‘Emerging farmers need farmers’ help’

New black farmers in SA NEED THE support of organised agriculture and agricultural commodity organisations to become valued and successful ­contributors to the country’s economy, said president of the Farmer ­Development Trust (FDT), Teddy Matsetela.

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At the 48th Annual Congress of the Fertiliser Society of SA (FSSA) held in ­Durban recently, Matsetela told the FSSA that only 1% of the membership of the National African Farmers’ Union (Nafu) was made up of commercial-level black ­farmers. And only 19% of Nafu’s ­membership consisted of ­emerging farmers in the process of becoming ­commercial-level producers. Of the union’s members 80% were still subsistence farmers. “Emerging farmers are currently found in communal areas, in the process of being moved to settlement areas or in mainstream commercial farming,” Matsetela said. “Depending on where they are, they are involved in producing varying ­quantities of fruits, vegetables, cut flowers, grain, livestock and other mixed farming ­products.

“However, for all these black farmers there are serious constraints to their further development apart from the difficulties they experience in accessing fertilisers, crop nutrients and other key agri-inputs.” Matsetela said black farmers in communal areas were mostly on land that required ­considerable rehabilitation through the support of relevant public and private ­institutions. He said that ­little progress had been made since 1994.

Matsetela urged institutions to participate in remodelling and resuscitating collapsed irrigation schemes. He asked for institutional capacity support that would allow black farmers to make good use of their recently acquired land, and said legislative framework targeted at supporting new black farmers should be effectively rolled out. “Nafu believes the five main areas that need attention to assist it in ensuring the viability of emerging farmers within SA agriculture are finance and business support, capacity building, market access and competition, rural infrastructure, and research and development,” Matsetela said.

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Emerging farmers were urged to take advantage of opportunities available, including the decline of local commercial farmer numbers, ­Agricultural BEE and transformation. Matsetela said the FDT was currently involved in a project to accurately determine the current situation of emerging black farmers and then to determine the best ways of empowering more of them to achieve commercial production levels.

“To achieve the Millennium Development Goals, emerging black farmers need to be fully empowered and allowed to participate in the sector as equal ­partners,” Matsetela said. – Lloyd Phillips