Govt set to release 700 000 hectares of vacant, underutilised land for agriculture

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Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza.
Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza.
Jan Gerber/News24
  • The Department Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development will release 700 000 hectares of underutilised or vacant state land for agricultural purposes in the next two weeks.
  • Beneficiaries will not be allowed to sublease or sublet a portion of land after signing a leasehold with the government.
  • After signing a lease agreement, beneficiaries will be subjected to a compulsory training programme.

The government is expected to release 896 farms, comprising 700 000 hectares of underutilised or vacant state land, for agricultural purposes.

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza made the announcement on Wednesday and outlined the process members of the public should follow when applying for available agricultural state land as part of the government's contribution to the land reform programme.

In the next two weeks, the government will issue advertisement notices for the 896 farms.

Didiza said all beneficiaries who have been allocated state land and who have signed lease agreements will be subjected to a compulsory training programme.

"The training programme will include entry level training on the commodity of their choice, basic record keeping, and basic financial management, as well as enterprise development. The lease agreement will not be transferable under any circumstances," she said.

READ | Severe budget cuts for agriculture department to bankroll Covid-19 fight

Didiza also said beneficiaries would not be allowed to sublease or sublet a portion of land or the entire farm after signing a leasehold with the state.

"The beneficiary has an obligation to maintain all the infrastructure and upkeep of the land allocated to him or her. The beneficiary will have to manage, maintain and keep the record of assets received from the state," Didiza said.

She added:

"Any investment made by the beneficiary must be recorded, valued and reported to the state. Beneficiaries will pay a monthly or annual rental fee per hectare determined by the state, consistent with the value of the land in line with area valuation. A credit management system will be put in place to manage debt recovery and management. Failure to comply with any of the contractual obligations listed above, the state will consider the option of terminating the lease."

The government offers a 30-year leasehold, with an option to buy.

The 700 0000 hectares of land will distributed in:
  • the Eastern Cape: 43 000ha;
  • the Free State: 83 33ha;
  • KwaZulu-Natal: 3 684ha;
  • Limpopo: 121 567ha;
  • Mpumalanga: 40 206ha;
  • the Northern Cape: 12 224ha; and
  • the North West: 300 000ha.

Didiza said Gauteng and the Western Cape had no land to advertise.

The government, Didiza said, would be responsible for ensuring that basic infrastructure was in good shape and to register the infrastructure and assets on the farm after entering into a lease agreement with a beneficiary.

She added that quarterly inspection visits would be conducted to ensure that state infrastructure and assets were maintained.

READ ALSO | Govt unveils R1.2bn fund to help small-scale farmers

Since President Cyril Ramaphosa's announcement in his February State of the Nation Address, the department has released 135 117 hectares of land to 275 farmers in the Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West.

Beneficiaries 

Of the 275 beneficiaries, 160 are women, 114 youth and one person has a disability.

Didiza also said a land inquiry process would be ongoing on state land already occupied without formal approval from the department.

"Such enquiry will assess farms that have been acquired through pro-active land acquisition (PLAS) programme. The land enquiry will investigate and determine how individuals and communities that are currently occupying the land got access to it. The enquiry will also look at how the land is currently being utilised and whether such use is in accordance with the agricultural practices for the area," she said.

Didiza added that where lad had been used for settlement, an assessment would be carried out "together with the departments of human settlements and water affairs, environmental, forestry and fisheries. Based on the outcome of the assessment and recommendation, a decision will be taken on the future of such occupations".

Asked about corruption in the allocation process, Didiza said: "This is a cancer we need to uproot in our society, not just in the state alone because we know corrupt practices are found in the private and public sector and among citizens. The state on its part is dealing with those."

Applications will opened on 15 October.

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