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LREAD Perspective May 2017

LREAD Perspective May 2017

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The Nampo agricultural show, which took place in May in Bothaville, is one of the highlights on the South African agricultural calendar. First time attendees are always blown away by the scale of this event. The show attracted 78 648 visitors and 700 exhibitors this year.  It is also the place to come up close with the latest in farming technology. This year saw Senzeni Zokwana, South African Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, posing on the world’s largest standard production tractor, the Fendt 1000 Vario, muscling an impressive 517 horse power.

Minister Zokwana also took part in a series of panel discussions on land reform, hosted by Nation in Conversation. Zokwana said the ANC, during its National Policy Conference in June, should be mindful of the relationships between food security; the commercial sectors sustainability, and access to land for new black farmers.

Let us see what other role players and agricultural leaders had to say on land reform during these Nampo conversations:

Roelf Meyer, of the In Transformation Initiative, said that a definition for land reform is required. “Land reform is often the number one topic of discussion, and is without doubt a serious and necessary topic, but we have to define it. I am still looking for this definition.”

Mike Mlengana, director-general of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, stressed that proper land use; sufficient training and capacity, and ensuring that the right person for the job works the land, is crucial to successful land transformation. Mlengana said that there is a lot of previously productive land which is now lying fallow. Mlengana said that partnership’s with the private sector needs more attention from government, as some of these initiatives are showing positive results. He also stated that black farmers cannot be successful without title deeds.

TP Nchocho, Land Bank CEO, said a specific recipe is required for successful land reform. According to him, this recipe includes available land; scientific farming knowledge, and well-functioning extension services.

Milaan Thalwitzer of the Bosveld Group, said a passion for farming is a necessity for everyone involved. Thalwitzer emphasised the significant role joint ventures can and should play in effecting successful land reform.

Johannes Moller, AgriSA President, said that the current land ownership patterns in South Africa is not a result of the free market, and as such, we cannot assume the free market will correct the imbalance. We need a land reform programme to correct it. But we also need food security and a functioning agricultural sector. According to Moller, partnerships between existing commercial farmers and new transformation farmers are essential for successful land reform and food security.

Observers to the various conversations noted the positive atmosphere prevailing during these sessions. My personal impression is that it was an example of our agricultural sector showing its inclination towards honest and frank dialog, and an attitude of rolling up your sleeves and being practical about the challenge at hand. Droughts; floods, disease outbreaks, land reform. Bring it on. “`n Boer maak `n plan”.

Unfortunately, and as Roelf Meyer reportedly observed at one occasion: “Where is the Department of Land Reform and Rural Development?” This seemed like a missed opportunity for the lead department on the matter of land reform to share its vision and plans for this important project.

It is absolutely crucial that the Department of Land Reform and the Department of Agriculture work in close alignment with one another, as many of the role players mentioned the umbilical cord between access to land on the one hand, and food security on the other hand. It was also highlighted by many of the speakers that the answer to successful land reform lies in partnerships between the commercial sector; the new entrants, and government.

 

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