markets. If they don't have that, you won't succeed," he said. "You can give land to as many farmers as you want but if you don't have support programmes it will fail."

He urged commercial farmers to help groom emerging farmers and help them regain the skills needed for farming, which they had lost during apartheid.

"We have a responsibility to make people with no homes realise there is a future in South Africa," he said.

"Black South Africans were dispossessed of land. The dispossession resulted in them [being driven] out of their land but it also deskilled them."

These dispossessed people lost their skills because they had not farmed for a long time, and had lost their relationship with the land.

"Commercial farmers must help [emerging farmers] reproduce the skill," said Mantashe.

He said farms would not be taken from owners without compensation.

"If your land is sold it will be for compensation... Your farms will not be grabbed without compensation."

The fears of commercial farmers and the aspirations of emerging farmers needed to be dealt with and balanced.

He stressed that government was subsidising development, and not inefficiency, as stated by one farmer at the event.

Mantashe explained that farmers developed at different paces by taking different routes.

"We co-exist, black and white, we are neighbours. It is about talking with neighbouring farmers," Mantashe said.

"In the process you get value, something that will take you four years to learn in college."

Quoting former president Nelson Mandela, Mantashe said no one was born hating each other.

"Everybody is taught to hate. Our duty is to teach you to love each other, appreciate each other. Everyone wants to succeed," said Mantashe.

Some farmers on Wednesday expressed uncertainty about government's proposal that a maximum share of 50 percent of farm land be allocated to farmworkers.

Government's recently released policy paper on land reform and restitution proposes that farm labourers assume ownership of half the land on which they are employed.

This would be "proportional to their contribution to the development of the land, based on the number of years they had worked on the land".

The "historical owner" of the farm retains the other half.

According to the proposal, tabled by Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti, government would pay for the 50 percent to be shared by the labourers.

This money would not be paid to the farm owner, but go into an investment and development fund (IDF), to be jointly owned by the parties constituting the new ownership regime.

Zokwana said this was only a proposal and nothing was set in stone yet.

Commercial farmers raised concerns about government's policy inconsistencies, labour expectations, food price inflation, declining investor confidence, the mandate of the Land Bank, and job losses.

Their concerns were listed in a statement, which was handed to Mantashe and Zokwana.

Farmers expressed uncertainty about remaining in the sector. They wanted government to bring policy synergy and coherence to the sector.

"Land ownership and secure tenure in South Africa must be equitable and just... If government acquires farms, we will provide economic custodianship until they become viable agri-businesses," the commercial farmers said in the joint statement.

They wanted government to introduce a wage subsidy in the sector, and assist in building houses and agri-villages for farm workers. They also wanted government to plan the allocations of water before allocating land, particularly for labour intensive farming.

They wanted government to "critically" review water management and provide more storage dams and irrigation schemes to grow the industry.


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