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LREAD Land reform perspective – October 2016

LREAD Land reform perspective – October 2016

I recently attended the ten year anniversary of the Agri Dwala project outside of Napier in the Southern Cape. For those of us working full time in land reform and the developmental agricultural sector, it is always a welcome relief and energising experience to interact with a project that keeps on delivering positive results.

Agri Dwala is the brain child of Kosie van Zyl, a local farmer, and Piet Blom, an agricultural technical advisor, who saw the opportunity and the potential of a group of farm workers and small scale cattle farmers on the Napier commonage ten years ago. Kosie wanted to help them, because he also once received a helping hand to realise his dream of owning a farm.

Agri Dwala was established as a joint venture between the two commercial partners Kosie van Zyl and Piet Blom; farm workers, and small scale farmers. Kosie and Piet had a combined 30% share, and the beneficiaries 70%, at the outset of the partnership. The new partners were then able to formalise a lease agreement in 2006 with the Cape Agulhas Municipality for 200 hectares of the commonage land which allowed them to expand their cattle operations as well as establish a grain crop.

In 2009 Agri Dwala approached the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, and presented their financial track record established with their activities on the commonage. This was enough evidence to convince the Department to buy them their first farm, the 268 hectare Jafters Kranz Farm, on which they farm with grain and livestock. Their continued success attracted the attention of Pioneer Foods, who shortly thereafter presented Agri Dwala with a R3 million grant together with a R3 million loan, which enabled them to purchase a second farm, the 316 hectare Karsrivier, on which they also farm with grain and livestock.

Now, ten years down the road, Agri Dwala is farming on more than 1000 hectares of land with grain and livestock, and have also diversified into tourism with a beautiful guesthouse and events facility on Jafters Kranz. Agri Dwala was recognised as the best new entrant into commercial agriculture in South Africa in 2011. The empowerment group, currently with 20 beneficiaries, also recently bought Kosie and Piet’s shares, making it a 100% black owned business. The million dollar question: Why this success and what can others learn from it?

In my mind there are three key components which worked together in order to make Agri Dwala a success story:

  1. The people involved are passionate about farming, and both Piet and Kosie had a clear intention in mind that this project was for the benefit of the beneficiaries in the first place.
  2. All three spheres of government has been supporting this project. The Agulhas Municipality gave access to the commonage land which allowed for the Project to be conceived. Then the National Department of Rural Development and Land Reform provided substantial support through the purchase of Jafters Kranz. The Provincial Department of Agriculture has supported the development of Agri Dwala through CASP allocations in 2012 and 2013.
  3. The private sector has supported this project. Pioneer Foods contributed a combined R6 million in the form of a grant and a loan, which enabled the purchase of a second property.

Land reform in South Africa is one of those crucial issue which can play a leading role in shaping the South Africa we all want for ourselves and more importantly, our children. It is such an important matter that it urgently askes teamwork from all stakeholders. And as the Agri Dwala story teach us: Land reform can be a win-win story and a success story, if all the stakeholder do their bit.

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