South Africa urgently needs a strong body to represent emerging farmers, and agricultural leadership should always be a case of “for farmers, by farmers”, writes New on the Land editor Peter Mashala.
Isue date: 12 November 2010

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Why, after more than 14 years, do South Africa’s black emerging farmers still lack desperately needed leadership? This puzzles me, as we have, or used to have, the National African Farmers Union of South Africa (Nafu).The union has been in existence longer than our new government, but it’s hard to see any impact it has made. Some things have to be questioned here. What has happened to all the millions that have been poured into this organisation? After 19 years, with all this money being spent on the union, Nafu still doesn’t have an operating office and staff members. Where can farmers go for help? I’ve met many who have made it on their own, and many who have crashed, and most of them share my sentiments on the issue. One veteran farmer, who at some stage was a member of Nafu, told me that the problem with black agricultural leadership in this country is a lack of understanding of the sector and a love of power and money.

How else do you explain people who have been in leadership positions all those years without delivering anything?
Currently, Nafu is having leadership problems. Call it “infighting”. What matters is that it now has two self-proclaimed presidents at each other’s throats, each insisting on legitimacy. And it’s proof the union isn’t interested in doing what it’s supposed to be doing – representing the interests of its members.
There have been calls for both presidents to step down and let someone else take over. If they really cared about farmers, and the union, that’s what they should do. This unseemly struggle only shows how unsuited both men are for that leadership position.We need a strong body to represent farmers, and we need it as in yesterday. Nafu has failed dismally. There are two other institutions that also need to be interrogated. The Youth, and Women, in Agriculture and Rural Development (YARD and WARD).
They were launched a year or two ago by our former agriculture minister Lulu Xingwana, and we’re still waiting for something from them.

Agricultural leadership should ultimately be a case of “for farmers, by farmers”. It’s time politicians stick to politics and let farmers get on with farming. I’d also like to wish the National Emergent Red Meat Producers Organisation (Nerpo) the best of luck in trying to rebuild Nafu into a strong, viable and well-run union that truly looks after the interests of emerging farmers.     |fw

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