This is the opinion of Prof Mohammed Karaan, former dean of the faculty of agrisciences at Stellenbosch University.
Speaking at the Nedbank Komga Show recently, Karaan said that the makeup of the sector had to change.
“I don’t mean just get more black farmers only. There have got to be more women and more youth. We don’t have the capabilities in society to fuel a capable state, so farming communities must meet the state 80% of the way,” he said.
He added that at the beginning of his career, the number of commercial farmers in South Africa had been in the region of 120 000. This had since dwindled to less than a third of this number. Moreover, efforts to transform the sector had largely failed due to the difficult nature of farming.
“I thought I would be one of the pioneers and change the landscape by getting lots of black kids involved in farming, but we didn’t do that. Not because the white farmers are racist, but because the industry is so damn tough,” he said.
Referring to the decline of the Haitian economy after the abolishment of French rule, Prof Karaan said that South Africa needed a redistribution of know-how before the ownership of assets such as land could be successfully redistributed and that it was in the farmers’ interests to impart this knowledge to up-and-coming farmers.
“Everybody knows that land reform in the way we have done it was a big mistake. We spend so much money on restitution and land, but without the capacity, everyone loses and you sit with a Haiti type of problem.
“The likes of organised agriculture should be speaking about what our option for future talent is. They [future talent] are not going to come from the universities and colleges – you’ll have to create them yourselves,” he said.