‘Crime and drought must not let farmers lose hope’ – Didiza

Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza (far right),
Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza (far right), delivered the keynote address at Agri SA’s 2019 congress. She was joined on stage by members of Agri SA’s leadership, from left, Pierre Vercueil (deputy president), Phenias Gumede (deputy president), Dan Kriek (president), and Omri van Zyl (CEO).
Photo: Denene Erasmus

Safety and security on farms continue to be one of the main challenges that the South African farming sector has to grapple with, especially crimes such as stock theft and attacks on farmers and farmworkers.

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Speaking at the Agri SA Congress 2019 in Pretoria on 10 October, the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, highlighted some of the difficulties that were limiting growth and investment in the agriculture sector.

She highlighted the impact that security concerns were having on farmers, saying that in some regions stock theft had become such a big problem that it was no longer possible for farmers to continue keeping sheep, or even cattle, in those areas.

Rural crime “affects everyone who is in the farming sector, it doesn’t matter [what the] scale of your operation is,” she said.

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Commenting on the larger, societal impact of crime in rural areas, Didiza said that the death of a single farmer reverberated throughout the sector, creating a sense of fear for all those working in the farming sector.

People working and living on farms had to feel safe, she said.

Her department was working with the police ministry, as well as regional safety structures within organised agriculture, to improve rural safety.

The Minister also referred to the hardship that had befallen many farmers due to drought conditions in various regions.

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“I appreciate the difficulties the sector faces at the moment, some of them due to weather. The prolonged drought has left many farmers indebted and impoverished.”

Didiza said the recent droughts had clearly shown that disaster funding from the state was no longer sufficient to support all those affected, and for this reason the agriculture department needed to investigate the possibility of developing a national insurance scheme for farmers.

While the list of challenges facing agriculture seemed “endless”, farmers had to keep hope, she said.