All farmers can work hand in hand with government for successful land reform - black farmers

2018-08-24 17:41
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If the government works together with all farmers – black and white – it could be the answer to accelerating successful land reform, some black farmers have said.

They were speaking to News24 on the sidelines of the land summit, held by Landbouweekblad and Agri SA, in Bela-Bela in Limpopo.

Anna Phosa, the only black female commercial pig farmer in SA, said the solution to land reform was with willing farmers. Phosa started Dreamland Piggery & Abattoir in Vanderbijlpark in the Vaal in 2004 and has since grown her farm into a multimillion-rand business, securing contracts with big retailers such as Pick n Pay.

"Transformation has been there but now the government needs to accelerate it," said Phosa.

She added that the government would not be able to do it alone and that relationships between the public and private sector would have to be established. 

"White commercial farmers are willing to help the government speed up the process of land [reform] and have come up with examples to solve the problems."

Phosa, who has been farming for more than 10 years, said all farmers, irrespective of their race, were worried about land issues. However, she said attending the summit reminded her of farmers' willingness to work with the government to solve the land issue.

She said it was clear that some farmers, even without their land being restituted, have already started with land reform by giving land back to farm workers, while others gave land to their neighbours, who are black farmers. 

'Economic emancipation'

One such farmer is Chris Forbes from Mpumalanga who donated 10% (500 hectares) of his farm to the farm workers. He said he contributed through mentorship and provided surety for agricultural loans needed to make the land productive. 

Phosa, who leases her 318-hectare farm from the government, said: "Everyone is willing to see this being done peacefully."

"I think this is one of the conferences whereby every farmer and the leaders of the industry are prepared to handle the land issue," Phosa said. 

"Previously we wouldn't talk about land, but government engagement and the response is turning and it's positive. We are no longer hiding, we are speaking about land issues together and coming up with a solution as a responsible farming community in SA."

Master Mahlobogoane from Limpopo, who farms butternut and sweet corn, said the impression that black people wanted land and wanted to take it from white people, was incorrect. He called them "howlers".

"The real issue is economic emancipation and land is not the only resource to emancipate," said Mahlobogoane.

He added that the government could not just expropriate land and give it to a person who could not make it productive. The issue must be addressed broadly and holistically, he added.

"People who are in Parliament... are not farmers. They don't have first-hand experience. What they say is not based on empirical research. We are not talking a white man's view, we are talking facts." 

Mahlobogoane said farmers would have to be part of the solution and that the government would have to come to the table because he had seen many farms fail following land reform. 

Challenges in owning land

While access to arable land and tenure of security remained an issue for black emerging farmers, financial assistance and skills development was still a pertinent. 

Phosa said issues that still existed within the black farming community, was a lack of adequate support to make the land productive. 

"They found themselves on land without the correct implementation and finance to make the land productive. If I got the right assistance and support when I started, I'd be much further ahead in my [farm]," Phosa said.

Phosa added that she looked to mentorship and skills development to bridge the gap from emerging to commercial farmer. She said it was not easy and that she faced closed doors many times.

Owning the land on which she currently farms would help her a great deal because it would open up bigger streams of funding and would give her security of tenure, she said.

Mninawa Hargreaves Qotoyi, who farms sheep and cattle in the Eastern Cape, echoed similar sentiments, point out that a lack of skills and inadequate financial assistance were major issues that confronted black emerging farmers. 

"Challenges are many as a black emerging farmer. They range from a lack of skills [to] financial problems. You have to farm in that situation. If you don't have skills, you are unable to take the right decision. If you don't have finances, you can't do the right things at the right time," said Qotoyi. 

Qotoyi added that many other farmers helped him to get where he as and that he learnt that farming was about resilience and passion. 

"The attitude that all farmers have is to help and work together."

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Read more on:    land expropriation  |  land

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