During its first strategic planning session for 2008, Agri Limpopo has come up with a six-point plan to deal with the difficulties facing its members, as well as newcomers to the sector. There is much emphasis on addressing the challenges of land and agrarian reform and the need for proper extension services for new and existing farmers.
Not wanting to be dependent on government grants and funds for its strategic programmes, Agri Limpopo has entered into agreements with Sanlam and Bond Choice, whereby a small percentage of commission earned on transactions from referrals by Agri Limpopo will be transferred to the farmer’s union. Certain benefits for Agri SA members have also been negotiated with Sanlam. B ond Choice bond originators have agreed to plough a percentage of the commission they earn on the financing of farmland or any capital equipment, back into organised agriculture. “These financial initiatives will ensure that we can function independently without any interference from political structures,” said Agri Limpopo’s president, Theo de Jager. W ith the funds thus generated, Agri Limpopo will invest in fast-tracking land reform by establishing a Section 21 company, which will tender for government contracts as a special purpose vehicle for land reform. A panel of experts will be employed to identify agricultural land and suitable emerging candidates for settlement. Under this company, another panel of experts will assist new farmers with the business and financial management of their operations, while a third will identify the training and mentoring needs of new farmers. This will be served through two divisions focusing on setting up strategic partnerships and extension services for new farmers. he plan’s third point is the need for water reform.
However, De Jager said this could lead to more conflict between farmers and government than land reform. A committee has been set up to survey the entire province’s water resources, and compile a document addressing different scenarios in terms of water usage and the loss of agricultural irrigation resources to other industries such as mining. “It’s our hope this will serve as a discussion document between government and organised agriculture in terms of addressing the fair distribution of water for agricultural purposes,” De Jager explained. he plan’s fourth point is the identification and development of alternative energy resources. Here, too, a committee has been established to investigate the sustainability of on-farm biofuel production and electricity generation. ecurity, another key area, has seen Agri Limpopo enter into negotiations with the South African National Defence Force about enlisting its members under the reserve force. De Jager notes this isn’t an alternative to sector policing, as the reserve force doesn’t have a crime fighting function. Farmers will thus continue to expand their involvement in sector-policing activities. he final point is the need for Agri Limpopo’s internal restructuring. Pending the outcome of the above initiatives, management will be tailored to meet the needs of the sector in the province. – Jasper Raats