Emerging black farmers on the rise despite grim picture

Johannesburg - The number of emerging and upcoming farmers is on the rise, despite the grim picture often painted with regards to agriculture and black farmers, according to key role players in the industry.

Emerging black farmers are delivering a major contribution to the agricultural sector.

The development is happening despite inadequate assistance from the state and the incompetence of officials in the department of rural development and land reform.

The department again made headlines last month after it was revealed that the department only spent 14.7% of its budget – less than R1.5 billion out of R10.2 billion – in the first quarter.

Additionally, just 14% of land reform targets were met.

Nomfundo Gobodo, chief land claims commissioner, also indicated that only 49 claims were finalised in the first quarter of the year, far short of the target of 200.

In relation to restitution, the department also missed all of its targets for the first quarter.

Deputy executive director of Agri SA Christo van der Rheede said the agricultural sector had already intervened to empower farm workers and new entrants to the agricultural sector.

“Some of our large affiliates – such as Grain SA, Wool SA, Sugar SA, Cotton SA, the red meat producers and the subtropical industry – spent R300 million on development in the past financial year,” Van der Rheede said.

In the Western Cape, Northern Cape, North-West, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, some of Agri SA’s leading organisations are also involved with the development of farm workers.

Grain SA CEO Jannie de Villiers said the development of new farmers has been held back by the fact that they don’t have ownership of their land.

De Villiers has been part of a programme to involve thousands of farmers in development programmes.

Some can only attend the free courses, while others are able to obtain funding in order to become farmers.

This is part of a comprehensive farmer development programme to develop black commercial farmers and to contribute to household and national food security.

In 2016, 9 754 farmers in study groups in ten districts around the country participated.

“Farmer days” were also held where various role players in the grain sector met up.

Altogether, these farmers cultivate 148 641 hectares of farm land across the country.

Grain SA also has a special programme aimed at advanced and commercial black farmers, who are intensively supported for one year.

Grain SA gets no money from the state for managing the programme, but the organisation does recapitalisation for the state.

Treasury also gives the job creation funds R1 for each rand that Grain SA contributes and the department of science and technology helps with smallish machinery for subsistence farmers.

Win-win partnership between farmers and beneficiaries can also be found in other agricultural sectors.

Cotton SA currently provides training and mentorship for 974 farmers who organised themselves into 18 cooperatives in Nkomazi, Mpumalanga.

This area is very warm and ground is ideal for planting cotton, said Hennie Bruwer, CEO of Cotton SA.

In 2016, 2 747ha were cultivated, of which 1 460ha were planted by hand.

With the assistance of a team from Cotton SA, an average yield of 950 kilograms per ha was produced, which translates into an income of R19.95 million or R4 117 per farmer, per hectare.

The department of rural development and land reform contributed R7.7 million and Cotton SA another R1.2 million.

The National Wool Growers’ Association (NWGA) also organises and provides mentorship to sheep farmers on smallholdings.

Over the past 20 years these farmers’ wool production grew from 222 610 kilograms of wool to 4.462 million kilograms with a value of R233.6 million.

Leon de Beer, general manager of the NWGA, said: “The considerable increase in production and income can largely be ascribed to the training and mentorship of the NWGA.”

Research into the social impact of this has shown that the number of households with children who go to bed hungry has declined from 41% in 2004 to 24% in 2015 and is still decreasing.

The number of households with saving accounts has increased from 49% in 2004 to 84% in 2015. Households that had to borrow money decreased from 77% in 2005 to 48% in 2015.

The SA Pork Producers’ Association (Sappa) has a development programme for new producers that focuses mainly on training. Sappa is currently responsible for four development farms.

In the 2016/17 financial year, Sappa paid over R5.8 million for development.

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