No margin for error in land reform
It is clear that Government is prepared to spend a substantial amount of money and time to achieve its 2015 National Development Plan goals with regard to land reform and restitution. In terms of its Annual Performance Plan for 2014-2015, Government plans to focus medium-term spending on the provision of comprehensive farm development support to smallholding farmers and land reform beneficiaries, as well as acquisition of strategically located land to increase access to and the productive use of such land.
This is supported by the National Development Plan and its vision for 2030, especially Chapter 6 which deals with strategies to create an integrated and inclusive rural economy. According to this vision, rural economies need to be supported by agriculture as the industry has the potential to create close to 1 million jobs. This vision can be achieved only if the programmes proposed are credible and offer long term, sustainable benefits not only for the beneficiaries, but for South Africa as a whole.
In his address during the delivery of the Budget Policy Speech in July of 2014, Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Gugile Nkwinti reminded delegates that the ruling party’s 53rd National Conference resolved on rural development and land reform, the land audit, willing buyer willing seller model and a land tenure system
A number of views were highlighted in giving expression to this urgency, but of particular importance is that land reform must represent a radical and rapid break from the past without significantly disrupting agricultural production and food security. Special attention needs to be drawn to the latter part of this statement.
It is estimated that the world population will grow to 9.15 billion by 2050 and that grain production will subsequently have to rise by 43% in order to sustain this growing population (FAO, 2009). From these staggering predictions it becomes clear that there is not much margin for error when it comes to land reform and available agricultural land needs to be utilised fully if we are to ensure food security for the nation.
In giving effect to the above challenging, but laudable, principles, programmes and initiatives, Government should ensure they get all the key role-players on board to benefit from their expertise, input and co-operation. This became apparent at the recent AgriSA congress when Minister Nkwinti admitted that his initial goal for attending the conference was to convince industry players to become involved with these initiatives, but he had no idea that the revolution was already taking place “under his feet”.
Another example of this revolution is the model adopted by Omnia Fertilizer which has proven to be hugely successful, namely the “strategic partnerships and mentor approach”, whereby emerging farmers are given the necessary guidance in order to optimise their yield and minimise their risks. As testimony to this, a potato farming project in northern KwaZulu-Natal, supported by the likes of McCain, Just Veggies, Bayer Crop Science and Government departments has seen previously uncultivated land turn into over 270 hectares of potatoes destined for McCain oven chips.
Since the 2004/5 grain summer crop season, Omnia Fertilizer has been involved in an enterprise development based model for new farmer support. This program has proven to be one of the most successful self-funded grain grower schemes in the maize production areas of North West, Free State, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and, more recently, venturing into the Eastern Cape: Matatiele and Queenstown. This initiative has grown significantly from a joint funded facility with a commercial bank in the first season to a multi-million Rand project in the last season alone. Future developments will see substantial growth in the 2014/15 season including further vegetable projects in the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces.
These are merely a few examples of the many projects undertaken by forward thinking institutions who have the same goal in mind: to move South Africa forward.